Swearing too-often out of habit or frustration, is a bad idea. It lessens the impact of a well-thought out cuss word when you really need it.
And… there are times when you REALLY need it.
Not long ago, I sponsored a hallway art show at the company where I work. It featured thought-provoking pieces from Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void. Artist and author, Hugh invented ‘cube grenades’ — small pieces of artwork that can have a big impact on company culture. Cube grenades use cartoons to send clear, no-nonsense messages to a company workforce. Sometimes, there’s swearing. Sometimes, there’s not.
Hugh’s best-known cube grenade, Blue Monster, bore the tagline, “Microsoft: Change the world or go home.” It was used to rally Microsoft employees around a vision to make the world a better place with technology. The show I sponsored for employees included 10 cube grenades. Hugh Train, bearing “The Market for Something to Believe In is infinite” told employees that when we put a bit of our heart into products we provide, others are drawn to it. The Network, bearing “The network is more powerful than the node” told employees we’re louder when we combine our voices, and we’re more powerful when we work together. Connectivity, bearing “business is connectivity. Connectivity is business” told employees that business thrives when you connect with customers. There were six others….but the one that had everyone talking? Quality, shown above, bearing “Quality isn’t job one. Being totally frickin’ amazing is job one.” It wasn’t the phrase in the grenade that stirred reaction.
It was the word ‘Frickin.’
This is a probably good time for me to point out that ‘Frickin’ isn’t in the original piece Hugh crafted. He provided a ‘cleaner version’ for our use. Nevertheless, the piece stirred reaction and discussion during the weeks it was displayed prominently in the halls of our conservative, Fortune 400 insurance company. I got pushback.
I persisted. The highest standard of quality isn’t ‘amazing’ or ‘totally amazing’. It is ‘TOTALLY FRICKIN’ AMAZING’. There’s nothing better. And, there’s no reason to settle for a lesser goal.
Dr Timothy Jay, author of Cursing in America and Why We Curse, said Taboo words persist because they intensity emotional communication to a degree that non-taboo words cannot. Would you rather have a doctor operate on you that is merely ‘brilliant’ or the one that is ‘Frickin’ brilliant’? Case closed. Sometimes it takes a cuss word to point out things that are extremely bad — or extremely good – with accuracy.
The ‘art of swearing’ isn’t about stringing together the most offensive expletives. It’s about maximizing the impact that seemingly ordinary cuss words have by using them properly: swearing infrequently, only using swear words to describe the most-extreme circumstances, swearing at circumstances — not people, and using the tame-est swear word required.
Most of the time, Frickin’ does the job.
Credits: Cube grenade is courtesy of Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void, who recently told me he’s given up ‘drinking and cussing’ in recent months. Nevertheless, I hope he won’t hesitate dropping the occasional F-bomb when hypocrisy dictates. Read Hugh’s new book, Evil Plans.
Swearing off Cussing
According to a recent study, about one out of every 200 words the average person speaks is a cuss word. John Blackstone reports on a California teenager who is trying to clean up profane language.