SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

When did life get so rubarbing crude?
Scripps Howard News Service


November 30, 2007
Friday AM

Profanity has become as common as rhubarb in workplaces and throughout society, and I've recently been informed it proliferates in the home office as well.

Editor's note: To stay within the confines of language permissible in a family newspaper, all profanities in this column have been replaced with the word "rhubarb" by the author.

For the past decade, I've worked alone at home, my only co-worker our dog Elvis (who doesn't give a good rhubarb what people say as long as he regularly gets scratched behind the ears). In the past several months, however, my wife has worked at home with me, and I now have an audience for my bad habits.

Turns out I mutter curses all day long. Who knew?

Apparently, I cuss like a rhubarb when things go wrong, which, as any writer will tell you, is most of the rhubarbing time. I swear after hanging up the phone. I curse my computer. I say "rhubarb" when the words don't fit together right. And I bray "rhubarb" in amazement when things go well.

I recognize this is a bad habit. Many people, especially those in the older generations, feel profanity is only for rhubarbs who don't know any better. I rarely use such language in public, if you don't count the time I spend behind the wheel of a car, but at home, at my desk, I spew rhubarbs all day long.

(Driving time doesn't count. I feel it is my duty to advise those rhubarbing motorists who don't know how to drive any better than rhubarb. Plus, it contains my road rage to the spoken word, which is better than ramming every rhubarbing one of them with my minivan.)

A new study has found swearing in the workplace can actually boost morale. I know, I know. It sounded like rhubarb to me, too, at first, but the researchers found bad language creates a sort of solidarity among co-workers.

The study, reported in the British publication Leadership and Organizational Development Journal and at, found that men used cursing to jokingly insult each other, while women used it to assert themselves.

But overdoing it can create an unpleasant work environment, the study warned. You know what a bunch of priggish rhubarbs those Brits can be.

Here in the United States, 44 percent of those polled reported hearing profanity "often" in daily life, according to a 2002 study by the research group Public Agenda. No doubt it's only gotten worse in the past five years. TV taboos have been loosened, and so we now hear words on TV that would've made earlier generations rhubarb all over themselves. Today's youth seems unable to communicate without sprinkling every sentence with rhubarbs. And rap music? Holy rhubarb.

I, personally, am trying to clean up my act. My wife (who has been known to unleash the occasional rhubarb herself) doesn't buy the whole "co-worker solidarity" rhubarb. She's sick of listening to me mutter rhubarbs all day. When she gets like that, you'd better cover your rhubarb, if you know what's good for you.

I'm sure I will be a better, happier person if I eliminate profanity from my home workplace. And if you don't believe me, you can go rhubarb yourself.

Whoops, there I go again. Sorry. I get so rhubarbing mad at myself when I slip. Whoops. Aw, rhubarb.

This might be more difficult than I anticipated. I might need help. Anyone know the address of a Rhubarbers Anonymous meeting?


Redding, Calif., author Steve Brewer's latest book is called "Cutthroat."
Contact him at ABQBrewer(at),
or read more of his columns at

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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska