When Is It Okay To Swear?


A reader in my inbox doesn’t approve of swearing at work, around children, or in a professional setting such as a Human Resources conference. I take issue with Human Resources Conferences being labeled professional unless it’s a professional transfer of STDs you’re talking about.

In any event, the sanctimonious email was very helpful because it made me stop for a moment and ask myself — when is it okay to swear?

The answer, of course, is never. That’s why obscene words are so titillating and divisive.

I like to bucket the world into groups and I believe that there are three types of swearers.

  1. Stupid people who swear because they lack the proper vocabulary to articulate their feelings. They also swear for effect. And nobody likes those people.
  2. Regular people who swear even though they have a decent vocabulary. These people find that there is no other word that can uniquely express how they feel at a specific moment in time.
  3. Clever people who swear — even though they have a great vocabulary. They use language to tell a story, shape a mood, or target an audience. Swear words are part of their portfolio.

I fall into group #2 — just like you. I have occasional moments of brilliance as a writer and fall into group #3. That’s very rare, though.

But I strongly dislike people who assume everyone who swears will fall into group #1. Those judgy, self-righteous assholes can suck my dick. Just because you read at an 8th grade level doesn’t mean the rest of us are idiots. We are adults and we know how and when to choose our words.

Okay. Back to the more important question — when is it okay to swear?

I still think it’s never okay to swear; however, I believe smart and educated grown-ups are responsible enough to assess an audience and chose their words properly. Full stop. And I believe that every audience has a responsibility AND obligation to listen to a message and think about it before they react.

In short, we all need to grow up. Especially bitchy HR ladies who send me stupid email messages about swearing.

But I’m a lover and not a fighter. Can we all agree that there’s nothing cuter than a toddler who swears?

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