"Swearing is a really important part of one's life. It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing and without enjoying swearing... There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who used to say swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary -such utter nonsense. The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a pretty poor vocabulary themselves... The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest or -is just a fucking lunatic... I haven't met anybody who's truly shocked at swearing, really, they're only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, you know, that's preposterous... or they say 'it's not necessary'. As if that should stop one doing it! It's not necessary to have coloured socks, it's not necessary for this cushion to be here, but is anyone going to write in and say 'I was shocked to see that cushion there, it really wasn't necessary'? No, things not being necessary is what makes life interesting -the little extras in life."
Well, it's plausible. There are only a few common swear words, so if a person uses those many more times than other people, and if they aren't actually talking a lot more, they must be using fewer other words, potentially replacing hundreds of descriptive adjectives and adverbs with the same five or seven words.
I suppose Stephen Fry hasn't noticed, but many people who use several swear words in every sentence actually don't seem to have a large working vocabulary, and even if they technically know a more precise word for what they mean, they have to think a bit to find it, as though non-swearing was a peculiar dialect.
Using swear words for emphasis doesn't seem correlated in this way, to me.
What Fry noticed is that many people use several swear words in every sentence period full stop <blink>.</blink> He's claiming it's orthogonal to working vocabulary size.
Something can be "truly fucking staggeringly-ass colossal" or it can be "fucking tall". Something can just as easily be "fucking colossal" or "god damn motherfucking-ass tall".
Yeah if you're the sort that "truly staggeringly colossal" comes naturally to you'd see a difference in emphasis, but they're equivalent to Joe Shitpack.
Those guys can make "sandals" into a swear word.
Let me refer you to this 5 minute clip of A Bit of Fry and Laurie. It features a particularly colourful use of swear words. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVkckG6zw6I
 of course not that only brits are good at this, but it seems to me that americans are just particularly bad at it and they tend to cast a poor light on the English language's flexibility. It's rather sad really.
As such, making up words to use as emphasis words doesn't actually offend, which is largely what makes the bit you link to funny, as far as I can tell, and it's why "darn" and "dang" are much less offensive even to those who would censor swearing.
Profanity needs cultural weight not just a certain tone of voice.
In English at least. Can't speak with any authority on other linguistic cultures.
"When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn't fight it's way out of a piss-soaked paper bag."
That is what non commissioned officers are for. And they are much better at it.
Stomp with the left and drag your right!"
If you like the pussy tight!
However I do have an automatic filter to tone down or remove swearing based on who I'm talking to. Around a new person, especially work-related, I'll cut it out completely until I have the feeling they're comfortable with it. In particular around clients, there are some who I know well enough to swear at my normal levels around, others I know well but still keep swearing away. I guess sometimes I think about this stuff but for the most part it's just my subconscious knowing when not to swear. Interestingly I very rarely swear when talking to my parents, despite the fact that my mum reels through "fuck bugger damn shit" when something goes wrong (so not regularly but maybe once every few days) and my dad swears... a lot.
When someone swears a lot it just removes the strength of that swearing. When I call someone a cunt or someone calls me a cunt we judge their meaning not on the word but the tone of voice, most of the time it's not at all offensive - but obviously I wouldn't just hop onto HN and type "you're a cunt" to somebody as contextually it's completely different.
I like a language to have a swearword that gives people an emotional response. Something that you can use and people can say "oh shit, the other guy is fucked now". The nuclear bomb of swearwords.
The only word that approaches that that's left in English is "cunt", but that's also quickly losing its power. The word "nigger" is also supremely powerful (I bet you flinched when you read it, and I'm dreading the consequences this comment will have while I'm writing it), but it's completely useless for universal swearing due to its racial implications, and also completely useless in general due to the fact that racism is fucking retarded and doesn't even make any sense.
So, please don't overuse "cunt".
Excuse my French.
'cunt' has largely lost its power here in the UK. You still wouldn't say it in front of your mother, but even my very middle class mother drops the odd F-bomb now and again. 'nigger' is deeply unpleasant but I don't flinch when reading it on the internet because I spent time on a few sites (in the old days...) where people thought it was clever to say as often as possible.
I was at a gig the other week that ended with the (dire, dreadful, untalented) band singing "Cunt, cunt, cunt, pussy cunt!" and looking just so pleased with themselves, like they'd just done something so revolutionary and intellectual. Maybe 40 years ago guys...
I think the only punch that's left is making compound words. And even then 'pigfucker' is sort of funny.
Nope, Greek. I know "cunt" has lost its power in the UK (hell, Charlie Brooker says it five times per show), but I think americans still flinch a bit.
I also disagree about nigger, it didn't make me flinch at all despite the fact that I know neither racists who use it, nor black people who use it about themselves (i.e. I don't hear it regularly). I'm not sure I even consider it a swear word, just a racist word.
The article is correct. Never aim words at people. Be sensitive to those around you, some of them will be deeply upset by bad language. And be creative. English is a glorious language and the range of swearing isn't limited to a few F-Bombs.
