Experts have revealed [that] the use of profanity can in fact be a sign of a smart person.
This provocative assertion opened a recent article in the Daily Mail. The problem is, it’s not true.
Of course, that’s not the only problem. There’s also the problem of sloppy reporting, which comes from sloppy thinking, which comes from sloppy language. Which is what this story is really all about.
The alleged correlation between profanity and intelligence was inferred from a study concluding that people who know more curse words also know more words in general. Ipso facto, people who curse are smarter than people who don’t.
How much swearing do you suppose goes on at the Daily Mail?
Or you could ask a different question: Why should anyone take the Daily Mail seriously?
That’s a fair point. But the story also appeared in the Washington Post which, although avoiding the spurious equation between foul mouths and intelligence, still could not resist the lure of this equally misleading headline:
Why it’s a good sign if you curse. It isn’t. Which is clear from the Post article itself.