WHY SWEARING MAKES YOU STRONGER
本文选自 纽约客 | 取经号原创翻译
By several accounts, Donald Trump has spent a decent amount of time in recent weeks screaming at his television. Almost certainly he’s been swearing at it; what else do you scream at your television but expletives? Besides, the President doesn’t often censor himself, even in public. On the campaign trail, he vowed to “bomb the shit out of isis,” suggested that U.S. companies that move their operations overseas should “go fuck themselves,” and proposed to begin trade negotiations with China by saying, “Listen, you motherfuckers.” As he told the audience at February’s National Prayer Breakfast, “The hell with it.”
据爆料，美国总统唐纳德·特朗普（Donald Trump）在最近几周常常冲着电视大声嚷嚷。几乎可以肯定，他嚷嚷的一定不是什么干净字眼。首先，除了脏话，你还能冲着电视嚷嚷些什么呢？其次，即使是在公众面前，我们这位总统也会时不时地冒出几句脏话。在大选期间，他就承诺说要把伊斯兰国组织（isis）炸出“翔”。他还说，那些把业务移出美国的公司应该滚到一边去“日”了它们自己。在提出要和中国开启贸易谈判时，他说了句“听着，你们这些杂种。”在今年二月的全国祈祷早餐会（National Prayer Breakfast）上，特朗普更是大骂了句“去他个大头鬼。”
censor /ˈsensə(r)/ verb[VN] to remove the parts of a book, film/ movie, etc. that are considered to be offensive, immoral or a political threat 删剪（书籍、电影等中被认为犯忌、违反道德或政治上危险的内容）
Melissa Mohr, the author of “Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing,” has noted that cursing can be a handy rhetorical strategy: it’s common parlance, so employing it makes Trump seem more like a man of the people. But perhaps the President has also been reading about the analgesic benefits of profanity. In 2009, Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University, in England, asked a group of volunteers to plunge one hand into a bucket of ice-cold water and keep it there for as long as they could. Sometimes Stephens instructed them to repeat an expletive of their choice—one that “they might use if they banged their head or hit their thumb with a hammer,” according to an article he wrote about the study. Other times he had them repeat a neutral word, like “wooden” or “brown.” With few exceptions, the volunteers could hold their hand in the water for longer when they cursed—about forty seconds longer, on average.
Melissa Mohr是《他妈的，脏话简史》（Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing）一书的作者。她指出，脏话是一种很有用的修辞手法。它是人们的日常用语，所以特朗普的那些脏话让人觉得他是人民中的一员。或许，特朗普还读到过关于说脏话有止痛作用的相关文章。在2009年，英国基尔大学（Keele University）的心理学家Richard Stephens曾要求一群志愿者将一只手放入一桶冰水中，并要他们能放多久放多久。在Stephens的一篇有关该研究的文章中，他写道：有时他会要求他们重复说一句他们在撞到头或是拇指被榔头敲到时会说的脏话。其他时候，他则让他们重复说像“木质的”、“棕色”这样的中性词。结果显示：志愿者们在说脏话时能够在冰水中浸泡更久，大约平均能延长40秒，鲜有例外。
analgesic/ˌænəlˈdʒi:zɪk/ nouna substance that reduces pain 止痛药；镇痛剂
Swearing, Stephens thinks, may be a form of pain management, maybe even empowerment. Last week, he and a colleague, David K. Spierer, of Long Island University, described a new study in which swearing seemed to bolster physical strength. One group of volunteers pedalled an exercise bike for thirty seconds against intense resistance; sometimes they repeated a curse word, and other times they repeated a neutral word. “It’s a hugely difficult task,” Stephens told me. “Your heart rate goes through the roof.” A second group was challenged with a hand dynamometer, which measures grip strength. Swearing improved the performance on both tasks—between two and four per cent for the cyclists, and eight per cent for the squeezers.
