Sore words
I don’t usually write to magazines, and I’ve never written to yours before, though I’ve enjoyed and learned much from it for many years thanks to it being produced in Braille. But I couldn’t let your article on swearing relieving pain [“%$!” makes you feel better,” (SN: 8/1/09, p. 9)] go by. Without wishing to offend anyone or sound like a self-righteous prig, I still must say it’s sad when science and research gives folks an excuse for doing what so many people do too much of already.

Why didn’t those studying this subject check out a couple other things? Like having people yell “ow!” or “phooey” or some other innocuous exclamation, or even just make wordless vocalizations that expressed whatever pain or emotion about the pain they were experiencing? And then, if the researchers did that, why not check that against pain alleviation that resulted from nonsense words, and from being silent? I think the trick is simply in not being silent while in pain, not the actual words or sounds made.

I also objected to the researchers saying swear words were unique because they were a bridge between the language and emotional centers in the brain. Any exclamation has that quality, just as, in a different way, music links emotional and other centers in us. 

When I told my friends about this, I concluded by saying I felt like yelling “Aaaaah!” after reading it. And if that isn’t a linking between language and emotional centers, I don’t know what is!

Whether you agree or not, thank you for your very interesting and informative magazine.

Rebecca Reise, West Linn, Ore.

Inspired by fiction
Regarding “Think like a scientist” (SN: 6/20/09, p. 20): I’ve often wondered, if a poll was taken of scientists and researchers, how many would say that reading science fiction and seeing science fiction movies at an early age had an influence on their decision to pursue a career in the sciences? I think such exposure opens one up to thinking outside the box.

Denis Neumann , Half Moon Bay, Calif.