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Study Finds Swearing Therapeutic

Here in Britain, we're currently caught up in a debate about bad language. When is it justifiable to use language that would make your Auntie blush and your mother clip you round the back of the ear? And while I'm about it, make sure your mum and dad aren't watching, because the next couple of minutes could get a bit rough.

It's all about those moments when you're allowed to let rip with a few choice swear words. The kind of words that you would normally only hear on cable. A recent study by British academics revealed what we all know deep down to be the truth. That swearing is good for you. That talking rough and tough can boost team spirit and reduce tension in the workplace. Just don't, says the report, do it in front of the customers.

And then there are those private, daily disasters we all have. A toe stub, a hand caught in the drawer, a paper cut. That moment of sudden and unexpected pain and the need to alleviate the agony someway, anyway.

Psychologist Richard Stephens of Keele University believes in the positive power of swearing. He says go for a big one, or even a sustained outburst -- a scattergun of profanity. "If people hurt themselves, I would advise them to swear" he says.

That's all fine and good, but it's a bit more complicated than that. Before you swear, think about who you are and about the expectations of your audience.

The British Board Of Film Classification has just made a major discovery. In recent movies, two of the great Dames of the English Cinema have each had a moment. All scripted of course, but a moment when they've, let's say, been less than ladylike in their language. When Dame Maggie Smith, in character and speaking someone else's words remember, drops a naughty one, nobody notices. No one complains. It's fine, just an actress playing a part and swearing like a trooper.

But when Dame Judy Dench swore in her role as "M" in "Quantum Of Solace", you'd have thought the roof had fallen in. That's because since "Shakespeare In Love", we all think that she's sweet and lovely and never ever stubs her toe. Me, I make my living in broadcasting, so "sugar" is about as strong as I'm contractually allowed.
By Simon Bates