"Sometimes vulgarity is not just acceptable but necessary"

A little bit ago, "Friends" was in the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit, that centered on the terms and descriptions used during creative brainstorm sessions.

The court ruled that "trash talk was part of the creative process."

All in all, that's an interesting ruling. As the title of the post here says - and from the article - sometimes vulgarity is necessary in the job.

Now, let's think about public relations.

PR is stressful. It's supposedly a top-ten stress profession (an old WSJ story). It's always been a stressful profession, where the stress comes from three places at once: media, client and agency. Or, if you are in-house, it comes from the media, the internal people and the agency (the stress comes from running the agency).

So, what's a great way to relieve stress - yelling and swearing. Not at people, but behind closed doors, or when you hang up the phone.

Try it. If you have an office, next time you have a bad media experience, hang up the phone and say "go fuck yourself" - you will feel better. It's a little bit of stress relief.

Seriously, so does PR also fall under that "sometimes vulgarity is not just acceptable but necessary" - is it necessary for stress relief?

I know that the good swear sometimes relieves my stress. Yes, there are other ways to relieve stress (sex), but that doesn't work at the office.

And, let's be honest. A good PR person can weave profanity like poetry, where it goes beyond swearing to a new level of language. Because, that's our job: to weave language and tell a story. Sometimes, in profanity.



  1. So if I catch the gist, it's that the sin isn't in the use of the word, but in the use of the word in a non-creative way.


  2. It's funny you bring this to the table. Robert French kids us during class that we only pay attention when he uses words like "hell" and "damn" and the occasional "ass." And yes, it usually does grab our attention and we laugh our heads off.

    The thing about vulgar language is that it can be stylish. So, you have to be able to pull it off. Going with the "Friends" theme...remember back to the episode where Ross wore the leather pants on a date...Not only did Ross not achieve the "look-cool-in-leather-pants" look, but he squeaked when he walked and then you could tell he was hot and uncomfortable in them. And then, when he took them off and couldn't get them back on, well, he made a totally opposite impression and definitely did not fit the role of "guy-who-looks-cool-yet-not-bikerish-in-leather-pants."

    Point being, you have to fit the part to be able to use profanity effectively. A lot of people can sound like trash when they use profane words and a lot of people just sound average, or swear without a purpose (right on Ike). And the people who use profanity as filler words? It's like, "Dude, I get what you're saying, but can you drop all the 'f---kin's in the convo because the family with the small children at the neighboring table is giving ME the dirty looks."

    But sometimes it's most appropriate to use the harsh and strong words. And sometimes it's striking, in a positive way, to hear those words come out unexpectedly, or out of a pretty, dainty little mouth. For instance, Ellen Albertini Dow, the lady who plays the grandmother in Wedding Crashers and the grandmother in Road Trip... Sweet grandmothers with high-pitched voices aren't supposed to drop F-bombs, but when she speaks in movies, I'm almost always in tears laughing so hard. And I always end up remembering her lines from movies. It's so funny, unexpected and serves such a purpose!

    So, yeah, if you're swearing in PR,it better strengthen your message and sound stylish and in some strange way, sound proper,like...poetry, as you said. And it better not just be like, "Yeah, I'm in f---ckin' PR, mother f---ker!"

    ...Interesting thought though, Jeremy Pepper.

  3. I agree with paige and everybody... It's refreshing to hear it coming out because we had this discussion of profanity at Forward a bit ago, where most professionals said "of course you should not swear. There is never a place for it at work - it's just not professional."

    And I was left thinking.... "really? come on!" It just isn't realistic. I mean I wouldn't do it in wildly inapporpriate places... just like you said, behind closed doors or with a colleague I knew pretty well who was sitting there using the words themself.

    And ya know what I say? Not using profanity period just isn't realistic, and in PR of all professions, we can't think in terms of a fake world, we have to come to terms with what we're dealt... and I am aware that the real world has an f-bomb in it in a stressful situation behind closed doors.

  4. Well, just look at my out of office messages for my various IM services.

    Always a good profane quote from a rap lyric or gangster movie.

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