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[Speaking-Out-Loud June 2015] Verbal shockers and their consequences
June 03, 2015
Welcome to the June Issue of Speaking-Out-Loud, write-out-loud.com's newsletter to help you effectively "talk your walk".
In this Issue
Is it acceptable? Ever? When?
Would you use the F-word speaking in public?
There are increasingly numerous examples of influential people who swear while speaking publicly. Google swearing or the 'F-word and public speaking' and you'll find a slew of interesting discussions raising every shade of 'YES', 'NO' and 'MAYBE' over its acceptability.
While opinions vary over the rights or wrongs of using profane language there was one area where most agreed. That is that swearing gratuitously was not acceptable. So if you habitually pepper your talks with F-this, F-that and F-something else, you'll find yourself pleasing very few. It seems that most people interpret that as either trying too hard to be hip, or laziness. Neither are complimentary.
What do I think?
I think context is everything. If I stub my toe hard and I'm by myself I'm likely to cuss a bit. When I'm speaking in public I don't. I don't for several reasons. One is that I don't wish to offend the audience and another is that I want them to listen to my message. If I swear while delivering it at least half of them will focus on that, and stop thinking about what I'm trying to share with them. It will be a communication block rather than an enhancement.
Yet another of my reasons for not swearing belongs to my childhood. I still hear an echo of my Mother saying that those who swore were either 'show-offs' or had limited vocabularies. The way she told it both states were to be pitied.
'Showing off' was attention seeking behavior demonstrating a low self-esteem and the need to inflate it by playing BIG. On the other hand, a limited vocabulary was a sad state in her book. It denoted someone who for whatever reason had little education, or desire for it.
While I don't wholeheartedly endorse her beliefs now, there is some truth in them. Swearing simply to shock or create a scene is childish, and swearing because you have no ready alternative words to convey surprise, pain, love or anything else, is a type of poverty.
I can hear you
When I was teaching my office was next to a busy student corridor and I often overheard conversations featuring the F-word in multiple grammatical positions, demonstrating a flexibility worthy of an Olympian gymnast.
A typical exchange went something like this:
"F-k, I've got f-king English next and I've haven't done my f-king homework. I'm f-ked! What the f-k am I going to do? She'll f-king kill me. F-k it!"
It didn't shock me. Instead it was both sad, and wryly funny at the same time. Sad because they were trying so hard to be cool, and funny because any word used repeatedly undermines the communication robbing it of its intensity. It becomes ridiculous. The value of the word (shocking or otherwise) is diminished to placeholder status - a filler.
If you don't believe me, try it in the privacy of your own home. Listen to yourself. Can you take what you are hearing seriously?
(And incidentally, those students had perfectly good vocabularies. In other settings they did not swear.)
Belonging to the baby-boomer age, I've got a few years to look back on. I can see and hear myself as a young person trying out the forbidden words. I can also remember when I entirely miscued whom I was speaking to. Instead of shock or admiration for being so daring, the response I got was revulsion. Apparently I was not clever, hip or 'with it'. I was simply a girl with a potty mouth, and I hated it. It was humiliating and a very good lesson. I did know better. In fact one of the things I loved most was words and their magic. It was a growing-up moment!
Back to you
If swearing is a regular feature of your public speaking are you doing it:
Whatever your answers if you are going to use potentially shocking language of any sort, including the F-word, then it's my belief you need to be willing and ready to accept the consequences. That means assuming full responsibility for the words you say.
The danger zone - impromptu speech
It appears the F-bomb is dropped in impromptu rather than scripted speech. The instances making the headlines have all been spontaneous responses. The word is blurted bypassing conscious intervention.
What do you think about this?
Are you 'safe' to impromptu speak without unconsciously reaching for vulgarity to intensify what you say?
Let's hear from you. You are most welcome to comment on write-out-loud.com's FaceBook page, or hit reply and tell me what you think.
PS. If the F-word becomes commonplace parlance what will replace its previously privileged position as the worst word possible to utter?
Click the link if you'd like more on developing word power. The page has 10 suggestions with ongoing links for growing vocabulary.
To tame the tendency to blurt out cuss words while impromptu speaking, practice. Click the link for impromptu speaking guidelines and topics.
A round up of pages, either revamped with added information or new on the site.
Comment, share & connect
If you've got comments, feedback or questions you're most welcome to contact me through my about me page.
If you liked this issue of Speaking-Out-Loud, please feel free to send it on to any friends or family. The site url to forward so they can subscribe is Speaking-Out-Loud.
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Until next time,
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