Stephens认为，说脏话可能是一种抑制疼痛的方式，甚至可能是一种自我强化的方式。上周，他和长岛大学（Long Island University）的同事David K. Spierer一起介绍了一项关于脏话似乎可以增强体能的新研究。第一组志愿者在大阻力下进行了30秒的健身脚踏车训练。有时，他们会重复一句脏话；其他时候，他们则重复一个中性词。Stephens告诉我说：“这是一个极其困难的任务。你的心率会急速上升。”第二组志愿者则要使用握力计，进行握力测量。说脏话让这两组人的表现都有所上升，第一组提升了2%-4%，第二组提升了8%。
It’s perhaps not so surprising that profanity has these occult powers, since it differs from the rest of language in a number of ways. For one thing, as Benjamin K. Bergen, a cognitive scientist at U.C. San Diego and the author of “What the F,” has pointed out, vulgarity bends the usual rules of grammar. For instance, the common expression “Fuck you!” is the rare sentence in which the verb has no subject. It’s not like “Curse you!” in which the “I” is understood; who’s fucking you in this case? The expression isn’t even a proper imperative. (That would be “Fuck yourself.”) Or consider the sentence “There’s too much work in this fucking class.” Is “fucking” an adjective? An adverb?
脏话有这样的神秘力量，这似乎没什么好令人吃惊的，毕竟脏话相较于其他语言有着种种不同之处。首先，正如《What the F》一书的作者，圣地亚哥大学（U.C. San Diego）的认知科学家Benjamin K. Bergen所指出的那样，脏话不遵循常规的语法规则。例如，常见的脏话“干你！”（Fuck you!）就是一句没有主语的句子。这不是一句常规的句子。它与“我诅咒你！”（“Curse you!”）不同。其他人是可以体会出后句中的主语“我”（“I”）的。但是“干你！”（Fuck you!）这句话的主语却不能被体会出来，到底是谁在“干你”呢？这句话甚至都不是一句合格的祈使句。要改成“干你自己”（“Fuck yourself”）才可以是一句正确的祈使句。另外，我们还可以看看这样一句话“这操蛋的课怎么这么多东西要做”（“There’s too much work in this fucking class”）。这句话里面的fucking是一个形容词呢还是一个副词呢？
occult /əˈkʌlt; ˈɒkʌlt; NAmE ˈɑ:k-/ adj. [only before noun] connected with magic powers and things that cannot be explained by reason or science 神秘的；玄妙的；超自然的；不可思议的
Swears are also unique in their effect on the human body. In 2011, researchers at the University of Bristol found that saying aloud the words “fuck” and “cunt” (but not the words “glue” and “dumb”) prompted a silent emotional reaction from the people who said them, detectable as an increase in the conductivity of their skin. One leading idea about swearing is that it is the fundamental language of emotion, and it seems to be generated by the parts of the brain from which emotions arise.
脏话对人体的作用也是独一无二的。在2011年，布里斯托大学（the University of Bristol）的研究人员发现，大声说出“操”、“傻逼”（而不是“胶水”、“哑巴”）可以刺激说话人在情感上的静态反应。而这种反应可以通过皮肤上的电导率测试出来。一个主导的理解认为，脏话是情感的基础语言。它似乎是从迸发出情感的那部分大脑产生的。
Indeed, sometimes, when the rest of language is stripped away, profanity is all that’s left. One of the earliest studied cases of aphasia, from 1843, involved a French parish priest who had suffered a stroke. He could say just two words: je (“I”) and foutre (“fuck”). In a similar case from the nineteen-nineties, a patient known as R.N. was left with a vocabulary of six words: “well,” “yeah,” “yes,” “no,” “shit,” and “goddammit.” Language is assembled in different parts of the brain, but obscenities seem to occupy a bin of their own; so long as neurological damage is limited to the regions governing intentional speech, the obscenity bin stays intact. In “What the F,” Bergen describes the case of a patient, E.C., who had the entire left half of his brain removed. In the process, he lost most, but not all, of his language abilities. He would open his mouth, say a few words, struggle to string them together, and then, with a burst of emotion, clearly express a series of expletives, including “goddammit.” “You don’t need your left hemisphere to talk as long as you’re swearing in frustration,” Bergen writes.
