F-Bombs

by admin on May 6, 2013

Newly hired News anchor A.J. Clemente drops a few curse words, including the f-bomb, and is fired.

If there really is a verbal “F-bomb” then our language has become a minefield of exploding munitions  of which we have become tone deaf.   I am beginning to no longer be surprised when even allegedly dignified people drop the word on television.   When I was a youngster, even into mid adulthood, the “f-bomb” was the nuclear warhead in a person’s verbal arsenal and only to be deployed under exceptional circumstances.   When you heard it, wow, you paid attention because the situation had to be epic.   We must live in constantly exceptional, critical times give how liberally the word is used these days.   And having expended the most potent word in our arsenal, there really is no curse word that exceeds it so some resort to repeating the word in the odd hope that a multiplication of bombs will somehow achieve the same effect as a single one did years ago.

Newly hired, and young, A.J. Clemente is a good example of how repeatedly using the word in normal conversation just leaked right over, unconsciously, into his professional communication.   What was “normal” talk during his non-working time shows itself to be difficult to avoid splatting out in his work environment.   Imagine being his co-host and trying to think of how to cover over that major blunder.

On April 20,  37-year old slugger David Ortiz capped a series of moving tributes and observances in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings with a brief speech to fans at Fenway Park, comprised of equal parts gratitude, fellowship and defiance. It also contained one exuberant f-bomb.

“This is our fucking city,” Ortiz roared during his remarks to the delight of the crowd.

The f-bomb is now linguistically a strengthening adjective.  People use it to give more “umph” or gravitas to their words.  While the FCC declined to penalize Ortiz for using the word on television, the fact still remains that our language has deteriorated so much that a coarse word for sex is actually used with pride to describe one’s hometown.  I still cannot refrain from viewing people who liberally drop the f-bombs as those handicapped in their verbal skills.  They lack the language to express themselves in any way but the most profane way (and easy way).

{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Voronwis May 6, 2013 at 4:39 am

Except that the language is constantly changing. Some words ‘rise to power’, others lose it. Hundred years ago if somebody exclaimed: ‘Damn!’, was likely to make some old ladies faint.

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Lo May 6, 2013 at 7:11 am

I’ll admit to being one of those who uses this word in casual conversation.

I do think it’s a terrible habit. I also work a professional job in which it’s entirely inappropriate to let that kind of vocabulary slip. I’ve never had a slip up at work. Nor in front of my family (extended family included) among whom it would be considered shocking.

For me it’s not a lack of vocabulary so much as it’s a reflection of the enviorment. My mother is one of those people who never ever curses. She doesn’t take the Lord’s name in vain (which rubbed off on me, actually. I may drop the f-bomb but I’ll never use the G-word), she doesn’t even use mild versions of the words. As a teenager I laughed at her. As an adult I have to admit it’s admirable. My father, on the other hand, is like me. I doubt he thinks twice about what he’s saying when it comes out. My friends growing up were pretty raw. You absorb the habits of the people around you. Then it became a mark of adulthood to be able to use those words. Which is silly but understandable, given the culture.

I police myself diligently around people’s children. I don’t think they should be exposed to that kind of thing and I don’t want to be responsible for a new generation of cussers. Don’t be like me, kids.

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Double You May 6, 2013 at 7:54 am

The American (or I should really say Anglo-Saxon, as this is also an issue in the UK) obsession with ‘the F-bomb’ and other swear words is a very curious and fascinating phenomenon for outsiders like me (a native Dutch speaker living in Belgium), as over here, it really isn’t an issue any longer: many words that were originally swear words – either in Dutch or in English – have found their way into everyday language, where they are used in a very similar way to the one described above: ie as a strengthening adjective that can either be used in a positive or a negative way.

I think if every a Flemish soap opera, talk show, comedy show or human interest documentary were to be shown on US television, the American viewers would be shocked by the amount of F-bombs, swear words etc, whereas our broadcasters very rarely get any complaints in that respect. I think it all depends on what people in various cultures tend to find offensive.

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Nikki May 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

Growing up, I was always taught that it is a sign of intelligence if someone is able to express themselves without the use of swear words. Things like “darn it,” “oh, shoot!” were acceptable, but only rarely.

I sincerely wish everyone had been taught the same.

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WildIrishRose May 6, 2013 at 8:47 am

*Coarse*, not course.

And I couldn’t agree more. I’m guilty of using it from time to time, but it’s not a daily thing with me. And while plenty of people seem to think Clemente shouldn’t have been fired over this one use, I’m of the school of thought that using it diminishes him as a professional. I hope he learned something from this.

