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Swearing constitutes a species of human behaviour so little understood, even by its most devoted practitioners, that an examination of its meaning and significance is long overdue.

Anthropologist Ashley Montagu, writing in 1967, predicted that swearing would develop new vigour, and even a life of its own, with cross-fertilsation between social groups producing new swear-words of un-imagined colour and tone. He was only partly right though.

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The Sow’s Ear Effect

Telling yourself good stuff about yourself seems, intuitively, like a good idea. It is supposed to help you feel good, or better, about yourself, and to gradually build self-esteem.

But this only works if the statements – or ‘affirmations’ – are believable. Far fetched inspirational statements seem like a good idea, but they can actually have the opposite effect.

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Hear the Storyteller, Not Just the Story

Stories have the power to persuade and change, they can also condemn and isolate us.

Once we are past childhood we judge a story by the storyteller. We look for interests and motives that could render the story invalid or suspect.

When we listen to the stories we tell ourselves we should be similarly cautious, the narrator is usually hugely biased.

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