Naughty Words


Q: I’ve noticed a lot of young women cursing. My mother would kill me if she heard me use bad words! However, it seems to be much more socially acceptable for women (and men) to swear than it used to be. Is it still considered bad manners to curse? Are there any guidance for the occasional use of naughty words?

-Cursing Confused

Dear Cursing Confused: 

Most women (and men) grow up being told that cursing is lazy speech, crude, vulgar and even blasphemous. Emily Post once wrote, “Swearing does not express authority coming from the lips of a woman, nor does it add to the dignity of a man.” However, that was in 1945 and our culture has changed dramatically. It’s probably time to consider that since Post’s reign, our American sensibilities and spirit have also changed. It is clear that many words once considered dirty are now considered merely colorful rather than profane. I think it’s natural that we try and censor ourselves (particularly around children). We know that not all swearing is equal, and it’s not the words themselves that offend, but the way the words are used. We know angry, hostile, loud, aggressive or intimidating cursing is never acceptable and you never ever talk about private parts or private acts in public places.

However, Mimi imagines that most people, herself included, will use a good curse word. Either to let off steam or emphasize a point. There is even some science that backs up that using a curse word can make you feel better! Mimi went to law school with a bunch of dudes. Dudes who emphasized their points with lots of curse words. It’s an easy habit to fall into. However, it unfortunately remains a difficult balance for women to communicate with an expletive, emphasizing their points while not coming across as bawdy, crass or vulgar. If we learned anything from our post, To be or Not to be…”That Girl”, we learned that although women’s rights have dramatically changed for the better in most respects, cultural and male support for those changes has not caught up. So, is it okay to curse? Maybe. Cursing seems to only be acceptable for women when it comes off as charming, amusing or endearing. What does that mean? Well, I think it means occasional use. If you can effectively judge your audience, keep your voice down, and humorously and stylishly place them in your conversation, then by all means do so. 


The under 30 crowd has a different cultural perspective on cursing, and although ladies believe they can and should do anything men do, the cursing thing can prove to be unattractive in both men and women. I believe there is a delicate balance, and my generation’s use of expletives is a bit of a paradox. For some, it is instant laughter-inducing camaraderie, and for others it’s instant disdain. Comedian Leighann Lord said, “Profanity is like a hot spice – it’s best used in small doses.” I think that if you know your audience and can carry it off in an effective and stylish manner, use a curse word if you want, but if it offends you, don’t.

Mademoiselle devil

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