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Ripple May 6, 2013 at 8:49 am

When I was a freshman in college, I picked up a few words. The strongest that had been used in my home before that was “damn” and that very seldom. On a break, I used the “s” word in front of my mother and I thought she was going to smack me from across the kitchen. She made it very plain that I was to never use that word in her house again. So from then on, about a week or so before I would go home for a break, I would use “sugar” and “fudge” rather than the other words. Still do sometimes, though I do slip, in my own house, not often around other people.

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MichelleP May 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

Thanks so much for this. I can’t understand why people think speaking like this in public is acceptable. I’ll admit I let expletives fly when I tore the nail off my big toe at home, but just using that word just to use it is so unattractive.

I was with my young daughter at a restaurant a few weeks ago and a teenage couple with a baby a few tables away were letting that word and every other dirty one I’d ever heard fly, arguing about changing the baby’s diaper. I had enough and spoke up, politely telling them that their language and volume were unnecessary. I got the f-bomb directed at me then, but they did leave.

Once a young man was outside at my college and swearing a blue streak into his phone. As I walked past, I quietly said, “You’re way too good looking to use that kind of language.” He blushed and said sorry. Maybe I got through.

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Seiryuu May 6, 2013 at 9:43 am

I have to agree with you, Admin. As someone who does drop it occasionally, the effect does diminish with overuse; less is more. That being said, it’s not the “nuclear warhead” of my verbal arsenal (which happens to be an anatomical part) and as such I will also use it in less-than-exceptional situations.

Of course, there are much more creative ways to admonish/insult someone which a lot of people have seemed to have lost the finesse for. We should have a discussion for that.~

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cwm May 6, 2013 at 9:54 am

I grew up in a household where expletives were spoken quite frequently. It was a course of fact, due to the job my dad had and the environment he had grown up in. I learned as a child never to use language like that myself, but when I went off to college and to live on my own, I slipped into it. I can, however, censor myself. I spent a lot of time in a professional setting and in front of children, and have never resorted to swearing in front of them. But among my friends where the atmosphere is more relaxed, it’s a different thing entirely. There is a time and place for all vocabulary, most of it doesn’t belong in public.

On the other hand, I’ve always found it offensive when people say that using those words shows a lack of creativity. I write things and frequently if I take my time to be creative about showing that level of displeasure where I’d resort to swear words otherwise, I’d offend them more and not use one single word that taken out of the context can be offensive. I tamp my “creativity” to avoid offending people and stick to the “common” swear words when I do slip loose. It has nothing to do with lack of vocabulary, it’s much more to do with personal expression without being told I’m going overboard to create more offense than necessary.

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Anonymous May 6, 2013 at 10:03 am

1. I can’t get the video to work–it says that the user removed their YouTube account. Jeanne, did you see the video posted anywhere else besides YouTube, so you can re-post it so we can watch it?

2. As for the F-bomb itself, I remember when I was babysitting two little boys who had recently learned this word, and had become completely obsessed with it–it was like a new toy to them; a verbal “rubber snake” designed to shock and provoke people. Since I saw this F-bomb usage for what it was, and since I knew that they didn’t even know what it meant (they were five and seven at the time, so they said that it meant “Go away, but in a very rude way”), I didn’t tell them to stop saying it; I didn’t tell them that it was a “bad” word, and I didn’t tell them that it was a “grown-up” word either, which would have just added to its allure. Instead, I told them that it was a very angry word, and if they said it all the time, then it wouldn’t mean anything when they really were angry. That broke them of the habit for a little while, at least.

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Linds May 6, 2013 at 10:23 am

I was raised to believe that swearing was a sign of low intellect and was disrespectful to others. However, as an adult I notice that some people who are bothered by swearing are committing the greater offence. What’s worse, that gas station clerk who accidentally slipped in front of a customer and immediately apologizes, or that customer who’s so outraged they go out of their way to get that employee fired? There’s an elitist tone to this subject and when I find someone who’s bothered by other people’s linguistic choices, I usually find a person who thinks they know what’s right for everyone else. When I hear a person cursing I rarely notice and seeing as it’s none of my business anyway, I spend a lot less time than my parents wasting energy on the subject. I’m far happier than they are because of it.