确实，有时当我们没有其他语言可用时，脏话是我们唯一的选择。1843年，在研究失语症的最早期案例，一位法国教区牧师因中风而得了失语症。他只能说出俩个字——“我”(je) 和“操”(foutre)。在一个1990年代的类似病例中，一位匿名为R.N.的病人只能说出六个字——“好”（“well”）、“耶”（“yeah”）、“是”（“yes”）、“不”（“no”）、“妈的”（“shit”）和“该死”（“goddammit”）。大脑的不同部分都参与了语言的组织。但是，大脑中似乎有个专门放脏话的桶。只要单单管理功能性语言的那部分大脑神经受到损伤，那大脑中的脏话桶就不会受到影响。在《What the F》一书中，Bergen写到了一名做了左脑切除术、匿名为E.C的病患。由于手术，他丧失了大部分语言能力。他能张口说出一些词，并磕磕巴巴地想要把这些词组织起来。但是，当他情感爆发时，他能很清晰地说出一系列包括“该死的”这样的脏话。Bergen在书中写道：当你沮丧地要说脏话时，你甚至能在没有左半脑的情况下开口。
strip away to remove a layer from sth 剥去；剥下
aphasia /əˈfeɪziə/ nounthe loss of the ability to understand or produce speech, because of brain damage 失语症
Stephens took an interest in swearing a dozen years ago, while his wife was giving birth in the hospital. The labor was prolonged—more than twenty hours—and her swearing was profuse. Afterward, she was “a bit embarrassed,” Richards said; she apologized to the midwives and doctors, but they kindly brushed it off. “‘They said, ‘We hear this all the time. This is a completely normal part of giving birth.’ That made me start thinking about swearing and pain. People instinctively swear when they hurt themselves. They must do it for a reason.”
Stephens’s first major study on the subject was the 2009 ice-bucket challenge. In the course of it, he found that the heart rates of the volunteers who swore went up relative to those who didn’t—an indication that swearing had indeed engaged the parts of the brain involved in emotion. Notably, the volunteers weren’t shouting the curse word but were merely repeating it, without affect. The physical effect seemed to result from the word itself, not from the manner in which it was expressed.
Next, Stephens turned the logic around: if swearing increases one’s tolerance for pain, and if swearing is ultimately emotional language, then making volunteers emotional should increase their pain tolerance. To test this idea, Stephens had one group of subjects play a first-person-shooter video game—Medal of Honor—for ten minutes and a second group play Tiger Woods P.G.A. Tour 2007. Afterward, the Medal of Honor players reported feeling more aggressive; when Stephens submitted them to the ice-bucket challenge, they could withstand it longer than the golfers could. In January, Stephens and his colleagues published a related study showing that Medal of Honor players also did better on what’s called a swearing fluency test: they could list more swear words in a minute than they could after playing the golf game. (All told, the test subjects came up with sixty swear words, although the paper notes that nineteen of them—including “feck,” “fuckaroo,” “asstaxi,” “wanko,” and “penis”—were “deemed not to be a recognized linguistic form of swear word.”)
