n 2013, Martin Scorsese’s darkly comic depiction of white-collar crime and hedonism, The Wolf of Wall Street, claimed the title for most uses of fuck ever in a Hollywood feature film. Over the course of three hours, the film’s characters utter the word and its derivatives more than 500 times. They deploy it as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an interjection, and an infix (that’s an affix inserted inside a word—as in, absofuckinglutely). They swear in the company of friends, colleagues, and adversaries, in moments of anger, excitement, and awe.
If research is any guide, this surfeit is not the result of a limited vocabulary or a lack of imagination. Psycholinguists have remarked that “taboo words communicate emotional information more effectively than non-taboo words” and allow us to vent anger without getting physical . Which might explain why we’re better at swearing when we’re fired up. After playing violent video games for 10 minutes, participants in one study now under peer review were able to write down significantly more swear words than those who had played a (presumably less exhilarating) golf video game .
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