Tag Archives: profanity

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I read recently of a former CNN employee, a devout Christian, who filed a discrimination lawsuit alleging, among other things, that his co-workers frequently used profane language.

Profanity in a newsroom?! I am shocked! Shocked I say!

Pardon me while I wipe tears from laughing so hard.

Newsrooms are among the few remaining workplaces that I know where swearing is not only routine but tolerated.

Any attempt to curb foul language in such a work setting is a fool’s errand.

Memorably, the editor of The York Daily Record in York, Pa., not long ago circulated a memo reminding workers that cursing is not appropriate in the workplace.

“I know that newspapers have had a salty history and culture,” the memo said. “And I know that we all will slip from time to time. Still, I believe we can express ourselves adequately without the use of profanity.”

In a pressure-cooker environment that demands intense concentration and highly detailed work under deadline, the only better outlet for the frustrations that bubble up than swearing would be to have an indoor firing range.

I recall well my first newspaper job at a tiny newsroom in a community near the Canadian border in New York’s Adirondack Mountains and the day my editor got word that the newspaper had prevailed in a libel lawsuit.

“We beat those bastards!” my boss shouted triumphantly, slamming the phone down.

His exclamation was truly G-rated compared to some of the other expletive-laden outbursts I have heard (and yes, that I myself have led) in newsrooms.

I recall one day as a doe-eyed intern at the Manhattan offices of New York Newsday.

A Metro editor, the late Hap Hairston, sat at his desk, rubbing and clapping his hands and shouting jubilantly to no one in particular: “I love this (F-bomb) story! I love this (F-bomb) story!”

I recall being stunned that an editor would use such language and so loudly. And yet no one — I mean absolutely no one — looked up or gave Hap a second thought.

In a way, he served as a role model for me going forward.

As executive editor of The Pocono Record, I was, well, um, colorful in my vocabulary.

I found that some of my phrases (many learned from my dad and vestiges of growing up in the Bronx) were welcome stress-relievers.

It is a habit that I have carried on, to my chagrin at times.

Late one night in the middle of a breaking news story (a vintage World War II plane had crashed in the Hudson River), I was on the phone with a reporter who proceeded to tell me that the name of the dead pilot given to us hours earlier by the police — and posted online — was incorrect.

“Are you (f-bomb) kidding me?! Oh (f-bomb) me where I sit!” I exclaimed.

Hours later, a senior editor came to my desk and said: “That was quite the animated conversation you had earlier.”

In a cavernous newsroom in the stillness of the night, my voice carried — far.

While that was embarrassing, I am even more mortified that my sons have taken to cursing up a blue streak with abandon.

Damn kids. I do not know where they get it from. I swear.

http://andrewjwalsh.com/

Weaving a Tapestry of Obscenity

Weaving a Tapestry of Obscenity

If cursing were an Olympic sport, my dad would be a gold medalist.

As my buddy Pedro has observed about “Mr. M” (as my friends call my dad): “He’s a first-class sweargarian.”

I attribute some of dad’s expansive profanity to having grown up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood and to having spent time in the Navy, where sailors cursed like, well, sailors.

Dad had slang expressions bordering on the profane that he would use as terms of affection toward me.

My favorites?

“Yo-yo nuts.”
“Putzula nuts.”
“Shmuckula nuts.”

Do you see a pattern emerging here?

Of course, there are other time-honored expressions like “No shit, Dick Tracy” (a cultural reference that would be lost on some generations) and its cousin, “No shit, Sherlock.”

Nowhere, though, was my dad’s vulgarity vocabulary on more display than when it came to so-called “home projects.” And it was during these episodes that his short fuse would be lit, much to my fright.

My parents were DIY types long before Home Depot made do-it-yourself a trend. Painting. Wallpapering. Carpeting. Paneling. Spackling. You name it, they did it.

When things would go awry is when my dad’s swearing would begin in earnest. (Think of the scene from “A Christmas Story” where the dad is dealing with the malfunctioning furnace.)

A moment seared in my memory was when dad was on a ladder painting the living room ceiling. Things were fine until suddenly the old paint inexplicably began coming off in flakes.

As a kid, it was a moment that teetered on the comical. I wisely suppressed any laughter, though, knowing that at any second, his volcanic temper could erupt as it often did when things went sideways.

It started out with a mildly profane, “A-ba-fungu!” and a thrown paint brush.  But then there came a purple streak of swearing that to this day echoes in my ears.

The cursing betrayed a white-hot anger that verged on out of control.
He was not mad with me, per se, but I was the sorcerer’s apprentice and the sorcerer was wielding a mighty damn angry wand at that moment.

Emotionally, I would be collateral damage as he lashed out in frustration.

Dad would eventually cool down, apologize for losing his temper and we’d get back to work.

The long-term effects of these episodes have been twofold:

One, at a young age, I vowed to keep my temper in check and not to lash out irrationally like that.

And two, those episodes made me severely allergic to home repairs.

So now when something needs fixing in the house, my response is not to lose my cool and to instead call a professional.

Because, when it comes to home projects, I don’t know whether to shit or wind my watch.