Sorry mom, it’s for science

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scratches and scars don’t make it easy to forget all the injuries I’ve acquired in my younger girl days.

Falling off the monkey bars and bicycles and just falling in general have definitely left their marks over the years.

But what I don’t remember about the bumps and bruises is the pain that I know must have been present to leave such lasting reminders.

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The most painful injury I remember happened just last year. The story behind it is a little embarrassing so maybe I’ll leave out the details of my klutzy fall.

The gist is I was going down the stairs to go for a jog and somehow ended up flat in the yard. (OK, maybe that was the whole story).

I can still feel my stomach grow weak, my head start to spin and my breath leave me as pain shot up from my ankle through my leg.

I remember just sitting in my yard until I eventually figured out I wouldn’t be able to get up without some help. It hurt worse than anything that’s ever happened to me, and I didn’t even say a “swear” word.

Looking back, maybe I should have. At least that’s what some scientists are saying.

In a study reported in “Scientific American,” some psychologists have found that perhaps swearing might serve a greater purpose — pain relief.

That’s right. These researchers are speculating that unlike “normal language,” curse words are born in the right side of the brain, rather than the left.

The study published first in “Neuro Report” had 67 students immerse their hands in cold water. During the exercise they could repeat expletives of their choice or chant a “normal” word. And, those swearing reported less pain and endured the cold water longer.

I wonder if they’re right. After all, I’ve let a few words, like “golly gee” and “darnit,” slip in moments of injury.

Just the other day I said one of those foul words when I bumped my head on my car window. I think it was something like “oh, shucks.” It only hurt for a minute. Coincidence?

Maybe every time our mothers have scolded us for letting these “dirty words” slip in moments of crisis wasn’t indeed in our best interests.

That language may not be too lady like, but I bet Mama didn’t know it was helping my pain leave me faster.

The study goes on to say these ugly words that are “built into us” allow us to express all kinds of emotions, but those might not be a good thing.

It says that swearing can be harmful, like in road rage, escalating into “physical violence.”

But, when you drop a box on your foot or slice your finger with a cutting knife, psychologist Richard Stephens of Keele University in England, said not to hold back.

“I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear,” Stephens said.

Be careful though, because this study also says our minds can become immune to the language if we do it too often.

I’m no scientist, so I’m not sure if what these guys say is true or not.

It could just be that devil talking, but who am I to say?

Next time I get hurt I might just have to find out for myself. Sorry Mom, it’s for science.

Holli Keaton is news editor of The Messenger. She can be reached via e-mail at