[Edit: Just noticed that could be rhyming slang]
It's not abusive, but it isn't useful. Extolling the virtues of a product by saying "it's fucking awesome" doesn't tell me anything about that product or why it's so fucking awesome or why I should be so excited about it.
>Almost everyone in Britain will blanch at "Cunt".
Really? Britain is one of the very few places I've found that doesn't seem to flinch at the word. It's almost common place.
You'll be told to fuck off mind you, but it is all banter.
* I accept no responsibility for any foreigners who get locked up on this advice. Do not try it without a Scottish accent.
Maybe it's a Central Belt thing? In the Highlands, you wouldn't get away with saying that to the police.
I should also note that there has been plenty of swearing at the places I've worked over those 30 years, but I've only found a very small percentage of it offensive, so I'd suggest that the article is reasonably accurate.
edit: Was googling to see if I could find a good link on the subject. I didn't, but did find this event I'm now sad that I missed, http://nordisksprogkoordination.org/dokumenter-til-download/...
(Circumstances will vary wildly, of course.)
would love to see nationalitites added to posts here. i suspect many posts at this hour (early for the usa, and generally pro-swearing) are from the uk....
The second link is to a study that consisted of surveying 30 men and 30 women about the efficacy of speeches given to basketball teams by a coach. The speeches were fictional and some included profanity and some did not. Apparently the 30 men had a tendency to rate the speeches with profanity (if they thought the audience was women) as less effective. That's it. It had nothing to do with the workplace or the language used by employees or even team mates.
It's primary focus and a lot of the research that study cites has to do with gender roles and profanity. Not really anything to do with what role profanity plays in the work place.
It does cite a Dutch study that found profanity makes witnesses more believable in legal proceedings. But again - not really anything about the work place.
The English research is a single paper that used case studies. I'm not paying to find out the details but the fact that their press release for the study says, "Prof Baruch said their aim was to challenge leadership styles and suggest ideas for best practice." makes me wonder about the value. That, to me, sounds like they went into the study with a desired outcome.
I'm sympathetic with the article from a common sense approach but I think that dressing any of it up as being based on science is a bit of a reach.
I've had sexual harassment training in the US, and a lot of standards are different between the two countries.
At least 5 things happen at work every day, that if they happened at one of the companies I worked for in the US, the people involved would be brought to HR.
I find workmates in the UK to be more matey at work, where as in the US, you are co-workers at work, and mates only when you leave work.
I'm very careful about employing humour with lawyers these days.
Most of the time I find that once you get to know a work place, you find that it varies, as you would expect. Different people have different standards so you need to get to know them. I don't think any one starts off swearing in front of a boss, but if you work on say a building site, you'd probably get swearing quick before the other decide you are a posh git who needs de-bagging, or something.
The only time I personally think it really matters is when dealing with the public, customers or clients. But if you man a phone, or are out in public, swearing is a total no no. But, I suppose even then, there are loads of exceptions. In the work place I see it as a personal 1-2-1 negotiation over time. Or to put it another way, we individually learn when, where and who to swear in front of.
To be honest though, I wonder if you are at more risk by offering opinion in the work place. I know I would find it harder to work with people of certain political views than any one who swears.
I think I swear a little to easily. I used the C word at a barbecue the other week, when I dropped a sausage in the coals. In front of all my friends' children.... Ooops.
Edit: link instead http://www.noswearing.com/dictionary/c
Actually I meant the one so offensive to Americans that even the obscenity-filled South Park balks at saying it. I must remember this when I travel to the US next week.
citation fucking needed
Let's put it this way. Suppose you have two people. One has a perfectly professional appearance and demeanor. The other one is perfectly professional in the decisions he makes and the work he produces, but he curses a lot and wears shorts and slippers. I consider the second person more of a professional than the first. A database administrator who wears a tie but who neglects to test his backup procedures is less professional than the stereotypical Metallica-t-shirt-sporting DBA with questionable facial hair who does. Whether somebody curses or wears flip-flops would be a tie-breaker at best.
There is undoubtedly a strong relationship between appearing professional and high conscientiousness. As a general rule, conscientious people make for better employees. So whether somebody swears or dresses well serves as a proxy for the thing we're really interested in. To elevate this instrumental value and to turn it into a terminal value is therefore a mistake.
It's particularly insulting and prejudiced of you to attribute negative traits to people that swear. If you can't prove the causation (or at least support a correlation), shut up, because you're wrong.
But sometimes I quite like using profanity when expressing how utterly full of shit the "only stupid people swear" theory is.
One of the most glorious scenes in the Matrix is the Merovingian swearing in French.
The Wire's "let's do a whole scene of F-bombs" was an amusing one off, but mainly as satire of the overwhelming nature of its use on the other side of the pond.
Just because you can, doesn't mean you have to. This idea that swearing means you must somehow have an insufficient vocabulary or IQ is absolutely ludicrous. Language is there to be used.
It's true that some people use swear words as the bread for their vocabulary sandwich. I prefer to use them more like a fine mustard.
You are assuming something unproven.
[Only TV series that I am aware of that has a "Swearing Consultant"].