Oh, &^%$! Office talk takes a turn for the curse

in offices, hallways, conference rooms and cubicles, people are dropping the f-word into daily banter with no more ill will than lobbing a pencil.

There’s a reason we call it the “f-bomb.”

Like a bomb, the particular profanity beginning with “f” can be a powerful weapon.

Yet in offices, hallways, conference rooms and cubicles, people are dropping the f-word into daily banter with no more ill will than lobbing a pencil. Mostly, this is driven by young people who’ve grown up hearing it in movies, music and cable TV and reading it on social media. They don’t consider it a BFD to say it, and are surprised when others do.

“We are in a time of flux,” said Benjamin Bergen, author of “What The F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves.” Language is always evolving, which often causes tension, but Bergen said we may be in the midst of the biggest generation gap ever.

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“A few centuries ago, a student’s ‘zounds’ or ‘gadzooks’ would turn an English teacher’s face purple,” he said. In 1972, heads spun when comedian George Carlin famously named “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” — which technically still is true, at least for broadcast TV.

But TVs today are mere appliances to digital natives, outpaced by a new world of screens on computers, phones and pads funneling content for which we, as subscribing viewers, are our own censors.

Bergen describes a 20-year-old waking up to check her Twitter feed “and can see [the f-bomb] a hundred times before breakfast.” So when she arrives at work and wonders aloud with profane curiosity who emptied the coffeepot without starting another, she believes she’s simply expressing her dismay.

Some co-workers may not miss a beat, may even laugh. But such language can become a problem if someone — likely older, but not always — overhears and takes offense.

(A distinction: We’re not talking about using the word to berate or intimidate others, but as an energetic adjective to elevate a strong emotion, even express enthusiasm.)

Karen Gureghian is a human resources consultant with HR Business Partners in Minneapolis. Her work often takes her into offices where she has to sit in common spaces and so hears the ebb and flow of conversation.

Sometimes, she said, two people use similar language and neither one is offended, “and that’s OK. But if…

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