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Amber May 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

I think this is just a linguistic inevitability and much less a deadening of society. A few swearing fun facts:

1.) What we consider the “big” swear words were actually not so bad in the middle ages/ Renaissance. Heck, Shakespeare throws around the s-word and the f-word and indeed the c-word as mild curses (Chaucer as well, though his more crass players are the ones who swear the most – however, it may be to point them out as common due to the commonness of their language, as pointed out in point 2 below). Our current biggies are based on the human body, which wasn’t really considered “dirty” (given how everyone was in close proximity and dealing with the “dirtiest” parts of life every day) until the Victorian age (probably when the swearing switch came about). Religious oaths were much more volatile – to use God’s name was a serious offense, the “f-bomb” of its day. It’s a reason why words like “zounds” and “gadzooks” and “egad” exist – these are soft versions of popular MAJOR swears of the day (God’s wounds, God’s hooks and just “God” respectively).

2.) Our current biggies have their roots in the idea of one language being inherently “better” than another. When the Normans conquered England, they brought French with them, and French became the language of the court. Anglo-Saxon English was the language of the people, and so was downgraded. Meanwhile, the Church’s primary language was Latin, which was also considered elevated from the common tongue of the people and eventually picked up as the main language of Academics as well. Over time, French and Latin terms for common bodily functions and bits were used as the “less dirty” or even acceptable names rather than the blunt Anglo-Saxon (especially the Latin, thanks to those academics).

3.) People in the middle class are less likely to swear. Sociologists point at this as a sign of social climbing – people who are on the rise feel the need to police their speech to appear more refined to those stationed above them and thus to gain access to more latter rungs. People in working or lower than working classes and people in upper classes swear more because their position in society is set and thus they feel more comfortable letting loose.

4.) Our true swear words are shifting. Now that blasphemy is considered pretty mild by society at large, and the bodily function biggies are also on the path of calming, a new set of offensive terms are rising to take their place – insults regarding a person’s being. Using the insulting terms for sexuality, color, sex and mental abilities have been around for a long time, but were typically underneath the big bodily function swears – and in some instances, under blasphemy as well. As we shift toward a society that cherishes equality over all, the n-word (and other racial epitaphs), the other f-word and the newly-christened hatred of the r-word have risen to unspeakable ranks. I believe there are plenty of people who would think the s-word or the f-word was on a level below the n-word (including myself). These are the new taboo words, words that lay insult not at a god or at the body but at people as they are. An interesting shift, and a clear sign of what we’ve chosen as a society to care for the most – people.

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Amber May 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

Eek! Ladder rungs, not latter rungs.

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Calli Arcale May 6, 2013 at 11:39 am

I am reminded inevitably of “Star Trek IV” and the lesson Spock receives in “colorful metaphors” as they attempt to move quietly among the people of late 20th Century San Fransisco. :-D

Now, I’m not a fan of vulgarity out of its proper place. Vulgarity is perfectly legitimate English, but it loses its effectiveness if overused. It must be reserved for those circumstances that truly warrant it or else it becomes little more than verbal punctuation, and ideally it should be wielded with precision and finesse. That said, as Voronwis pointed out in the first comment to this post, language is constantly changing, and what is acceptable today may be quaint tomorrow or even insulting. “Negro” was once a polite, technical term for a person of African extraction, but today it’s not just quaint but can be quite offensive depending on the context and who you’re talking to. (Not quite as offensive as its close linguistic cousin, which also was once acceptable in polite company, even non-racist company, but today is so offensive it’s usually just called the “n-word”. In fact, you can probably get in more trouble for the n-word than a f-bomb. And maybe that’s not a bad thing, given the context.)

Let’s look at the F-bomb. It’s a word so rude I hesitate to type it lest it hit a profanity filter. Literally speaking, it refers to intercourse, of course. And it always has. But, and here’s the interesting part, it wasn’t always a rude word. The word was widely used 500 years ago, and in context was completely synonymous with “mating”. No added coarseness was implied at that time, and it was a very important word for anyone involved in animal husbandry. It was, in short, originally a technical term. Words change. Language changes. But never neatly, and it is always best to observe the cultural and social mores of one’s time, rather than protesting that it wasn’t always rude, or maybe won’t be rude in a century. It’s rude *now*, and that’s what matters.

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Stacey Frith-Smith May 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

This is just sad. But it’s a sing of the times, too. Perhaps it has come to the place where words are just words and we show our intelligence (or lack of it( by how, when and if we choose to use them. Instead of making words off limits, we are now left with educating ourselves and the children in our lives that the misjudgement of when and how words should be used can be very costly indeed.

