Language matters: cusses, curses, and class

I missed the M.I.A. gesture and expletive uttered during the Superbowl halftime show earlier this month that Beth Negus mentions in this Big Fat Marketing blog post about foul language, but cusses, curses, and the perpetual discussion of body parts that used to be unmentionable in polite company are not hard to come by these days. In fact, I just heard on the news that singer Adele flipped off producers of the Brit Awards when they cut her off for going over her time allowance. (update: Oh no, not the Oscars, too!)

While I'm no prude (I thought the baby bleeping episode of Modern Family last month was actually hilarious), most of it just seems so, well, unnecessary. And I can't really imagine a situation in which it would be a good idea to wax blue at a conference. Yet it happens. I guess you could expect it if your speaker is a comedian known for crude humor (why you'd want that speaker I can't imagine), but in recent history I've heard even speakers who are considered pretty clean to drop an f-bomb. In several cases the swears seem to just slip out and you can see the chagrin on their faces, but is it really so commonplace that it's acceptable at a professional gathering?

I'm sure meeting planners prep their presenters on what is and is not appropriate for their audiences, but what do you do when you have a vocal malfunction? Or do audiences really just not care so much now that they hear words nightly during prime time that would have sent Rob and Laura Petrie running for cover?

Here's hoping you don't have to give any of your attendees a choaking pye ("punishment inflicted on any person sleeping in company: it consists in wrapping up cotton in a case or tube of paper, setting it on fire, and directing the smoke up the nostrils of the sleeper"). Yes, I just ran across a site for those who want to curse obscurely—behold Project Gutenberg's 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue, by Francis Grose via BoingBoing.

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