Using Words Like 'Really' A Lot Could Mean You're Really Stressed

iStock
iStock

Are you feeling really exhausted? Or have you noticed that it's incredibly hot out today?

If you recognize the adverbs above as appearing frequently in your own speech, it could be a sign that you're stressed. At least, those are the findings in a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As Nature reports, researchers found that peppering our speech with "function words" is a pretty accurate indicator of our anxiety levels.

Function words differ from verbs and nouns in that they don't mean much on their own and mostly serve to clarify the words around them. Included in this group are pronouns, adverbs, and adjectives. A team of American researchers suspected that people use these words more frequently when they're stressed, so to test their hypothesis, they hooked up recording devices to 143 volunteers.

After transcribing and analyzing audio clips recorded periodically over the course of two days, the researchers compared subjects' speech patterns to the gene expressions of certain white blood cells in their bodies that are susceptible to stress. They found that people exhibiting the biological symptoms of stress talked less overall, but when they did speak up they were more likely to use words like really and incredibly.

They also preferred the pronouns me and mine over them and their, possibly indicating their self-absorbed world view when under pressure. The appearance of these trends predicted stress in the volunteers' genes more accurately than their own self-assessments. As study co-author Matthias Mehl told Nature, this could be a reason for doctors to "listen beyond the content" of the symptoms their patients report and pay greater attention "to the way it is expressed" in the future.

One reason function words are such a great indicator of stress is that we often insert them into our sentences unconsciously, while our choice of words like nouns and verbs is more deliberate. Anxiety isn't the only thing that influences our speech without us realizing it. Hearing ideas we agree with also has a way of shaping our syntax.

[h/t Nature]

This Outdoor Lantern Will Keep Mosquitoes Away—No Bug Spray Necessary

Thermacell, Amazon
Thermacell, Amazon

With summer comes outdoor activities, and with those activities come mosquito bites. If you're one of the unlucky people who seem to attract the insects, you may be tempted to lock yourself inside for the rest of the season. But you don't have to choose between comfort and having a cocktail on the porch, because this lamp from Thermacell ($25) keeps outdoor spaces mosquito-free without the mess of bug spray.

The device looks like an ordinary lantern you would display on a patio, but it works like bug repellent. When it's turned on, a fuel cartridge in the center provides the heat needed to activate a repellent mat on top of the lamp. Once activated, the repellent in the mat creates a 15-by-15-foot bubble of protection that repels any mosquitos nearby, making it a great option for camping trips, days by the pool, and backyard barbecues.

Mosquito repellent lantern.

Unlike some other mosquito repellents, this lantern is clean, safe, and scent-free. It also provides light like a real lamp, so you can keep pests away without ruining your backyard's ambience.

The Thermacell mosquito repellent lantern is now available on Amazon. If you've already suffered your first mosquito bites of the summer, here's some insight into why that itch can be so excruciating.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Rosetta Stone Teaches New Languages Without Making You Memorize a Thing

Will flags fly out of your mouth when you achieve fluency? Well, no.
Will flags fly out of your mouth when you achieve fluency? Well, no.
SIphotography/iStock via Getty Images

TL;DR: Rosetta Stone is offering up to 45 percent off subscriptions from now until July 1.

Rosetta Stone has been the go-to program for many language-learning enthusiasts since its launch in 1992. Whether you’re considering taking up a new language to prepare for a future vacation or just to pick up a new hobby, here’s a quick guide to what it is, how it works, and what you could gain from becoming bilingual (or multilingual).

What Is Rosetta Stone?

After you said your very first word, your parents almost definitely didn’t hand you a textbook filled with long vocabulary lists and essays on grammar rules. Instead, they probably built up your language skills by doing things like pointing at a dog and saying “Dog.” Before long, you could say “Mom, can we get a dog?” without ever having been aware that you were learning a language.

Rosetta Stone is a subscription-based service founded on the premise that learning a new language should be just as easy. Basically, it’ll pair a word with an image, speak the word out loud, and then ask you to choose a similar image that corresponds to that word from a few options. It’s sort of like your mom pointing at a dog, saying “Dog,” and then asking you to point out the next dog you see. As the lessons progress, you’ll build on that vocabulary until you’re choosing images that match phrases and sentences, and then having full-fledged conversations into your device's microphone.

Since the goal is communication, Rosetta Stone never makes you memorize grammatical dogma—after all, when you’re asking your waiter in Italian which meals are dairy-free, they’re not going to make you identify the prepositional phrase in your sentence before they answer. Just like you did as a kid, you’ll subconsciously pick up grammar and syntax patterns in your new language and echo them without even realizing it. There’s also speech precision technology that recognizes parts of your accent that could use a little work (and it’s adjustable, so you can lower it to your ideal level of nitpicky-ness).

What Are The Benefits of Learning a New Language?

The benefits of learning a new language extend far beyond helping you convey your dietary restrictions in restaurants abroad. In terms of mental exercise, it’s a little like circuit training for your brain. Studies have suggested that bilingual speakers’ ability to juggle more than one language at a time makes them better multitaskers, and it’s possible that learning a new language could even help protect against Alzheimer’s or dementia.

And, of course, it could help you catch a translation error that might otherwise cause you, your company, or your country some serious problems (or at least a moment of embarrassment). When KFC opened its first store in Beijing in the 1980s, for example, their famous “Finger-lickin’ good” catchphrase was mistranslated as “Eat your fingers off.” Ford Motors had a similar problem in Belgium, where a campaign that was supposed to boast that “Every car has a high-quality body” ended up reading “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” Though nothing quite beats President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 visit to Poland, when his interpreter translated “when I left the United States” as “when I abandoned the United States,” and “your desires for the future” as “your lusts for the future.”

What Does It Cost?

Now through July 1, you can purchase a lifetime Rosetta Stone subscription for $199 (instead of the usual $299). While that’ll get you the best bang for your buck, the monthly deals accommodate various levels of commitment: a three-month subscription is $11.99 per month; 12 months costs $7.99 per month; and you can sign up for a two-year subscription for $5.99 per month. There are 24 languages to choose from—including Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and more—and you can find out additional details about all their deals here.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.