The Classy Potty Mouth


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.

For swearing.

At the time, I thought my world had ended. Good girls didn’t swear.

Now I Know Better

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- what?

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.

•   •   •    


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’s yours?

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?

How Much is Too Much?

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, 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.

Be Unapologetic

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.

Be Yourself. Be Yourself. Be Yourself.

See you around the chalkboard,

What’s your opinion on swearing in business? I’d love to know what you think in the comments.

15 comments leave a reply
  • August 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I don’t swear on a regular basis in real life (or in my business), but I am not automatically turned off by people that do. That is, unless they are doing what you mentioned above like overswearing and doing it because other people are, not because that is their voice.


    • August 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Desiree! I, too, scrunch up my nose when people swear just because it’s “the thing to do.” Authenticity FTW!


  • August 7, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I’m with Desiree. I’ve never been much of a swearer. I don’t even like to type out the words. I have to be really really emotional to let one fly. However, I do not feel like my eyeballs are being assaulted if you choose to swear on your site. I don’t expect anyone to water it down just for me! Like you said, plenty of room for everyone at the table.


    • August 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Beth! Thanks for the comment, girl. I love reading people’s opinions on this topic. There’s no “right way to be”, except to be yourself. Stay golden, Pony Boy.


  • August 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm
    Kimberly C

    Unapologetic – I love it! Even though I’m not much of a swearer in my business materials, the occasional “f” word flies out of my mouth in a heated discussion (not at someone but about something… big difference). When I see others use it on professional websites, I just take it as “their brand” and roll with it. It’s not offensive as long as it feels natural. Great post!


    • August 8, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Love your comment! I agree, there is a big difference in the context that swearing is used. For the most part, I never direct swear words at a person, but more at a situation. Human beings tend to get my utmost respect. Except when they drop hot dogs in the street. 🙂

      Take care!


  • August 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm
    Heather Thorkelson

    I love this post Maisie. I see swearing as a form of self-expression. They are simply weighty words that punctuate a conversation. Sure, people who swear excessively often strike me as people who have something to prove, but I personally am completely enamoured with language and the ways in which it empowers us. I swear – absolutely – in real life and in writing. And I make no apologies. I like to think I’m tactful about it, and I hope my close friends would tell me if that were not the case. But in the end, what you say is the absolute truth, “Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself.” Amen.


    • August 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      HT… thanks for the comment! It’s nice to have a soul sister in the pits of profanity. 🙂 The etymology of swear words is fascinating. Aren’t human beings something else? We are masters of expression, for sure.


  • August 7, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Great tip about using cuss words as exclamation points…
    When I first started working after school, I was under the impression that swearing was a biiiig no no. And that illusion lasted about a day.
    I’m quite the sailor in person, but don’t swear in my blogging or articles. I don’t think it has quite the same dramatic flair without my accompanying facial expressions and hand gestures. 😉


    • August 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Hi Devon! Thanks for your insights. I agree… profanity has so much more meaning when we can attach a hand gesture to it or really see the fire in someone’s eyes when they let words fly.

      Hope all is well in your world!


  • August 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    This post makes me laugh and nod and then chuckle again. The potty mouth conundrum and I go way back. And I love a good swear word. I do find that the frequency with which I use them, and the ones I choose, vary pending my environment. I also find that, particularly for girls, an extreme use of potty mouth can be just as inauthentic as an avoidance of it – a way to impress the boys and/or be included.

    And since the entertainment biz is just like middle school…when I was a TV writer, I quickly learned that one of the tricks to getting hired on a drama as a woman was to liberally sprinkle all conversation with a plethora of curse words so that showrunners and development execs felt reassured they wouldn’t end up with a lawsuit if they put you in the writers’ room. It took me a few years to tone shit down after that. 😉


  • August 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Emily! It’s an interesting thought that avoidance of profanity can be just as inauthentic as extreme potty mouth syndrome. I’ll be thinking about that for days. 🙂


  • August 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm
    Laura G. Jones

    What a wonderfully authentic article! I’m sharing this 🙂 I curse sometimes, not all the time. When I do, it’s to express my emotions, like you explain it. I’ve gotten a few comments along the lines of “you look so delicate and sweet and then you throw out a “shit” or “f word” and it’s a turnoff” and I just shrug my shoulders. It’s the way I choose to express myself, and I am taking full advantage of having this opportunity before kids come along and I have to start reeling it in a bit. I definitely do try to keep myself from cussing too much, I find that when I fall into that trap I realize that I became inauthentic and just started trying to prove things to others and show off. That’s not really cool. But it’s a tendency I’ve always had and I find that, as long as I’m aware of it, I can keep it in check.

    On a more whimsical note, I once received a glass from a (then) good friend that says “Happy Fucking Birthday to you”. I’ve always hated that glass and only use it now because it’s so sturdy. We are hoping to move cross country soon though and I fully intend to relish in the sentiment of donating it to our local thrift store before we do.


  • August 9, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I’m still undecided on swearing on my blog. I swear when I talk with my friends, but I’ve always been very polite with strangers and I have a filter when I’m in professional environment (or with my parents, or other people’s parents!).

    I occasionally use the word “crap”, but I don’t think I’ve ever said shit or fuck or anything that “extreme”.

    I’m actually intrigued by old fashioned cussing! I’ll do some Google research on the subject.


  • August 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Your blog post made me start thinking again, Maisie, about what I consider swear words. I am coming at this with a little different perspective because of my circumstances growing up. I had four brothers I listened to incessantly that seemed to me had foul mouths. I think after awhile it was just the norm in their daily dialogue. I loved my brothers (score for me that they were all younger), but I didn’t like what they said. Big turnoff for someone who loved to read and had a pretty good vocabulary and subjected to it unless I barracaded myself in my room. I always wanted to be an interesting conversationalist and choose some obscure words that weren’t tapped on regularly. Today, a kind of curse word for me is “amazing”. I am so over that word. It has lost its punch because I hear it ALL the time. How about “spectacular” once in awhile or “incredible” or “stunning”, “breathtaking”,”phenomenol”or? My gag reflexes are working over time on that one. And, of course, there are more. . .We are all on a journey to find our way. My goal is to surprise with words rather than shock. Shock wears off more rapidly in this age we live.


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