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inNM May 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Going slightly off topic (if we’re speaking strictly f-bombs) to the other news anchor who was fired over her Freudian slip. To recap: Susannah Collins, a reporter for Comcast SportsNet Chicago, was giving an on-air, live report on the Blackhawks, when she said they had a “tremendous amount of sex during the regular season”. Immediately after, she corrected herself, stating she meant to say “success”, not “sex”; but Comcast served her a pink slip anyway. Of course, Comcast is stating that they did not fire her because of that one incident, but because of a vague, unrelated set of circumstances.
Not knowing of Ms. Collins’ reputation, personally or professionally, I ask the question: is her Freudian slip forgivable? Or is this a PG version of an F-bomb, and thus unacceptable?

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just4kicks May 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

This post has great timing as I had a very unsettling thing happen to me over the weekend. I was at my local supermarket, and was pulling out of my parking spot after loading my groceries into my car. The person in front of me had left, so I pulled forward slowly, checking both ways to make sure no cars were coming. As I was about halfway down the parking lot, a woman driving a large SUV came barreling around the corner I was headed for, and continued to stay directly in the middle. I couldn’t go around her on the left or the right, so I just stopped my van and put my hands up in the air in a “Lady, where do you want me to go?” posture. She gunned her vehicle and pulled up to my car on the drivers side (almost taking my side mirror with her in the process!) and screamed at me “Learn how to drive, you F@CKING C¿?T!!!” Now, I certainly do curse, but I was dumbstruck, especially when I saw three or four kids in her car. I recovered in time to say, “Nice mouth in front of your kids!” to which she yelled a hearty “F$CK YOU!!!” and sped away. How she didn’t hit my car, or any parked on the other side of her is a mystery. As I said, I do use inappropriate language from time to time, but never in public, and never would I dream of calling anyone the “C” word. Unbelievable.

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Pat in Toulouse May 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

My kids are involved with a lay-scout group here in France and we have seen in the last months that insults and strong language have become worse and worse, even with the younger kids. The leaders have found an – in my opinion – inventive way to deal with it: in addition to debates on the issue, every swearword will be “officially” replaced with a completely unrelated, funny-sounding and sometimes endearing word. The experience has been tried in another group and we’ve been told that the children have been smiling and giggling while trying to insult each other and that the atmosphere in the group has completely changed. We’ll see whether it works in our group, too.
In our own family, we used to have a piggy-bank for “bad words”. Every time one of us – parents or children – said one, we had to put a certain amount in the piggy-bank. And, one day, we heard our younger son yelling at his older brother that he was just “a mean, stupid, … uh…, 50 cents!” :-)

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Snarkastic May 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I think all this pearl-clutching over “blue” language is a little much. I believe there is a time and a place for it, but I find it equally appalling and ridiculous to hear fully grown adults exclaiming, “Oh, sugar!” and “Fudge!”. Either say the actual curse word or say nothing at all; the substitution is extremely silly and not in a fun, Monty Python way.

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Kirst May 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I’m so tired of hearing that people who swear have impoverished language skills. Some do, yes, but there are plenty of intelligent, articulate, well-read people who have extensive vocabularies and choose to swear. Judge them for their choice of words if you must, but don’t assume they don’t know any others.

Also, swearing is not dropping any sort of bomb. It’s a ridiculous metaphor. Swear words don’t tear flesh, blow off limbs, destroy buildings or kill people or cause permanent disability and destruction.

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Twik May 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I’m sure, right up until this incident, the reporter would be one of those who claimed that they “only use it in appropriate company”.

I admit, I’ve used such language in front of people when I didn’t mean (or want) to – for example, taking a spill on the pavement and ending up bruised and scratched while walking with a customer. Once the word gets hardwired into your brain, it *will* come out, in situations where you are not picking your words carefully.

The funny thing is that as much as people argue that we should accept obscenities as “just strengthening words,” as soon as one becomes acceptable in public, another forbidden word is dragged out to be the next sign of being too cool to censor your own speech. When the F-word is commonplace, there will be others take its place, since the desire to shock will never go away.

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kingsrings May 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

When I was younger, I used the ‘F’ word quite frequently because I thought it made me look cool and hip. Everyone else did it, so I should, too. Now, as a much more mature adult, I only use it when I’m real angry about something. To just throw it around in casual conversation is rude and uncouth in my book, and I think less of the manners of people who do that. What really rankles me though is parents who swear around their children, especially the younger ones who are just learning to talk. What in the world do they think the baby’s first word is going to be, then?? I so have to fight off the urge to tell them to stop.

