Dr. Timothy Jay

Professor Emeritus, Psychology

Timothy Jay
Center for Science & Innovation


Ph.D., Kent State University, 1976

M.A., Kent State University, 1974

B.A., Miami University, 1972

Courses Taught

Psych 100: Introduction to Psychology

Psych 310: Cognitive Psychology

Research/Creative Interests

Dr. Jay began teaching at MCLA shortly after earning his doctorate in Cognitive Psychology at Kent State University 1976. Dr. Jay teaches Introduction to Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Human Communication and Perception, Environmental Psychology, and Language and Censorship. He is the recipient of several distinguished teaching awards.

A world-renowned expert in cursing, Dr. Jay maintains an active schedule of research, writing and speaking. He has published numerous books and chapters on cursing, and a textbook for Prentice Hall on The Psychology of Language. Dr. Jay works closely with undergraduates on empirical research projects, and he and his students have presented their work at numerous conferences including meetings of the Association for Psychological Science, Eastern Psychological Association, New England Psychological Association.

Dr. Jay is frequently sought for his expertise on psycholinguistics. He has served as a consultant to a number of school systems, and has been an expert witness in legal cases pertaining to obscenity and censorship. Furthermore, Dr. Jay has been interviewed or featured in dozens of radio shows, televisions programs, and documentary films.


Swearing Is More Important Than You Think - Every language has its taboo words (which many people use all the time). But the list of forbidden words is always changing — and those changes tell us some surprising things about ourselves, Podcast Dr. Tim Jay. 4/19/23

Why swearing could have a place in the office - Using graphic language at work has been long frowned upon. But could there be an advantage to peppering your speech with a few strategic expletives? BBC interviw with Dr. Tim Jay. 5/16/2021

The science behind cursing and ways to get dirty words out of your vocabulary - Cutting down on swearing -
Fox5 New York News interview with Dr. Tim Jay. 4/14/21
"We've recorded over 10,000 people swearing in public," said Dr. Timothy Jay, psychologist and author of 'Why We Curse.' "People swear to express their emotions. Part of that is venting - getting out anger, frustrations, surprise and happiness. And part of that is to convey those feelings to other people."
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Why swearing is a sign of intelligence, helps manage pain and more - 5 Ways cursing can be good for you - CNN interview with Dr. Timothy Jay. 1/26/21 
1. Cursing may be a sign of intelligence
2. Swearing may be a sign of honesty
3. Profanity improves pain tolerance
4. Cussing is a sign of creativity
5. Throwing expletives instead of punches

Examining factors in offensive speech, with Dr. Timothy Jay - People Who Read People: Understanding human behavior. A talk with psychologist and expert on cursing Dr. Timothy Jay about some lesser known factors that can be present when people use offensive language, with a focus on the modern phenomenon of videos widely shared on social media showing people say... 8/1/20

President Trump at the podium

Trump uttered what many supporters consider blasphemy. Here’s why most will probably forgive him. President Trump has had trouble with a number of the Ten Commandments. There’s the adultery. There’s the prohibition against giving false witness, for a man who has made more than 12,000- The Washington Post. Read more here 9/14/19

When Profanity Hits the Campaign Trail
Trump lowered the bar, and now some Democratic presidential candidates are cursing with unusual abandon. Why? 9/9/19

Husband and wife founders: Investors treated us differently
Bad words are bound to slip out of your mouth at the office. But that doesn't mean it should be a welcome or pervasive part of the office culture. 7/22/19

Calgary Today: Dr. Timothy Jay Discusses “SWEARING” By Your Relationships 
Listen here, 11/28/18

Article: The Case for Cursing by Kristin Wong
Read more here, 7/27/17

BBC: The Why Factor? Why do we swear? Mike Williams traces the history of taboo language from Roman times to the present day and discovers why some words are so powerful and offensive.
Listen here.

TIME Magazine article: Swearing Is Scientifically Proven to Help You *%$!ing Deal, 12/15/16

MCLA roundtable interview:
Listen here, 12/6/2016

Voice of Islam radio interview: 
Listen here, 11/25/2016

HuffPost Latest Conversations:
Heck Yeah It's Good to Curse!, 7/27/2012

The Science of Swearing in the Association for Psychological Science's Observer, May/June 2012

Interview with Tim Jay by Marty Moss-Coane for WHYY, 1/27/2012:
Cursing & public discourse: Have we gone too far?

Interview with Tim Jay on This American Life Episode 267 Ira talks with Dr Timothy Jay, author of Cursing in America and Why We Curse, and John Cody, legal aide to FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Read the fascinating landmark FCC decision that's changing the rules, and the ACLU's Petition for Reconsideration. 

Swearing and the Soul
If Americans now see 'M-----f-----g' as the new 'darn', what does it reveal about our spiritual health?

Books in Print

We Did What?!: Offensive and Inappropriate Behavior in American History (2017). This provocative guide profiles behaviors considered shocking throughout American history, revealing the extent of changing social mores and cultural perceptions of appropriate conduct since the Colonial period. ABC-CLIO, LLC. www.abc-clio.com.

Cursing In America (1992) The first serious examination of profanity from a psychological and linguistic point of view. John Benjamins Pub Co (1-800-562-5666). www.benjamins.com

What to Do When Your Students Talk Dirty (1996) - a guide to help teachers and parents understand and deal with children's offensive language. Resource Publications Inc www.rpinet.com  ~ Free books available ~ Please email t.jay@mcla.edu 

What to Do When Your Kids Talk Dirty (1998) - a guide for parents and caregivers to help them cope with offensive language at home. Resource Publications Inc (1-888-273-7782) www.rpinet.com 

Why We Curse (2000) - a neuro-psycho-social theory of speech. John Benjamins Pub Co (1-800-562-5666).www.benjamins.com

The Psychology of Language (2003) - Prentice Hall For junior/senior-level courses in Psycholinguistics and The Psychology of Language. A comprehensive survey of classic and cutting edge research, this text shows how people comprehend, produce, and acquire language - and represents how powerful language processes are, and the importance of language in everyday life. It looks at emotional aspects of language processing in social contexts, and extends beyond the usual emphasis on structural aspects of language to include pragmatic and functional forces -demonstrating not just "what language is but also what language does."

Selected Publications

Jay, T. (2018) Swearing Online

Jay, T. & Jay, K. (2015) Taboo word fluency and knowledge of slurs and general pejoratives: deconstructing the poverty-of-vocabulary myth

Jay, T. & Jay, K. (2013) Children's cursing

Jay, T. (2009) Do Words Harm?

Jay, T. (2009) The Utility and Ubiquity of Taboo Words 

Jay, T. & Janschewitz, K. (2008) The Pragmatics of Swearing

Jay, T., Caldwell-Harris, C. & King, K. (2008) Recalling taboo and nontaboo words

Jay, T. & Janschewitz, K. (2007) Filling the emotion gap in linguistic theory: Commentary on Potts' expressive dimension

Jay, T., King, K., & Duncan, T (2006) Memory of punishment for cursing. Sex Roles.

Jay, T. (2005) American Women: Their Cursing Habits and Religiosity

Jay, T. (1981) Comprehending dirty-word descriptions.

Jay, T. (1980) Sex roles and dirty word usage: A review of the literature and a reply to Haas