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Swearing Out Loud at Work or Online

Updated on January 11, 2018
SMD2012 profile image

Sally Hayes is a business communications coach who teaches speaking and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

Is there ever a good time to curse out loud? Is swearing at work, in public, and online still considered taboo? Join the discussion on whether or not bad language is ever acceptable at work.

Whoops! What did you just say?
Whoops! What did you just say?

When is it, or isn't it, OK to swear in public? Are we moving towards a greater acceptance of swearing in more and more public forums? Or will the trend soon pass? This article explores modern-day usage of swear words and opens the floor for discussion on the use of swear words in our own presentations, blogs or commercial or artistic performances. Add your thoughts to the discussion.

Is it ever a good idea to swear at work or in a professional setting?
Is it ever a good idea to swear at work or in a professional setting? | Source

When is it or isn't it appropriate to swear out loud?

I consider myself open-minded when it comes to language usage, particularly as it pertains to creative self-expression. Poetry, song lyrics, spoken word, even stand-up comedy -- in each of these mediums, words are deliberately selected by the artist to convey various abstract and concrete ideas. Swear words and expletives may be laced throughout a performance piece to create feelings of tension, anger, rage or disgust.

Carefully structured phrases, even those with swear words in them, can mean the difference between an artist sounding authentic or just sounding like a loud-mouth boor.

But beyond artistic expression there are some other places where the use of swear words and profanities seems to be growing in popularity.

Pseudo-profanities and implied swearing on television

I was watching television recently and a commercial for a brand of healthy frozen foods came on. It featured Jane Lynch, the cantankerous coach on the popular show Glee. At the end on the segment Lynch said “It’s about frickin’ time” in relation to an improvement made to the product. The little old lady in me sat up and said, “Wait a minute! Did she just say frickin’?” which we all know is a supposedly acceptable way of using the F-word.

In another series of commercials for Frank’s Red Hot, a grandmotherly looking senior is bleeped out as she says, “I put that *bleep* on everything.” There are other commercials that have also followed this trend of pseudo-profanities and implied swearing on TV.

Swear words and expletives in literature

To me, hearing expletives in a speech and reading expletives in print aren't the same; it's as though the words touch different processing centers in my brain (in fact, I am sure they do). For instance, if I had to listen to Catcher in the Rye as an audio-book, or see it as a performance on stage, I think my understanding of (read: empathy toward) Holden Caulfield and his continuous use of “g*dd*m” would have been dramatically different.

I've tried to reduce profanity but I reduced so much profanity when writing the book that I'm afraid not much could come out. Perhaps we will have to consider it simply as a profane book and hope that the next book will be less profane or perhaps more sacred.

— Ernest Hemingway

Swear words in a seminar

Recently at a marketing seminar, I was taken aback when one of the speakers dropped the F-bomb in her presentation: not just once, but twice. Then, as if on cue, her co-facilitator did the same thing. Some might say that in the context of their speech (they were talking about dealing with blog trolls), dropping a few swear words might have been needed to convey feelings of frustration about rude comments on blogs. Still, even in the context of the presentation, hearing expletives from the front of the room was quite jolting for me.

Have you ever accidentally cursed while giving a speech?
Have you ever accidentally cursed while giving a speech?

A recent study done done by two psychologists at the Massachusetts University of Liberal Arts indicates that in spite of what most people have been taught to believe by their teachers and parents, swearing is not a sign of low intelligence. In fact, the researchers found that people who swear often actually have richer vocabularies that those people who use much more modest language.

Do you agree with the study that claims people who swear have better vocabularies than those who don't curse?

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Many public figures and politicians have been caught using inappropriate language because they thought the microphone wasn't on. Always be on your best behavior when you are near a microphone, even if you think it's turned off.
Many public figures and politicians have been caught using inappropriate language because they thought the microphone wasn't on. Always be on your best behavior when you are near a microphone, even if you think it's turned off.

Swearing on personal blogs

For the most part, I don't get offended when someone let's a swear word slip by on their private blogs. If the swear word isn't used as a personal insult against someone, but rather serves to punctuate an idea without being overly crude, then who am I to get my knickers in a twist about it? Blogs are often used as personal platforms to rant and rave about irritations, things that are unfair and other sundry events that might put someone in a bad mood. What people write on their private blogs is up to them. Short of libeling people or propagating hatred towards others, everyone is left to toe the censorship line on their own.

The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.

— George Washington

Have you ever sworn in front of a large audience and then regretted it later?

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Instead of this:
Say this:
Oh sh#*!
Oh sugar!
Da*n it!
The next time you are tempted to swear at work or in a professional setting, here are a few funny and sweet sounding replacements!

© 2012 Sally Hayes


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  • Danwe profile image

    Danwe 5 years ago

    Swearing in front of audience can be used to pull people from their state or to get their attention or maybe in sake of humor. But I don't see it as a good thing swearing in presentation at a marketing seminar.