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Kovitlac May 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I have a tendency to curse incredibly often. So much so that words that were mentioned above now mean close to nothing, to me. But I refrain from doing so in polite company. Neither of my parents curse, so when I’m at home, I refrain from it. Ditto for at work, unless I’m only with the other part-timers my age (where cursing is pretty regular). Unless it’s used excessively all at once, I don’t see it as an indication of lower intelligence. I actually have a pretty good vocabulary, and always have. It’s just the manner in which I chose to conduct myself, in.

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Vandalia May 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm

One of the funniest (and most pathetic) things I witnessed in high school was the “conversation” between two of my tablemates in study hall. It was clear that they had an extremely limited vocabulary as a large portion of their “conversation” consisted of curse words employed as nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs. The best part was watching them stuggle to find a word to describe something, only to give up and substitute another curse word. I wish I had recorded that…although I’d have to bleep practically 65% of the “conversation.” I still have no idea what they were even trying to discuss.

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Ashley May 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm

When I am at home with my fiance, or at a close friends home, we all cuss like sailors. I’m not going to lie.

But the second we are out in public, or around children, or our parents, we all suddenly remember every big word we ever learned in school and use them well.

I don’t think swearing indicates a handicap in verbal skills. I really don’t. I could site a couple famous actors as examples, including Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. Those men have vocabularies so large it borders on ridiculous. But even they occasionally drop the F-bomb if the mood is right.

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Rap May 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm

” So from then on, about a week or so before I would go home for a break, I would use “sugar” and “fudge” rather than the other words.”

I respect your point but sometimes I think this sort of subsititution gets irritating all on its own. Case in point “That son of a pup! He put the frigging car in my frakking spot! That’s horsehockey! You’re full of bull paddies!”

I mean, yes, people who do this are successfully avoiding an official curse word…. but has anything really been left to the imagination here?

Sometimes I feel like making words taboo lends then more power than what they’d otherwise have.

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AngelicGamer May 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Admin, I completely agree with you. It is sad that, as a society, we’re using more swear words. It is also sad that some people are being rewarded for using them, even if it’s during a time of national tragedy.

However, I also feel sorry for the anchor – it was his first day and he slipped. Due to the internet, it spread like wildfire. I think, also due to the internet, that he was fired before he was allowed to show how good he might become.

Case in point – When the story was first making the rounds in the news, Tom Brokaw and A.J. Clemente were on the same morning news program. Tom Brokaw explained his own first day screw up and how, due to it being back before the internet, the only thing that happened to him was being called into his boss’ office and asked not to do it again. He straightened up and became a reporter and news broadcaster that I and others hold in high regard. I wonder what would have happened to him if the internet was around when he made his slip up. Would Tom Brokaw be a household name at this point in time? Probably not because he wasn’t given a second chance.

Now, I’m not saying what Clemente did was right. I’m just saying that we all get nervous and we all have bad days. Also, there is too much swearing in the world. I’m going to try to curtail mine more than I do already (I won’t swear around kids) and make my own life a little bit better.

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Mamamia May 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I find most swear words boring. Most of the people I hear using it really don’t know how to add anything new to their vocabulary, and so fall back on these words over and over ad nauseum. I told a group of kids once to substitute the word “blue” for their continual use of a swear word. They found it hilarious to hear the word blue over and over again–but began to realize how boring it was to use the same vocab word repeatedly and how what they were saying began to make no sense at all (lots of swear words really don’t make sense in the sentence they are being used in).

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Cat May 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I taught in a public high school for many years and that “f word” seemed to be the only adjective the kids knew. Girls used it as frequently as boys, and I learned to ignore it as they had no idea that it was unacceptable to most of us adults.
I had a similar problem with a friend who thought the exclamation of “Jesus Christ!” was an appropriate curse word. As a Christian, I asked that she not use it in front of me.
We were driving one day and her five year-old son broke his toy truck. He yelled, “Jesus Christ! My truck broke.” His mother told him not to say that, and he replied that she always said it.
Trying to save my friend’s embarrassment, I jokingly said, “It’s because you are a little Jewish boy. Little Jewish boys don’t say Jesus Christ; they say Moses.”
To a child that made sense-until he used it in front of his rabbi. When asked why he said “Moses!”, he explained that he was a little Jewish boy and he wasn’t supposed to say, “Jesus Christ!”
I emailed the rabbi who writes the column, “The God Squad” and he began a discussion of what words one should use and what was unacceptable. It’s an interesting topic.

