Many professional publications have examined the pros and cons of leaders swearing in a professional setting (it seems to be a favorite topic at Forbes). There have even been a handful of studies on the topic, including one article documenting the history of White House cussing.
In the United States military, service members take workplace cussing to an entirely separate and higher level. As one blogger writes, “The internal culture of the military normalizes swearing.”
Right or wrong, here are five types of cussers in the military and some profanity-laced examples of how they talk. Reader beware–some strong language is ahead.
Not limited to the Navy, the “Sailor” can be a Soldier, Marine, Airman (maybe), or actual Sailor. This is the guy who uses the f-bomb as every possible type of speech.
“I’m gonna fuckin’ go down to the fuckin’ motor pool and fuckin’ talk to those fuckers fuckin’ workin’ on that fuckin’ truck and fuck ’em up if that mother fucker ain’t fuckin’ fixed yet. Fuck!”
The Creative Cusser
This cusser is a master of the craft. The expletives coming from his or her mouth are works of finely crafted language that go far beyond the mundane curses of an amateur. It’s worth getting the Creative worked up just to see what jewel of profanity this cussing commander comes up with next. While there’s apparently a Creative Cursing Profanity Generator book, a more timeless example is R. Lee Ermey and his character in Full Metal Jacket.
“Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of shit! Get the fuck off of my obstacle! Get the fuck down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-DICKS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!”
-Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket (via IMDB)
The Conservative Cusser
One of America’s most famous military leaders, General George S. Patton, had a philosophy:
“When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an Army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An Army without profanity couldn’t fight it’s way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.”
-General George S. Patton
In our day-to-day lives, the Conservative Cusser is usually a leader who possesses an above average vocabulary and has no problem making you feel dumb with words bigger than you’ve ever used, even in college papers with Wikipedia and Thesaurus.com on hand. They don’t need to swear, but when they do, it carries the weight of the world. They hold profanity in reserve and deploy it at choice moments for maximum effect.
The PG-13 Cusser AKA The Reformed Cusser
This guy may or may not be a recovering “Sailor,” but he or she has a penchant for taking curse words and transforming them into non-profanity substitutes. I once knew a sergeant major who could always be relied on for a “doggone,” “gullblang,” or “dagnabbit.” The problem is, you know what they meant to say.
“You’re darn tootin’!”
-Jerry Lundegaard, Fargo (via IMDB)
The Anti-Cussing Teetotaler
It should be no surprise that the use of profanity is highly polarized with a lot of military leaders firmly in the anti-cussing camp. General George Washington issued a General Order on August 3, 1776 condemning “the foolish, and wicked practice, of profane cursing and swearing,” calling it “a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense, and character, detests and despises it.” Still, Washington is believed by some to have cussed out General Charles Lee at the Battle of Monmouth a year later, possibly calling him “you damned poltroon” after Lee failed to decisively engage the British.
Whether the fear of Article 134 (indecent language) holds them back or they truly believe in the vileness of profanity, a good Anti-Cussing Teetotaler knows how to dress you down using the rest of the English language.
“I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.”
-Unknown (not Shakespeare, according to this)
“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”
-French Soldier, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (via my memory)
Whether you defend it or disparage it, profanity in the military is as ubiquitous as reflective belts, high-and-tight haircuts, and dip. There is no doubt that, used incorrectly, profanity can be part of what creates a toxic climate, and some senior leaders have been made to answer for it. Even so, cussing is likely here to stay. As the Duffel Blog reported, “I can’t even begin to fucking imagine a fucking NCO corps that tries not to fucking cuss.”
Views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the US Army or the Department of Defense.