Pondering the prevalence of profanity


May 22, 2020



I’m by no means a prude, but I was recently visiting one of the many pest control Facebook groups I frequent, and I couldn’t believe the language. I’ve been noticing more people swearing, cussing, using profanity — whatever you want to call it. It seems as though it is becoming more prevalent in our day-to-day lives. If someone wants to be a keyboard warrior and swear at people on Facebook, or if they want to use the “f word” as a verb, noun and adjective at a family picnic, that is up to them. But when it creeps into the workplace or (gulp) is used in front of clients, it is incredibly inappropriate.

To prove how easy it is to choose big-person words instead of having a potty mouth, I’m randomly using several words that begin with “pr” in this article. Are you seeing them?

Is it ever OK to swear? If you are a sports broadcaster or a priest, the answer would, of course, be no. My father also disapproved of swearing. He never swore. When I was a kid growing up, Big Pete would get upset with me if I used the words “hell” or “crap.” He would even get upset with me when I used the “f word” — “fart.” He explained to me that there are always better ways to say what you mean. So we proudly came up with “stinker bombs.”

Of course, I would argue that there are appropriate, or “forgivable,” moments in which it is OK to swear, such as:

  • Hitting your thumb with a hammer.
  • Your college football team just lost the national championship game on a last-second interception.
  • You arrive at your beautiful new office early in the morning to see that somebody had driven a vehicle into your building overnight.
  • Your kids prank you by throwing cold water on you while you are showering.
  • Your dog is excited to see you and head butts you in the family jewels.
  • You see your beautiful wife for the first time in her wedding dress on your wedding day.
  • You land your first customer after starting your new business.
  • The first time one of your techs crashes a work truck.
  • The second time one of your techs crashes a work truck.

(These may or may not be based on previous experience.)

Practicing praxeology

One way to help you pick proper words is to increase your vocabulary. Be able to probe your mind and have more tools at your disposal. At Schopen Pest Solutions, I attach a “word-of-the-day” to the end-of-the-day group text. I encourage my employees to practice using these words throughout their day. Like “praxeology!” Look it up. It’s relevant to this discussion.

It is never OK to swear at your employees or clients. I recall feeling dismayed when a fellow pest management professional (PMP) described an altercation with an employee in which they were swearing at each other. As the owner of a company, you must be the bigger person, always. If you have to cuss at an employee, you have lost control of the situation. Also, any human resources expert will tell you that you are precariously close to a lawsuit when you lose your cool.

On the other hand, I would be lying if I said I have never sworn at an employee. When I first started Schopen Pest Solutions, I would swear whenever a problem arose. But I am maturing in step with the growth of my company, and choosing better methods when handling issues.

Perception vs. reality

Sometimes people will use profanity for shock value. I guess the perception is that you are “hip” when you are dropping vulgar terms as proficiently as a villain from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Recently, on a Facebook site viewed by hundreds of young PMPs, a veteran owner was swearing up a storm for no apparent reason. Is this what we want to teach our next generation of pest pros? Why not teach them how to complete a proper wood-destroying insect report vs. the variety of ways you can talk about someone’s mother?

Profound swearing is cringeworthy. You look stupid. You could be perceived as a bully, and it develops bad culture at your office — even if the reality is far from the truth. There’s the argument of being “feared” vs. “respected” when running a business. But I prefer respected.

I continue to try and practice what I preach by increasing my vocabulary, playing Scrabble and other word games, and reading the Bible or other difficult books with a dictionary next to me.

By the way, did you look up “praxeology” yet? Now you have another word to use.

Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at pete@schopenpest.com or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.


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