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KitKat May 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm

My parents never swore around my brother and I until we were both in college (actually that’s when the entire family starting openly using swear words). However, the swear words were still few and far between. More recently, I was playing Hearts with my parents, brother and SIL and called the queen of spades “the b****” which is the appropriate term for her and my SIL looked at me like I had a second head (parents and brother unphased). Today, I had a resident tell me “I need to take a ****” which for people with memory loss means they need the restroom NOW. Swear words are emotional and stick with you until you lose the ability to talk. I agree however that it should not be used around young children and they should be taught an appropriate substitute (such as shoot).

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RedDevil May 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I watched a documentary on language fairly recently, and it had a section about swearing specifically, how it’s evolved, what we use it for, etc. All very interesting, but one particular point of note was that we use swearing as a way to release anger/pain/other emotion, that would otherwise be released in some other manner.

The documentary included an experiment, which involved participants being subjected to pain (in this case, thermal pain from ice-cold water), for as long as they could hold out. They then re-conducted the experiment, with the participants repeating any swear-word they selected, over and over, whilst enduring said pain.

The result: Participants held out longer whilst swearing, than not-swearing.

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waitress wonderwoman May 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Just my two cents: I’m almost finished with a Masters degree in Psychology and I have read some studies that indicate that saying a curse word when, say, you stub your toe, have a fender-bender or something along those lines of instant pain or stress, blurting out a curse word actually instantly lessens the physical pain and reduces anxiety. I found this very interesting and, honestly see how it makes sense. Also, accusing someone whom curses regularly of being “simple” or not having an extensive vocabulary is complete myth. Although I refrain from cursing in front of children or people whom I know will clutch their pearls (as if they never left one slip *eye roll*), I’m pretty laid back about it. Maybe it takes more than a simple expletive to offend me when there are so many much worse horrible things a person can do. And if you curse directly AT me, I’m going to curse back at you. If that makes me the smaller person in some peoples eyes, so be it, but I think you can be a lady and tell a dirty joke or tell someone where they can shove it. It’s a delicate line, but it really is all about how you carry yourself and in your deliverance IMHO.
I’m paying my way through grad school by working in a restaurant, and although we would never curse in front of guests, I can guarantee you that most of the staff there regularly use curse words to (accurately) describe some the patrons we have to deal with. Saying “So-and So is extremely rude” just doesn’t cut it in giving an honest description, if you know what I mean. The only time this has ever gotten me in trouble was when a huge party, whom praised my service and the food all night long, completely stiffed me. Instead of losing my cool on the floor, I simply walked into the restaurant’s walk-in cooler, latched the door and yelled an string of expletives that actually calmed me down and helped me continue with my shift with a smile on my face. Only later did I find out that the walk-in cooler was NOT soundproof and everyone I worked with (and probably a table or two near the back) heard every word I said. Thankfully, they understood and it has been kind of a joke every since. But I think it’s worth noting that the part my co-workers found hilarious was the second I walked out, I had a smile on my face and asked if anyone needed any help.
Also, I too find it completely ridiculous when people say “Oh, Fudge!” or “Fiddlesticks!” instead of what the actual word we know they want to say. We know what you really want to say, now you’ve put the word in our head, so now we are basically cursing in our heads for you. Just sayin’ ;-)

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Sabina May 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I feel swearing does not demonstrate a lack of intelligence. A lack of intelligence comes in if you don’t know when and when not to swear.

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Toni May 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm

“When you heard it, wow, you paid attention because the situation had to be epic.”

I only occasionally swore in front of my children. But I DID have the presence of mind to save the ultimate of curse words because there came a time, Dear Administrator…when the situation WAS epic. My 15 year old daughter put me in an awful, dangerous situation while driving…and I dropped the F-Bomb in the car all the way home. She was so dumbfounded that I even KNEW the word, that she wasn’t able to reply with her sassy teenager attitude. It captured her attention nicely.

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Angel May 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Growing up it was my mom that cursed the most–my dad hardly ever said curse words, if he did, it was because something really made him mad! But my mom cursed so often it began to lose effect. She mostly did it when we were in the car–directing it at other drivers. And that’s usually when I curse the most. I have been trying to tone it down especially around my kids. My 5 year old loves to repeat. But she knows that certain words are not appropriate.

