by Maisie Smith on August 7, 2014
The rolled-up newspaper smacked against the top of my KangaROOS sneakers and stung through to my toes. Just enough to make my eyes water. The 12-year-old boy grinned diabolically as he dropped the newspaper bat into my lap.
I was supposed to say “Elephant” before he hit my feet with the newspaper. Simple enough. Instead, I panicked and the only word I could think of came flying out of my mouth.
The buzz of the room came to a grinding halt as I clapped a palm over my mouth. Did I really just say that? The other 6th graders looked back and forth at each other, slightly confused, their eyes finally settling upon our teacher.
Game over. She slowly rose from the circle and made her way to the chalkboard. With perfect teacher penmanship, she wrote my name on the board, a check flanking one side. I didn’t even get a warning. She went straight for the flagrant check mark. And just like that, my perfect grade school record was tarnished.
At the time, I thought my world had ended. Good girls didn’t swear.
It’s not that people have changed all that much. It’s more of a shift in perspective. You see, swearing isn’t a matter of good vs. bad, as in good people don’t swear, bad people do. I’ve known plenty of angels with filthy minds. Swearing is just a means of expression, a way to make an impact with words.
Let’s talk about the word nackle-ass for a moment.
Nackle-ass. It’s a word from the 1800s, used as a term of inferiority and contempt.
Let’s say that I am walking down the street and see a guy throw his half-eaten hot dog on the ground. Littering makes me furious, so I shout out, “Pick that up, you nackle-ass!” It startles him because he doesn’t know what the word means. But he picks it up anyway because a cute girl shouted at him and made him feel guilty. Now, I could use a more contemporary version of the word and yell, “Pick up your hotdog, asshole!” And he picks it up because a cute girl shouted at him and made him feel guilty.
Nackle-ass or asshole. Either way, it’s a swear word. One is just languishing in obscurity more than the other. If you call someone a “nackle-ass”, does that make you better than the person that calls others “assholes”?
The word choice doesn’t make me good or bad. It just offers me a few ways to make my point.
• • •
THE VOICE OF YOUR BRAND
If your business and my business went out for coffee together, what would they talk about? My business would probably tell your business about the woes of wearing motorcycle boots. Sometimes the buckles hook together, making tripping an inevitable part of life. My business would talk about sunsets, world peace, small corners, standing out and standing up, and how to tell if a smile is fake. You know, the good stuff of life.
More importantly, my business would be dying to hear your stories, occasionally interjecting a “Holy shit!” into the conversation.
That’s because I know the voice of my brand. I know how it talks, what it wants to say during awkward silences, what it mumbles in its sleep. It says “asshole”… a lot. And gives the finger to the status quo constantly. Swearing is part of its essence. My brand also has tender moments of wrapping an arm around a quaking shoulder. Whispering encouragement into an ear. Holding a gaze in earnest, as if to say “This will all work out.”
A merging of grace and badassery… that’s my voice.
What do you stand for? How do you want to be remembered? Will swearing lift your brand up or drag it down? What feels authentic?
A kid that I went to high school with came to school each day decked out in Tommy Hilfiger from head to toe. He even had the douche-y visor to top off the look. It was cringe-inducing, and often painful, to watch him stroll down the hallways.
Too much of a good thing is distracting. And, you’ll probably be sitting at a table by yourself most of the time.
Unless you own www.swearlikeasailor.com, reel in the profanity. Incessant swearing distracts from your message. It will seem forced and unnatural.
Think of using swear words like you would an exclamation point… sparingly and deliberately.
Swearing is not to delineate between good and bad or to prove how badass you are by peppering everything with expletives. It’s to make a statement. To punctuate your feelings with a stunner of a word. To make an impact.
The perfectly placed swear word is seductive.
A strong point of view will take you places. Rock your words with confidence. If you swear, don’t be afraid to let it fly. If swearing isn’t your thing, that’s cool, too. There’s plenty of room for everyone at the table.
Don’t apologize for how you choose to be.
See you around the chalkboard,