之后，Stephens沿着该试验得出的结论进行推导：如果说脏话可以提高人对疼痛的忍耐度，而且，从根本上来说，脏话是一种情绪语言，那么我们就可以推导出：使志愿者情绪化应该能同样提高他们的疼痛忍耐度。为了检验这个想法，Stephens让一组志愿者玩一款第一人称视角的射击游戏《荣誉勋章》（Medal of Honor），时间10分钟；而他让另一组人玩了《泰格伍兹高尔夫球巡回赛07》（Tiger Woods P.G.A. Tour 2007）。然后，玩《荣誉勋章》的那一组报告说情绪更激动。当这组人做冰水实验时，他们坚持的时间也要比玩《高尔夫球巡回赛07》那组人更长。今年一月，Stephens的团队发表了一篇相关研究。研究显示，玩《荣誉勋章》的那一组在所谓的脏话流利度测试中也表现得更好。在玩了《高尔夫球巡回赛07》之后，他们能在一分钟内列出更多脏话。（在该测试中，志愿者总共想出来60个脏词，但该报告特别指出，其中19个词不能被认定为是语言形式上的脏词，比如feck、fuckaroo、asstaxi、wanko 和 penis（屌））（译者注：feck是fuck的婉转用法；fuckaroo指极其糟糕的情况，有时与性行为有关；asstaxi指大屁股/与同性恋性行为有关）
submit /səbˈmɪt/ verb to accept the authority, control or greater strength of sb/ sth; to agree to sth because of this 顺从；屈服；投降；不得已接受
Both studies were consistent with Stephens’s theory that swearing eases pain by triggering aggressive emotions, much in the way that the mere act of smiling can make a person feel happier. The aggression, in turn, triggers a fight-or-flight stress response, releasing adrenaline, which is known to increase physical performance. But his latest study, involving handgrips and stationary bicycles, complicates that story somewhat. In previous physical-challenge experiments, volunteers who swore had higher heart rates than those who didn’t—telltale signs of the fight-or-flight response. In the recent study, however, they didn’t. “Our latest findings are an effect but without an explanation for it,” Stephens said. There are at least two possibilities, he added. One is that swearing aloud may distract people from their pain, enabling them to better tolerate it. Or “it could be that swearing brings about a general disinhibition,” he said. “People feel less uptight when they’ve been swearing, and that lets them go for it a little bit more.”
Either way, Stephens said, the profanities traditionally considered most vulgar are losing their power to shock. Even the Democrats are trying to capitalize on the trend. Bernie Sanders has publicly denounced the President’s “shitty budget.” Politico recently highlighted a New York magazine profile of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that “included one ‘fuck,’ two ‘fucking’s, one ‘bullshit,’ one ‘pissed off,’ one ‘they suck,’ and a ‘what the hell is going on?’ ” In April, with children standing behind him, Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told a crowd that Trump “doesn’t give a shit about health care.” (For thirty dollars, the D.N.C. is also selling a T-shirt that reads, “We give a shit about people.”) Feigning offense, Fox News has complained that Democrats want to “make using profanity a new normal.”
Stephens表示，无论怎样，在从前，脏话可能被认为是粗俗不堪的，但是如今人们在听到脏话时并没有那么惊愕了。甚至连民主党人都在尝试利用这股说脏话的“潮流”。Bernie Sanders曾公开谴责特朗普的预算糟糕得和屎一样。最近，《政客》（Politico）特别报道了《纽约》杂志一篇关于参议员Kirsten Gillibrand的简介中的用词。这篇文章中出现了一次fuck（日）、两次fucking（操蛋的）、一次bullshit（狗屁）、一次pissed off（滚）、一次they suck（他们太糟糕了）和一次what the hell is going on?（什么鬼？）。今年四月，美国民主党全国委员会主席Tom Perez对周围的民众说：“特朗普他关心个狗屁卫生保健。他一点也不在乎。”当时他的后面还站着几个小孩。（美国民主党全国委员会还在以每件30美元的价格出售写着“We give a shit about people.（我们关心人民）”字样的T恤）。福克斯新闻网(Fox News)则假惺惺地指责道：民主党人想要让说脏话成为一种新常态。
Will profanity lose its pain-relieving magic along the way? At one point in his research, Stephens found that people who swore more in the course of an average day didn’t gain as much of an edge in the ice-bucket challenge, but he’s since had trouble replicating that finding. Odds are, though, that if profanity begins to fail us, we’ll find a way to upgrade it. “We’re getting to the point where the four-letter words are diminishing very much in their meaning,” Stephens said. “But there will always be new taboo words and phrases. We might be in a kind of plateau at the moment, before new oaths and profanities and whatever come along. But they will.”
plateau /ˈplætəʊ／a time of little or no change after a period of growth or progress （发展、增长后的）稳定期，停滞期
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