Re: Profanity versus Professionalism

Peter Tranter (
Thu, 17 Aug 1995 14:19:18 GMT

Robert Roosen ( wrote:
: Of course, the two do not mix. Profanity in a post is an
: automatic turn off of communication, and is a sure sign of unprofessional
: behavior. It is rather obvious that profane posters really have nothing
: of value to say. I personally hit delete as soon as the dirty words appear.
: On the Internet, many of us are striving for the increase and
: diffusion of knowledge. Responsible colleagues are the primary tools for
: accomplishing that purpose. It is a poor workman who curses his tools.

The subject of swearing is an interesting one and is culturally dependent.
For example, I was told that the word "shenzi" in Swahili means "one who
cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven"; among the ex-patriot community in
Dar-es-Salaam, it was a very mild expletive, and yet to use it even in an
English sentence to a native Swahili speaker would have caused the most
extreme offence.

Many swear words and insults either are meaningless or merely sound odd when
translated and deprived of their cultural context. It is therefore very
easy to swear when not using your native language - the words just don't
have the force they have for a native speaker.

Indeed, the cultural difference need not be very great to spawn
misunderstandings or cause offence. A colleague once reduced a class
he was teaching in the U.S.A. to paroxysms of hysterical laughter by saying,
"O.K. I'm going to knock up something simple", of course meaning that he
was about to prepare an example.

You should note that there are many posters for whose mother tongue is not

In the interests of promoting harmonious discussion, I therefore propose that
you post a list of these "dirty words", profanities and offensive phrases,
so we all know which ones to avoid.

Pete Tranter.