Keep it Clean
I have a love affair with profanity. I curse more than just about anyone else I know. In anger, in frustration, as an exclamation of delight, for emphasis, to be funny, because I forgot another word, etc. I swear the way many people breathe – unconsciously. I like the way the words feel in my mouth, I like the way they sound, I like the effect they can have on myself and others. I even swear in emails and text messages. So much so, in fact, that the auto-correct on my phone is also quite profane. Let’s just say it knows better than to auto-correct anything I type to “ducking.”
My mother is appalled by my profanity. (Keep in mind, I learned it all from her, but she’s gotten a bit more…sedate as she’s aged.) She says it’s a sign of laziness or poor vocabulary. To which I respond by pointing her to studies that show that curse words don’t automatically mean you are dumb and small-minded.
Certain members of my staff were also a bit surprised by the blue language when they first started working for me. One intern even told me her boyfriend commented on how much more profane she was after three months in my employ, since she worked next to me all day long. To which I replied…okay, I can’t put what I said in this blog. Suffice it to say I wasn’t particularly sympathetic to his plight. He is a construction worker, not a preacher. And even preachers should be allowed to curse a little. They are only human.
But as much as I adore bad words, there are limits, even for me:
1. I try really, really hard to never curse in front of my daughter. She’s a parrot, and I don’t want her to go back to her Catholic school and get sent to penance detention or whatever they do to kids who say the f-word in front of Father Rick. Also, nothing is tackier than a potty-mouthed kid. I didn’t start swearing until I was in college. Granted, I’ve been making up for lost time ever since, but at least I never got in trouble in middle school for using bad words.
2. I don’t swear around people whom I know it will offend terribly. There are certain people in my life (my mom’s family, particularly religious friends, etc.) who I know will be horrified if I drop an f-bomb or use some of my favorite scatological curses. No sense making them uncomfortable just to express myself.
3. Customer meetings are a total no-swearing zone for me. Unless we’ve established a long-standing relationship and they’ve sworn freely in front of me, I’m going to keep my comments as pure as the driven snow. I certainly don’t want to lose business because of my profanity, or offend someone I don’t know that well.
4.I have a general rule to not swear in my writing. I find that I can usually express myself well enough with exclamation points, ellipses, or well-placed parentheses that I don’t need to insert profanity in my writing. There are a few exceptions to this in my oeuvre, but those rare cases required a great deal of deliberation and I asked several other people to read it before I hit the “publish” button to make sure I wasn’t just being sensationalist.
So go ahead. Revel in your salty language. Swear with abandon. Curse like a sailor. But keep in mind that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and if you are trying to make others comfortable, or close a sale, it might be better to keep it clean.