Ever regret launching a few choice expletives? Don’t feel guilty; It may help relieve distress, according to a new study published in NeuroReport and reported on in WebMD.

For the study, researchers at Keele University’s School of Psychology in the United Kingdom asked 60 undergraduates to place their hands in buckets of icy water twice. On the first plunge, the students repeated a curse word several times. The second go-round, they repeated an ordinary, neutral word. Researchers found that participants, when cursing, were able to withstand the cold water longer and reported less pain than when saying the neutral word.

“Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon,” said Richard Stephens, one of the study’s authors. “It taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain.”

He continued: “Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists.”

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