I’m a big fan of swearing. Not in the derogatory, directed-at-you kind of way (“hey, fuck you!”), but as verbal marker to underline key concepts, create emphasis, and express passion. It certainly doesn’t work in every environment nor should it, but there are plenty were it does.
The first place where I’ve found it to be useful is between coworkers (“fuck, that’s awesome”). A team of British researchers found a while ago that profanity at work can help build solidarity and release stress. Couldn’t agree more. When people feel comfortable enough to let their emotions bare with the use of profanity, I’ve found the resulting atmosphere to be so much more relaxed and pleasurable. It’s not the profanity itself (although I adore “fuck” as one of the most versatile words in the English language), but what it says about the knitting of the culture.
The second place I’ve used profanity to great effect is at conferences where you feel you know the audience enough to loosen your tie and want to create a mental dog ear for an idea. Of all the presentations I’ve given, I’ve generally had the most positive feedback from the ones that carried enough passion to warrant profanity and it’s been very effective in making people remember key ideas (“they sell fucking shoes”).
It seems that profanity can work as a record button for the brain. It brings people to the edge of their attention as they’re trying to figure out whether they’re supposed to be offended or inspired. And then the content warrants the emphasis, the idea seems to stick better and longer and with more affection.
As with any tool, it can certainly be misused and applied to the wrong audience. But you can cut yourself with a great steak knife too. Use profanity with care and in the right context and it can be fucking amazing.