Dropping the F-Bomb

Post from the Past: 4/19/16

Having been to two conferences over the past two weeks…

and having heard the F-bomb dropped several times by presenters…

both good and bad…

I thought I’d spend a post reflecting on the art of cursing professionally.

While researching this topic, I was surprised to discover that it was actually a hot topic in the blog world. I found numerous articles on how to curse for emphasis during a presentation and op ed pieces on how to spot those possessed by demons by the number of times they drop a profanity. Interesting stuff.

Here’s my basic observation: I went to a librarian conference and a writers conference and the librarians out-cursed the writers. 

Being both a librarian and a writer, I was surprised by this. So I asked myself, what’s going on here?

I have three theories:

1. Libraries feel marginalized. Librarians are tired of having to explain that they don’t read all day and yes, a job like that sure would be nice so could you please tell us where to find one? Ok, but honestly, that’s only a small part of why libraries feel the need to curse for attention. The other part is that libraries really are F**king Awesome. They have way more stuff than the average citizen gives them credit for – DVDs and streaming video, magazines and video games, baking molds and bicycles…I could go on and on.

2. The field of Library and Information Science is attracting the attention of a more liberal and hipster-y crowd. Library work is now geared toward impassioned and lively individuals who can’t stand to sit behind a desk and stamp the backs of books. The New Librarians are going out into their community, giving away free books, holding board game competitions, recording oral history, and teaching senior citizens how to use iphones.

3. Librarians need more training in publicity and marketing. Slinging slant doesn’t always work and in my humble opinion, most librarians I know don’t know how to do it right.

So, now a few tips on how to harness the power of the F-bomb:

  • If you don’t normally curse, forget about slipping a curse word into your presentation. It won’t feel or sound natural and you’ll end up looking like that kid in middle school who always tried to be cooler than she actually was. (Ok, so that describes practically everyone.) Just trust me on this – don’t do it.
  • In general, remember that cursing or swearing is mostly considered offensive. That’s where the F-bomb’s power comes from. If it was an ordinary word with no stigma attached to it, it wouldn’t evoke the reaction is does.
  • Consider your audience. As writers know, you need to make sure your content and voice are appropriate for your audience. Are you presenting to a Mormons against Illiteracy? Perhaps you should avoid cursing. Are you presenting to Skateboarders for Smoothies? Maybe cursing wouldn’t be so bad.
  • Remember that every word counts. Presentations work best when they are succinct and to the point. Don’t waste those words on curses unless you really mean them.
  • Repetition reinforces the bad connotations. Speeches work well when they use alliteration and repetition. However, when you repeat a curse word or use them too often, it emphasizes the negative interpretation rather than the position association you want your listeners to come away with.
  • Curses act like mental record buttons. When you curse during a presentation, its going to get attention in a big way. Make sure you use it in the right spot. Don’t curse around negative statistics or unflattering observations. Do curse when making an impassioned or overtly positive statement.

And if you’re a budding information professional contemplating making librarianship your career, please please please do some work on your presentation skills. The better you can speak about your interests and present to diverse stakeholders, the more exciting and profound your profession will be.

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