Posted by: nedpelger | July 11, 2009

The Problem with Profanity

When I was putting myself though college, I worked as a roadie on lots of rock and roll tours. One side benefit of the job was learning how to cuss with the best of them. My Dad tells me of a similar language learning experience when he was in the Navy during WWII. After returning from the war, he was eating Sunday dinner with his parents and said to his mother, “Pass me the fu*&#ing potatoes.” That word wasn’t in common use at that time, certainly not by his Brethren mother who wore a prayer veil all the time. He tells me that no one said anything and they passed him the potatoes.

When I finished school and started working construction and engineering jobs, my colorful language seemed to fit on the jobsite. After a couple of years, I decided that I didn’t like the way I sounded. When I took a job as president of a construction company, I determined to change the way I talked. In my pea brain, that translated into 100 push-ups for every cuss word. I got some sore arms over a few weeks, but my language changed. I still slip from time to time, of course, to the surprise of my kids and co-workers.

What made me think about this topic was an article about some renovation at a Retirement Home. The construction workers were demolishing a wall to change two toilet rooms into one accessible toilet room and thought they had encountered asbestos insulation on the pipes. The workers brought brought their concerns to the Home’s executive, Paul Morin, who stated, “I don’t give an F” and instructed them to proceed with the work.

The Attorney General has brought Criminal charges against Morin, even though no asbestos was found and no air pollution occured. It seems to me that the case was brought due to his attitude and language. While this seems stupid on one hand, it’s instructive as well. In many disputes, I’ve seen quotes with profanity brought out to taint the character of one of the parties.

Just remember, whatever you say (and however you say it) can be used against you. Am I wrong on this? What do you think?

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