Season 1

Ep 4: Cursing & Crossed Fingers

What our word choice says about us

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WARNING: This episode contains swearing, suggestive language, and references that some listeners may prefer to avoid.

Why do we swear? And why do we protect people from swearing? Should we ban jargon from the workplace? Or should we encourage it? Are subtle language tricks shaping our most controversial opinions? And what is it about certain words and phrases that evoke such strong feelings? 

Whether it's jargon-packed monologues we hear everyday in meetings, expressions we only hear while perched on a beer-soaked bar stool, or twisted tales spun by world leaders from a podium, why do we choose the words we do and what does that say about us? To get the answers we’re diving head-first into the world of taboo language.

In this episode, Kyla sits down with Professor Timothy Jay, psycholinguist and the foremost expert on swearing and curse words. Together they unpack the origins of benign office jargon, how certain naughty words develop from childhood, and the story of one comedian's infamous bit that ended up in front of the Supreme Court. We also hear from Jennifer Saul, Chair in Social and Political Philosophy of Language at the University of Waterloo. She shares how one presidential campaign upended decades of political linguistic thought and inspired her own research into deceptive speech and linguistic devices. 


Kyla Sims: Hi everyone. I just want to give a quick warning about today's episode as the title suggests, we're going to be talking about cursing, swearing, and there may be some profanity. So if that's not to your sensibilities or you've got some kids around, we totally get it. You can skip over this episode and save it for later. In the spirit of this episode, we've tried not to overly censor what could be insightful in its own right. So without further ado, this is cursing and cross fingers.

Professor Timothy Jay: The F word and the S word. These are the two most frequently used swear words in public in America by far. And then they're saying like, "Oh, we're supposed to protect people from these words" that everybody watching television already knows.

Kyla Sims: You're listening to Infernal Communication brought to you by Staffbase. And I'm your host Kyla Sims. There's something about me that you don't know, and you probably never would've guessed if you've only ever heard me talk on this podcast, but the truth is I, Kyla Sims, am a potty mouth.

That's right, I swear like a sailor. When I get on Zoom calls, my colleagues push their kids out of the room or cover their ears. I have a talent for weaving curse words through almost every other sentence that comes out of my mouth. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but for real, my swearing is so ubiquitous that our director of design and brand strategy actually made me a PowerPoint presentation to discourage me from using certain curse words in my writing. And he wasn't kidding.

As a writer, word choice is deeply important to me. It's essential to getting my message across and building a connection with the reader. But giving a shit about word choice isn't reserved for writers or professional communicators. Word choice is about more than what sounds good or is the clearest. Word choice is how we use language to effectively convey information. And sometimes effectiveness doesn't mean being buttoned up and by the book. Sometimes it's even more effective when we're not. And sometimes being unclear is the most effective of all.

 In this episode, we're not just going to be talking about cursing or swearing. We're going to reflect on the language we use every day and why? Because curse words are not the most annoying or harmful words you can choose. In fact, if you've worked in a corporate setting for any time at all, you've probably heard yourself say some pretty cringy things, things you never thought would come out of your mouth. A point that is well articulated in this TikTok video by Corporate Natalie painting an unpleasant and kind of realistic take on modern office romance.

Corporate Natalie (TikTok): Not to be like weird or anything, but you've lowkey been an action item on my list for a while now, and I was wondering if maybe we could get a line sometime, maybe sync up.

Corporate Natalie (TikTok): Oh, my gosh, I'm flattered. I just don't really have the bandwidth right now. 

Kyla Sims: Yikes, these work speak phrases.

Corporate Natalie (TikTok): Totally not best practices by me.

Kyla Sims: Buzz around our meetings and messages like annoying little flies. And you have to wonder, are they truly aiding us in our communication or should we be trying to swat these suckers right out of our vocabulary?

 So Tim, do you prefer Dr. Jay? Dr. Timothy Jay, what would you like to be referred to?

