I do love a well-placed curse word. As a child, I remember asking my dad at what age I could begin to swear (out loud). It seemed to me to be the height of grown-up privilege. He laughed and said hopefully never.
Swearing has a negative connotation. With globalization and social media, we see curse words in tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts and more recently, on the evening news (see reporting on Donald Trump). But when is it actually appropriate for a little spicy language?
To be clear, we’re specifically talking about curse words - damn, hell, shit and all the rest. We are NOT talking about name calling or being creatively pejorative about a person, i.e. “asshole” or a place, i.e. “shithole.” What we’re talking about is purposely using expletives to drive home a point, place emphasis on a feeling or to express wonderment about a situation.
1. DON’T name call in the workplace. It is never appropriate. Not ever. If you have any questions about that, see The Right Way To Fight.
2. DO know your audience. Cursing excellence, like all communication, is utterly dependent on your knowledge of your audience. Throwing out an F-bomb when your audience is clearly G-rated is a sure way to never be invited back and/or get fired. Always know to whom you are speaking.
3. DO be creative. We’ve heard all the curse words many, many times. Mix and match them. Try pairing them with things that make no sense. Whoever thought of “asshat” or “douche canoe” clearly put time and consideration into the crafting of the perfect expletive. One of my favorite explosive curses is “shit, fuck, fire & damnation.” Not only is it alliterative, but it really captures a feeling.
4. DON’T make the curse word your centerpiece. Swear words are a choice. They should be seasoning in your sentences, not the entire point of it. If curse words are your every-other-word-go-to, then you need to expand your vocabulary, immediately.
Swearing is language frosting. It can be the cupcake, but only if you’re a very skilled linguist. Or Lin-Manuel Miranda. Of course, how you say the words is equally as important as the words themselves, so choose wisely.
LB Adams is the kick-ass Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her damn company provides hella fun & interactive training events utilizing theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable (not sh*tty) conversations with other humans.