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FerrisW May 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I can’t help but feel the use of swearing and whether it’s acceptable or not, depends a lot on which country you live in. I’m a citizen of a small but lovely English speaking country, where it’s not unusual to hear the s- or b- or d-words on TV or the radio, even during the daytime when children could be watching. I’m sure I’ve heard the f-word on a show in the early evening too, and no one bats an eye, but on the other hand, you’re unlikely to see anything super violent on TV during those hours. I’ve lived in other parts of the world where it would be seen as appropriate to show something violent at any hour of the day, but swearing of any kind was limited until after the watershed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I swear probably quite frequently in my private life, but never in my professional, and I work in a job where it would be very inappropriate to do so. I’ve never understood the idea that if someone swears a lot, it implies they have a limited vocabulary/must not be very intelligent. I could probably list dozens and dozens of very well respected authors who frequently swear. Case in point, Stephen Fry. There are some interesting articles and clips on youtube out there showing an arguably extremely intelligent man (with a huge vocabulary) defending swearing.

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Jenn50 May 7, 2013 at 12:49 am

My workplace environment is one where curse words are the norm. I swear a blue streak in that setting, but it has never leaked into inappropriate settings. My brain switches gears when I’m out of that situation, and my language changes without conscious thought. I roll my eyes when people say it’s a lack of intellect or a limited vocabulary, because my vocabulary is excellent, and I’m not at all unintelligent. It’s like when you were little and your mom told you boys teased you because they liked you. The two things are not necessarily related. In my case, it’s just a matter of speaking the language of the people around you.

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Kate May 7, 2013 at 3:11 am

@Sabina, I tend to agree! I’ve known extremely intelligent people who aren’t averse to dropping some colourful language when the mood arises. I personally have no issue with swearing, I do not find it offensive and I swear quite a lot, but I recognise that in certain situations it is inappropriate (speaking to customers, in front of children, etc). Most people who know me would say I’m a frequent user of the f-word, yet I have never once used it when in a professional capacity.

I agree with previous posters who believe there is a cultural element here. In Australia, swearing does seem to be less of a big deal than in the US. I’ll always remember watching the movie ‘Knocked Up’ on TV while on holiday in the States and being thoroughly confused because half the movie was censored due to swear words. Where I’m from, they don’t exactly use the f and c-words on the nightly news, but if a television program is on after a certain time of night it’s pretty much no holds barred.

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Christine May 7, 2013 at 9:55 am

I realize that I am the exception and not the norm, but I grew up with a mother who used curse words like there was no tomorrow. My first word was the “S” word, and one of my earliest memories is of asking my mom what some bad words were and having her list off 5 or 10 right then and there.

That being said I do use curse words around friends, but not so often that I think it diminishes their effect, or makes me sound uneducated. I police myself diligently around children and have never had a slip-up in a professional setting. I agree that when I hear people talk and every other sentence contains multiple swear words, I cringe. But one or two dropped within a multi-hour conversation with friends is merely a way to get your point across and connect with who you’re speaking with. In a weird way, it’s a form of bonding with similar peers.

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MollyMonster May 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

One friend of a friend was at a party with me and was dropping the f-bomb practically every other word. It was actually annoying that he had no other adjectives in his vocabulary. The story he was telling definitely lost some “oomph” because of how repetitive his cursing was. His excuse “I am a Sailor so I can curse like one.” Honestly, it just made him look like an effin’ idiot who effin’ couldn’t think of any effin’ other words. Effin’.

Personally, I never really swore until I got a computer. And I usually just swear at it to this day rather than at people. But if I do let loose an f-bomb or other swear word at or about someone, it makes people who know me sit up and take notice because it is so rare. I will occasionally consign things to perdition but won’t add “God” to the front of it because that is usually an unnecessary multiplier for the situation.

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Angela May 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

It’s a sign of professionalism to know when and when not to use certain words. I do object to the idea that swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary. I have a Ph.D. and an extensive vocabulary and in private I can be pretty profane. A number of my friends are the same. It’s not ignorance to use the word; it’s ignorance to use it in a situation where it’s really not appropriate.

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Kimstu May 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm

@Kirst: “Also, swearing is not dropping any sort of bomb. It’s a ridiculous metaphor. Swear words don’t tear flesh, blow off limbs, destroy buildings or kill people or cause permanent disability and destruction.”

Nor do cities literally copulate, even though David Ortiz speaks of them that way.

Using a word that means “copulating, having sexual intercourse” as a metaphor for “inspiring feelings of native or patriotic pride and solidarity” is even more ridiculous than using the word “bomb” as a metaphor for “obscenity”. Whatever the arguments may be in favor of using formerly verboten obscenities in modern polite conversation, no-one can reasonably deny that they make for some pretty ridiculous metaphors.