Professor Timothy Jay: I've always liked the term professor.

Kyla Sims: So to get to the bottom of this, I called an expert.

Professor Timothy Jay: In fact, that's what I told my students to call me.

Kyla Sims: Professor Timothy Jay.

Professor Timothy Jay: From the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Department of Psychology, been studying offensive language for about 50 years.

Kyla Sims: First I want to dive into something maybe a little less taboo, and that is jargon. Things like circling back, putting a pin in it, synergy, all of that good stuff. Can you help our audience understand why we use so much jargon in the workplace and what role it plays?

Professor Timothy Jay: Yeah. Jargon is for efficiency. So it develops in every community, every speech, community, as a way of facilitating communication. Nurses will develop a jargon about how to talk about patients, and you'll see the same thing jargon in prison slang. You'll see that everywhere. So it also identifies you as a member of that community if you use the slang appropriately. And that if you misuse it, you are an outsider. So bottom line, it's to facilitate communication.

Kyla Sims: So it's actually not a bad thing to have jargon in the workplace?

Professor Timothy Jay: No, it's not a bad thing. It should be expected. Every trade group I've ever worked with, they all have names for things that people on the outside or they wouldn't use that language.

Kyla Sims: Professor Jay has spent his entire career studying the words we choose, but his true interest is a bit more taboo than just office jargon. He spent decades unpacking why we curse, studying taboo words and is one of the world's leading experts in swearing. How did you first become interested in researching cursing specifically?

Professor Timothy Jay: I grew up in a fairly religious family. I never heard my mother swear I had to go to church. So I was learned to be polite, how to dress appropriately, speak appropriately, where you're always trying to do the right thing or know what the right thing to do is. And then I also had a rock and roll band. Then those guys, those guys had their own languages, especially if you had a little too much to drink.

And so I entered Miami University in Ohio as a psych major. The course that really sparked my imagination was a course in thought and communication. In particular, we had a book on taboo language, how animal names and animals become taboo societies that you couldn't say the names of the dead. And that all sparked my interest in finding the line between what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. By the time I got to graduate school, I realized there was no real scholar of this. There was no pioneer on how to do this research. So the more involved I became, the more I sought that as a goal to be the leading researcher in human swearing.

Kyla Sims: Professor Jay's reputation for researching the use case for swearing has followed him around the world. And interestingly enough, some of his work piqued the interest of one notable comedian.

George Carlin Clip: Certainly, the funniest gentleman around, I think we revere him for his linguistic contributions. Would you welcome George Carlin?

Kyla Sims: If you haven't heard of George Carlin, he is one of the most influential comedians of all time, and one of his most infamous routines was called Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.

George Carlin Clip: Well, hell yeah. Sometimes it's okay, but not all of that.

Kyla Sims: In his routine...

George Carlin Clip: That's what I was talking about.

Kyla Sims: Well, he did it.

George Carlin Clip: On television. That's another one...

Kyla Sims: He listed out seven explicit words that you just weren't allowed to say on air, and it caused quite a stir with the audience.

George Carlin Clip: ... swearing. And all I could think of was 'Shit this, Fuck this'.

Kyla Sims: And also the US Supreme Court.

US Supreme Court Clip: There arguments next in Federal Communications Commission against the Pacifica Foundation.

Kyla Sims: In 1973, a New York radio station called WBIA played Carlin's monologue.

Professor Timothy Jay: It was in the middle of the afternoon...

Kyla Sims: Uncensored. A father who'd been tuning into the station at the time with his son launched a complaint to the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission.

Professor Timothy Jay: One complaint out of 7 million people.

Kyla Sims: This complaint then culminated in a Supreme Court case between the FCC and the radio station.

Professor Timothy Jay: This one complaint ends up going to the FCC and then there's a discussion about what language is allowable. Can you say this during the day? And I will guarantee you that every teenager in America knows every one of those words, probably by the time they're eight years old. They know all of those words.

