“Life is a four-letter word.” (Lenny Bruce)

One of the most influential memories from childhood involves my brother getting his mouth washed out with soap for uttering a swear word. I can’t recall the specific word, but I do remember the gagging, amidst promises never to repeat the offense. I was certainly careful to keep my own language G-rated in front of my mom after that disturbing event!

Truth be told, my language of late could merit some soap; and, I’m not alone. It seems that society today accepts, or at least tolerates, a certain level of profanity. When it comes to our kids and cussing, we often adopt a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.

Is swearing at work no big deal? Or, does it mark you as a person who is not in control? I like the Evil HR Lady’s take on four-letter words in the CBS blog post called Swearing at Work. She says:

“Someone will argue that using swear words just shows who they really are; and, if you tell them to stop it, you’re suppressing their personality and creativity. I say any 13 year old can say dirty words; and, if you want to demonstrate your individuality and creativity, try saying something different.”

So why do I occasionally slip and use bad language? Sometimes I think it makes me feel better. It’s mildly cathartic. I also think it’s my way of saying, “I am really, really upset; so, pay attention!”

I wonder if I also subconsciously think letting a few expletives fly makes me more colorful and interesting – sort of the “bad girl” persona that contrasts with my solidly boring, Midwestern self. (In my own defense, I should note that I really don’t use bad language in a hurtful way – at least I certainly hope I don’t!)

All excuses aside, swearing isn’t really attractive or necessary to explain the amplitude of my feelings. It’s a lazy way to blow off some steam or be expressive. When choosing my words going forward, I vow to choose carefully. I will remember the wise words of the Evil HR Lady who said, “I have never heard anyone say, ‘Gee, I just love Bill’s foul mouth.'”

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