And, of course, there’s the fact that not all bombs are murderously destructive, either. It’s perfectly appropriate to speak of a “stink bomb” or a “smoke bomb” in the sense of a device that unexpectedly causes a minor but unpleasant distraction, and the term “F-bomb” fits in very appropriately with that usage.

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Kimstu May 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

@Angela: “I do object to the idea that swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary. I have a Ph.D. and an extensive vocabulary and in private I can be pretty profane. A number of my friends are the same. It’s not ignorance to use the word; it’s ignorance to use it in a situation where it’s really not appropriate.”

Which is why making swearing more commonplace is doing a disservice to those who have a harder time picking up on fine distinctions of appropriateness.

Swearing in everyday conversation, like studying English without learning grammar rules, is an enjoyable liberty for people who are naturally linguistically gifted, but a Trojan horse for everybody else. The abovementioned Stephen Fry on the subject of language is one of those elite pseudo-proletarians who tut-tut about grammatical “prescriptivism” and anti-swearing “pearl-clutching”, on the grounds that people should just use language “naturally”.

The trouble is that using language “naturally”, like playing music by ear, requires substantial natural talent and finely tuned perceptions in order to do it WELL. Most people are pretty good at developing one basic linguistic register or “key”, so to speak, an individual style of language use that they feel comfortable with and use effectively. But when they have to switch registers and use a different verbal style for some reason (professional context, whatever), they often feel uncomfortable and at a loss because they don’t know the rules of that style and don’t have a good enough natural ear for language to have already assimilated the rules unconsciously. So they don’t express themselves very well, or use inappropriate expressions, and come across as awkward and clueless.

Only the innately articulate and verbally gifted can afford to dispense with consciously learning specific detailed rules about language use, and that applies to grammar and swearing both. When we as a society stop having clear and general rules about when swearing is appropriate, we make conversation more of a minefield for everybody but the linguistic elite.

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MichelleP May 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I’m very taken aback by the amount of posters here who claim it’s perfectly fine to use vulgar language in public. Act like ladies and gentleman, please. I can’t say I’ve never let it fly, but in public? At work? In front of others, just because they do it too? Good grief.

I also find it strange that anyone would find substitutions “ridiculous” and “appalling”.

@Snarkastic, I hope you’re joking.
@Christine, swearing with your friends is a form of “bonding”?? If they all jumped off a cliff would you do it too?

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Heather May 7, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I agree. I’m not against swearing but I think it should be saved for when it’s really called for.

I think that’s one of the reasons we don’t swear in front of kids. Kids will pick up on anything that gets them extra attention (and swearing does!) but without understanding the significance of what they’re saying.

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Rap May 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm

addendum – I don’t consider subsitutions “appalling” or “ridiculous” – I just think they’re pointless. If you’re calling me a “sugar-eater” and you really mean the s-word, I know you’re insulting me and I don’t give you credit for “not cussing” since your intent is clear.

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Doryna May 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I agree, especially as someone who works around children, that there is definitely a time and a place for swearing, and in public is not it. When this was posted, though, I couldn’t help but think of this video of British comic and actor Stephen Fry on swearing. (Warning for one uncensored use of the f-word):

http://youtu.be/s_osQvkeNRM

What I find interesting are the clips from “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” are illustrations of what Rap just pointed out: substitutions are useless if the intent is clear, especially if the comments are directed at someone else. When it comes down to it, nearly any word can be an inappropriate one in the correct context.

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Cat May 8, 2013 at 10:34 am

It would be fun to come up with some regional curse words so that we don’t all sound the same. The English use “Bloody!”, which you don’t hear in the US very often.
I recall one of the “Auntie Mame” movies in which a Southern woman exclaimed, “Mother of Jefferson Davis!” In a western movie, a cowboy blurted out, “What in the name of John Wayne’s ass are you doing?”
I would be more fun than the same old, tired “f” and “c” words that have been used so often that they are showing wear and tear.

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Snarkastic May 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm

@MichelleP Heavens to Betsy! I most definitely am not kidding.

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Surianne May 8, 2013 at 5:15 pm

The judgements about swearing always baffle me. I don’t see how it has anything to do with intelligence. It’s a word choice, that’s all — one that some people, obviously, don’t like, but that doesn’t mean that those of us who do swear aren’t intelligent and don’t choose our words for a reason.

Substitutions have always seemed pointless and overly cutesy to me.

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