Kyla Sims: So what was the end ruling of that case between the FCC and I think it was Pacifica?

Professor Timothy Jay: Yeah. So the end result of that case is a further restriction, not just on obscenity, but it creates this category called indecent speech.

US Supreme Court Clip: We quickly add that the case we have before you deals not with obscenity, but with indecency.

Professor Timothy Jay: And those are sexual and excretory references, which to me is ironic now because with the expansion of cable and satellite radio, those are again unpoliceable and certainly on the internet unpoliceable where you have billions of interactions.

Kyla Sims: So I guess it's suffice to say that you weren't a fan of this ruling.

Professor Timothy Jay: No, I don't think any of the free speech people were. Well, Carlin, I used to talk to him all the time, and I'm just remembering saying like, "Man, are you for real? Do you do this for a living? Do you studied? "And I said, "Yeah, George, I'm doing for psychology what you're doing for comedy, exploring language, word by word." And every time he played in the area, I went and met him backstage. He gave me comp tickets. I probably saw him 20 or 30 times. Yeah, I gave him everything I wrote. I remember before he passed, he was getting ready to do a one man show on Broadway. And the last time I talked to him, he goes, "I'm going to use some of your material in that show." He was as interested in my work as I was in his.

Kyla Sims: So this indecency standard actually came up again in a case between the FCC and Fox, and you actually provided testimony or research for that case. Can you tell me what that case was about?

Professor Timothy Jay: Yeah, this is in the late nineties, early two thousands under the Bush administration. Now, our federal communication system is those are our people who are selected by the president. So during the Bush years, at the same time, you had the Janet Jackson wardrobe debacle during the Super Bowl, and you had a lot of people spurred on by conservative media groups. So during this era, there became unequal policing of language on television. And you had a show Saving Private Ryan, which they showed on Veteran's Day here. And they let all of the vulgar, all the swearing, the obscenity, they said, "We're going to show this at nine o'clock at night, and this is what's on it."But then there were other programs like on PBS where they interviewed blues musicians who used the same language, same kind of words, and they said, "No, you can't do that." What are called fleeting expletives.

And an expletive is like a ballistic, you hit your thumb and you yell out a swear word. They're trying to control all of these. Where I became involved is I responded to some politicians claim the F word always referred to sex, and that has nothing to do with sexuality. So that was part of my complaint. These are over broad. There are plenty of uses of these words. And then they're saying like, "Oh, we're supposed to protect people from these words,"that everybody watching television already knows. Of all of the complaints about this kind of language on television, it never caused any harm.

People didn't go out and shoot each other. They didn't have nervous breakdowns. They didn't develop obsessive compulsive disorder. So that was sort of my complaint is that who are you to tell me what a word means, to tell me that the F word always has something to do with sex? That's not a fact. And it defies the fact that most of these words are not used literally. They're used figuratively, they're used connotatively. So there you can see my anger at this and why I wanted to be involved, and that's why that went in front of the Supreme Court.

Kyla Sims: And how did that Supreme Court case end? What happened?

Professor Timothy Jay: Nothing changed. We still have the indecency standard.

Kyla Sims: I want to explore the reasons why we curse and look at it from that neurolinguistic perspective. So why do we swear?

Professor Timothy Jay: It's a neurological. Your brain deals with emotion that's built into you, the fight or flight, that's all built into you. And then it's also a function of your own personality, how religious you are, how you were brought up in the home and the society you live in. When you look at something like uncontrollable cursing like the Tourette syndrome, it's very different In a Muslim culture. The taboos that are broken in a Kuwaiti girl might just show her leg as a vulgarity. That's a neurological condition, but it grows up in a cultural medium.

