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From Iowa to D.C., Foul-Mouthed Rhetoric on Rise

Social scientists say profanity is centuries old, but often comes with repercussions. (Laura Scroggins/Pixabay)
Social scientists say profanity is centuries old, but often comes with repercussions. (Laura Scroggins/Pixabay)
July 31, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – The new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci's explicit tirade about his coworkers is seen as the latest example of an increasing use of vulgarities in public life.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming when MSNBC anchorman Brian Williams was forced to apologize after a voter used the F-word during live coverage of the 2016 Iowa caucus, but etiquette experts point to a rash of examples, including from the president.

Diane Gottsman, who advises businesses on etiquette and protocol, says it's clear there's been a spike in cursing in public life, but that doesn't make it acceptable.

"It's my politics not to talk politics, not to take one side or the other, but I think that it certainly paints a picture," she states.

Gottsman, the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life,” says it'd be naive to think cursing won't continue to happen, but it's important in the workplace and public settings for people to focus on strengthening their ability to control their emotions and think intelligently.

Research on what cursing says about an individual's intellect or trustworthiness is inconclusive.

A 2017 study demonstrated a correlation between cursing and honesty, but other research has found those who cuss regularly are more narcissistic and less conscientious.

Gottsman maintains the current political climate contributes to the spike in the public use of vulgarities, but says that's no reason to go along with it.

"I don't want to hear the profanity,” she stresses. “I think that we all have our own personal judgments. We need to make our decisions based on good judgment, responsible thinking and weighing both sides of the story."

Gottsman says Scaramucci's rant (published in The New Yorker magazine) definitely paints a picture. She observes, however, that saying a curse word doesn't make you a bad person – it's simply not advisable when there are plenty of other ways to indicate anger, surprise or frustration.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA