Dropping the F bomb at the Oscars or the Office

By Terry Pithers | Etiquette & Manners

Feb 28

Melissa Leo drops an F bomb at the Oscars

What are the consequences if you swear in business? How to recover if you do.

Did you catch Melissa Leo’s F worded acceptance speech? It certainly stood out in the evening as the major etiquette blunder and only profanity that had to be bleeped out by the censors.

Profanity has its place in some movies… but at the Oscars?

There was some bad language in the King’s Speech. But it only occurred in one very specific funny scene in which Colin Firth (winner for best actor) uses the F word in a private speech exercise to overcome his stuttering.

Still in character

Hearing the F bomb fall from the Melissa Leo’s lips in her acceptance speech at the Oscars is a very different story. Melissa Leo won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in The Fighter.

Hers was a role that movie critic Katherine Monk described as “domineering, loudmouth, white trash”. Melissa may still have been in character when she let the F word slip in her acceptance speech.

What about the office?

This sort of language wouldn’t be out of place on a construction site or in a movie taking place in a boxing gym. But what is the etiquette around swearing and profanity in business or at the office?

Trash talk

If you use the F bomb in the business world you will offend someone. There’s a reason it is sometimes called trash talk. In many people’s minds language like that reduces your level of etiquette skills and sophistication to trash.

You’ll never know

You may never know who the people you’ve offended are because they will rarely tip you off or point it out to you. Whether they bring it to your attention or not, you will have lost points with them.

Slipups happen – how to recover

In the heat of the moment, we may use an obscenity or drop an F bomb. How do you recover? Our advice if you do, is to use some self-deprecating humor to apologize. Such as a simple “Oops, sorry about that.”

My slipup and learning experience

Years ago when I was working in construction, after a long slog of time on a remote jobsite I came back into Calgary and attended a social event with some of my friends from university. Part way through the evening a good friend of mine discreetly pointed out that I was using pretty salty language. I was surprised because I hadn’t noticed it at all. I felt a little chagrined but glad he had the decency and care for me to tip me off and point it out. This advice was something I appreciated and remember to this day.

Class act advice

If you hear a friend swearing or using inappropriate language in social or business situations that don’t warrant it, do them a favor and give them a heads up in private. You will be helping them become a class act. Melissa Leo could have done with a friend’s advice.

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Posted by Terry Pithers – the business etiquette expert

About the Author

TERRY PITHERS Canadian speaker, humorist and business etiquette expert. If you are interested in booking me for a presentation, keynote or workshop, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.