The short answer to the question why we curse is to express emotion and convey our emotional feelings to other people. Pre- verbal children, they are angry and they express their anger by, they'll throw themselves down on the floor, they'll hold their breath, they'll kick up and down. They'll get angry at you. They won't say, "I'm angry at you."They'll hit you. Once we start to verbalize our anger, then you get the words, "Mommy, I hate you."And then later on, vulgarity. So phylogenetically, it evolves as the brain evolves, and so it becomes more abstract and it becomes more political. So you wouldn't hear a five year old calling someone a chauvinist pig or a Nazi, they wouldn't, wouldn't know what those terms meant. They would use terms like fatso or bubble butt or-

Kyla Sims: Poo poo head. Yes.

Professor Timothy Jay: Yeah, doo-doo head. Very common. You're a dooo head. The advantage that we're seeing evolve with time is the abstraction of an emotion. So I don't have to go fight with a guy across the street I don't like. I can give him the finger or I can say, F you and I don't have to risk getting hurt. What has been recognized in scholarship is that swearing is an evolutionary leap in the expression of anger. But there's also ingratiation, self denigration. There's humor as we discussed their social bonding that comes from this. But mainly it's for emotional expression.

Kyla Sims: A lot of our audience are professional communicators, so it's their job to communicate within the organization. Sometimes outside of the organization. Is using taboo language actually that bad or does it actually show some sort of authenticity or transparency? What should we be looking for when we're looking at swearing in the workplace?

Professor Timothy Jay: All right, here's the nugget at the end of all this. And like I said, I get paid lots of money to work with organizations for what to do and how to do this. What's the nature of your organization? Is it hierarchical? Probably. In an office? Yeah, you've got the managers and the workers. You need a code of conduct. What has to be in that is the law. So in America, you have to reinforce the idea that you cannot sexually harass anyone. You cannot make unwanted comments about the way they look or their sexuality. You cannot threaten anyone. You cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of a lot of religion, gender. So that's where you start. That's the law. It's incumbent upon managers that every inductee into the organization is given a heads up on that. They're given a pamphlet to take home. They're given introduction, how you dress and how you act, and this is what we won't tolerate.

Many organizations make the mistake, and I've seen this time and time again that the people at the top want to make the rules for the people at the bottom without consulting the people at the bottom. When you're in an organization where it's top down, that people think that they're being told what to do, that they're not allowed to have free expression and that they haven't been included in the discussion. So there is a place for a motion in your workplace, and then you can have a policy, you can have a policy about what can be said. A lot of people leave these va, they'll say they won't tolerate profanity. What the hell does that mean? Are they vulgarity right? Or offensive speech. But if you're going to look at these speech issues in your organization, include everybody. Otherwise, the people at the bottom of the hierarchy think this is like a dress code. This is something forced on them by the managers who don't follow any of this anyway. And they're the ones who are swearing and telling the dirty jokes.

Kyla Sims: It sounds like we choose our words. Curse words or not because of our cultural understanding of ourselves, what groups we belong to, the associations we had with words as we were learning how to communicate and our deep need to express our emotions. After talking to Professor Jay, I didn't feel so bad about my potty mouth anymore. Turns out I'm just expressive and emotional, which seems about right to me. But this did get me thinking. What about when we use words or terms of phrase to manipulate the emotions of others?

You're listening to Infernal Communication, a podcast brought to you by Staffbase where we dive into the deeper conversations happening behind some of the biggest calms, problems and puzzles that impact organizations and beyond. If you're enjoying the show so far, make sure you follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen. Also pretty please leave us a review and let us know what you think. You can also check out the show by going to our website, infernal communication. com. Today we're pulling apart language and looking at the words we choose from jargon to cursing all the way to the words and phrases we use when we're trying to say something without really saying it.

Well, it's lovely to meet you.

Dr. Jennifer Saul: Good to meet you.

Kyla Sims: Hello. Why don't you introduce yourself?

Dr. Jennifer Saul: I'm Jennifer Saul, I'm the Waterloo Chair in Social and Political Philosophy of Language at the University of Waterloo in Canada. I've always been interested in language and I've always been interested in politics. It took me a long time to bring those interests together, but it's not hard when you find yourself obsessing about both of those things.

Kyla Sims: When did this interest in language converge with your interest in politics?

Dr. Jennifer Saul: I started in around 2013, 2014, getting really interested in sort of subtle racist speech and political manipulation. People are starting to talk a lot about things like dog whistles. The term gets used in various ways, but there's where the metaphor comes from, which is it's a whistle that you can blow that dogs will hear and people won't. And the idea is that it's about transmitting something in a way that not everyone will hear.

People usually talk about dog whistles, generally just in political speech and generally when some norm is being defied, when people are doing the kind of thing they're not supposed to do and they're trying to cover it up a bit. So I'd been planning to do word theorizing dog whistles, and I remember thinking to myself, "Oh, this is good. I'm going to study subtle racist language. And there's us presidential election coming up. There's always lots of subtle racism and US presidential elections, so it'll be a perfect opportunity.

Donald Trump Clip: Our country needs-

Dr. Jennifer Saul: Nothing went according to plan. It was not subtle.

Donald Trump Clip: A truly great leader. I am officially running the president of the United States.

Dr. Jennifer Saul: Trump's success was sort of in defiance of all the predictions of political psychology, which suggested that if you want to run a national campaign based on racism in the US, you have to be very subtle in surreptitious about how you do it. You couldn't possibly win if you're being openly racist. I think there are two different kinds of dog whistles that work very differently from each other. One kind is like the Willie Horton ad that George H. W. Bush used against Michael Dukakis back in 1988 where I call this a covert effect dog whistle, where it's meant to have an effect on people without their realizing it.

George H. W. Bush Ad: Bush supports the death penalty for first degree murderers. Dukas not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first degree murderers to have weekend passes for-

Dr. Jennifer Saul: It just showed the face of Willie Horton, a man who was released from prison on a furlough program and committed violent crimes. It didn't mention Willie Horton's race at all, but it just showed his face and he was black. And this ad led to a huge decline in support for Dukakis. And what psychologists found when they studied what had happened was that the ad hadn't actually changed people's racial attitudes, but it had made white people who harbored some racial resentments more likely to vote for Bush and less likely to vote for Dukakis even though there was nothing explicitly racial being said. And then one of the most interesting things that emerged in the study of what was happening while this ad was being aired was that about two weeks before the election, Jesse Jackson started calling attention to the racism of the ad. But as soon as he started talking about that connection between level of racial resentment and support for Bush started to drop away.

And so the psychologist Tali Mendelberg theorized that what's going on here has to be happening outside of consciousness that some white people don't want to support races, candidates or to think of themselves as influenced by racism. And if you do something to even raise the question of whether there might be something racist here, then it stops working. So the idea is this is a dog whistle. It's affecting them outside their consciousness without their being aware of it. And if you do something that brings it to consciousness, it doesn't work the same way anymore. And then another kind is what I call an overt code dog whistle. It's like a secret code that people are meant to know about. It's a message for the people in the know. It's how you communicate. They know the code, they decode it, they go, "Oh yes, I'm happy with that message."It's a very different kind of process than being affected outside your consciousness.

Kyla Sims: Is there a difference between pre 2016 political language and political language now?

Dr. Jennifer Saul: Yeah, very much so. Especially in the US. Donald Trump showed that you could succeed while saying some really obviously racist things that you could succeed on a national scale. Now anything goes that people are just completely comfortable being openly racist. And I don't think that's quite right because one thing I started noticing was that the weird fact about some of Trump's most racist utterances, his famous announcement of his candidacy, it was where he was talking about the Mexicans who were sent here are rapists,

Donald Trump Clip: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime.

Dr. Jennifer Saul: And then he said-

Donald Trump Clip: And some I assume are good people.

Dr. Jennifer Saul: And some of them I'm sure are good people. At first I was just surprised and kind of had held a horrible fascination for me. I remember I was visiting my parents in Ohio and it was during the Republican primary and it was still being covered in a kind of lighthearted look what this wacky guy is saying sort of way. It's horrible, but he's not going to win by doing that. And people didn't focus a lot of attention on that weird bit at the end. Some of them I'm sure are good people. But I started wondering about thinking, "Well, what is this?"And it occurred to me that it could be functioning as what I call a fig leaf, an additional thing, which provides a bit of cover for what would otherwise be recognized as really racist. I call it a fig leaf named after the device that artists used to use when they showed naked people and they'd put a fig leaf on their genitalia because they're not supposed to show that.

So I call it a fig leaf because it just barely covers a thing you're not supposed to show in public. So you take something that's really obviously racist and then you add on a fig leaf. And the effect of that is that obviously for lots of people, they recognize the racism anyway. Some of them love it and some of them hate it. But then there are people who think, "Well, I kind of like him. That thing he said doesn't sound quite right, but wait, he said that some of them are good people, so he can't be that racist."I went to look online to see if these sorts of discussions were taking place. And I discovered there were online discussion groups of Trump followers who were having discussions about whether Trump was racist and reassuring each other that he wasn't racist, and they were citing that line as evidence that he wasn't racist because he's not against all Mexicans, just the bad ones.

Kyla Sims: What other things do people hide with this kind of language?

Dr. Jennifer Saul: The other kind of phenomenon that I've studied a lot in the last couple of years is the spread of wild conspiracist speech and thought, of course some conspiracies actually happened. Watergate was real. A group of people got together and killed Julius Caesar. There have been conspiracies. And that's not what I'm talking about when I talk about wild conspiracist thought. I'm talking about like Hillary Clinton is drinking adrenal room from babies in the basement of pizza parlor stuff. These conspiracy theories that are of the sort that would've seemed just ridiculous and ludicrous have made their way into our political discourse in a way that they just wouldn't have before, would've been career enders before. It's like the kind of conspiracy theory. You'd just be mocked for. People say, "Where's your tinfoil hat? Get out of here."I started noticing the use of fig leaves as people were trying to get conspiracy theories inserted into the discourse. So a classic way of trying to get people to listen to your wacko conspiracy theory is to say, I'm just asking questions.

Kyla Sims: Oh yeah, that's one.

Dr. Jennifer Saul: And then the person who says, "Well, what's your evidence?" I'm like, "I don't need evidence. I'm just asking questions."And then you might feel a little more comfortable sharing it online if it's just a question rather than an assertion of this thing. And that helps this stuff to spread. So I think fig leaves play an important role there.

Kyla Sims: There's a reason that so many shared spaces have a standing no politics rule. We generally even like to stay away from it on this podcast, but we couldn't truly tackle calculated word, choice, deception, and foul language if we didn't get into it for this episode. Because if we want to learn about how to communicate effectively and with intention, there's a lot to learn for better or worse from the wild and vicious world of politics. So what can we take away from all of this?

I have one more question on this line of dog whistles and fig leaves and those sorts of things. So our audience is primarily communication professionals. So they're working inside organizations with large employee populations, a lot of them global. If you were in communications, is it better to know what these are or better to not know?

Dr. Jennifer Saul: I think it's important to know what they are. Interesting example of this someday at a university communications office told me this story that they asked students to send in photographs of themselves in the graduation ropes. And a student sent in a photograph of himself doing the okay sign. And she knew that it could be a dog whistle and it could not be a dog whistle in terms of intent, but whatever it was intended as it could be read as somebody flashing a white power sign. And that wasn't something they wanted to have as a part of their graduation feed. So they asked the student for a new photograph without that sign, not accusing him of being racist, but just saying it could be interpreted this way.

And I think it's important to deal with it sensitively, especially with something like that where people might mean it in different ways, but I think it could be really important to realize however somebody means it. It could be interpreted in this really problematic way. And so if you're a communications professional, you want to do something about that. So I lived in the UK for 25 years, and so many times I would see people who were in restaurants say, or in meetings and they'd say, I have two points to make. And they'd hold up their fingers like that.

Kyla Sims: And could you describe for listeners what that hand gesture was that you just gave me?

Dr. Jennifer Saul: Okay, so it's a V hand gesture, but the crucial thing is that in the United Kingdom, if the back of the hand is toward the person that you're talking to, then that means fuck you. If the front of the hand is toward the person you're talking to, that means two or victory. And I think you need to know what that's hand gesture means before you go to the United Kingdom and accidentally say things you don't mean to say. So I think communication professionals need to be aware of it in the same way that they need to be aware of cross- cultural differences more generally.

Kyla Sims: So I'm curious, when they're thinking about language and word choice and doing sort of these mass communications both internally and externally, what advice do you have for them when they want to choose their words carefully and communicate effectively?

Dr. Jennifer Saul: It's not a question I've thought about before. I would think the most important thing is to be aware of your audience and how your audience will take what you're saying. And part of that is being aware that your audience is not monolithic, that there are different groups who will take things in different ways. And thinking through those carefully is sort of a lesson that you draw from cross- cultural communication, from looking at dog whistles, from all sorts of things. It's also a lesson that I teach my students that I want you to write it for this kind of an audience. Think about how somebody like this will see it, and not just about what you're intending to communicate, but what will come across.

Kyla Sims: That keeps coming up again and again, no matter who we talk to, when we talk about communication and we talk about word choice or anything like that, or engaging people, it's always about knowing your audience, understanding them, and really thinking about putting yourself in their shoes more or less.

Dr. Jennifer Saul:  And understanding that your audience may be very different from you and may understand things in a very different way and how that'll affect the way things are understood.

Kyla Sims: Well, thank you so much for your insight and joining me today. It's been an absolute pleasure. I've learned a lot, and I'm so grateful for your insight.

Dr. Jennifer Saul: Thanks so much. It was fun to talk to you.

Kyla Sims: Today, we got into some pretty heavy material. We talked about censorship, hateful, political speech, deception, and lying, all the way down to why a mundane office jargon actually helps us signal our belonging. So what can we take away from this conversation? For me, it revealed how to be more intentional and inclusive in what I communicate. Understanding things like dog whistles could be what helps protect employees and leaders from saying something harmful, especially when they don't mean to, even if we might prefer to stay in the dark. When it comes to deceitful, subtle, manipulative language, it is our job to communicate clearly. So being intentional doesn't start and stop with avoiding fig leaves or dog whistles. We may also need to make peace with the awkwardness of jargon. And in certain situations, staying authentic and connecting with one another could mean leaning into the emotion of an issue and letting a curse word or two slip out. 

To be clear, I am not saying going write as your next newsletter subject line, but I am saying that expressing emotion is a big part of what compels us to communicate it all. And it's a big part of what makes our communication meaningful. It's what connects us. So next time you're looking for the right words, remember the words you choose matter and have real effects in the real world, even words like ( beep). And especially ( beep). Today, our guests were psycholinguist Timothy Jay, Emeritus Professor from Massachusetts College and Dr. Jennifer Saul from the University of Waterloo. I'm Kyla Sims, and this is Infernal Communication, brought to you by Staffbase with production support from JAR Audio. In this episode, we talked about some pretty controversial stuff, but next time I've got even more hot takes for you, we're going to be discussing one of the most notorious characters in the calms world. And we are not going to hold back. 

Next time, join us for the trial of the infamous, the one and only Comic Sans. Don't forget to hit follow on Apple Podcast or wherever you get your ( beep) dose. And if you like today's episode, please leave us a review. We would love to know what you think. Until then, thanks for listening. It brings me so much joy.

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