Cursing as celebration: why and how we swear on the Offbeat Empire

November 27 2013 | offbeatbride
Cursing as celebration: why and how we swear on the Offbeat Empire
Photo by Clay ShonkwilerCC BY 2.0

It came up again last week: After we linked this post, a vendor reader on Facebook flounced, informing us "The f bombs reduce your credibility. I swear too but not on public posts. Bye."

This issue has come up for years — does anyone remember "Motherfuckergate" back in 2011? — and our response is generally the same: foul language has been a part of the Offbeat Bride brand since before the website even launched. The copyeditor of my book, Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides, was flagging foul language all the way back in 2006. Ultimately, if you're uncomfortable with swearing, Offbeat Bride just isn't going to be a great fit for you.

I also take issue when people say it damages credibility or makes us look unprofessional — Offbeat Bride is a well-established niche publication serving a nontraditional market. Given our success with both readers and advertisers in this market, our credibility and professionalism are doing just fine. The majority of the complaints about our language comes from vendors on Facebook, saying: "I wanted to share this post with my clients, but it contains swearing, so I don't feel comfortable sharing it… which therefore means I think you shouldn't swear." Sweet vendors, just because our content isn't a fit for your market, doesn't mean it's not a fit for our market. (And furthermore, what do you think you're going to get when you follow Offbeat Bride?)

There's a larger issue at play here, though: we have a pretty specific way we use swearing on the Empire, and it's almost always celebratory. We very infrequently say things like "Fuck this" or "This is stupid shit" or even "Then I fucked my husband." (Long gone are our contentious "Fuck taffeta" shirts from early 2007 — some people like taffeta!) Our cursing is almost always used as a way to convey enthusiasm — HOLY SHIT! THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME! HERE'S A SHIT-TON OF AMAZINGNESS!

For us, using foul language in this way is a celebration. It's a way of conveying just how enthusiastic we are. It's also a branding litmus test: if "fuck yeah, kale bouquets" offends you, then it's a quick indicator that Offbeat Bride might not be a fit for you. If THAT offends you, how are you going to feel about a collaring ceremony? Or a polyamorous triad? Or the fact that we have masturbation on our wedding checklist?

Things get more slippery when we've used curse words in a less positive context. We've been called out for using the phrase "making something your bitch," and generally only using "bitch" in a positive way. That said, as someone who 100% identifies as a bitch and sees it as a term of endearment equating to "empowered, outspoken women creating awesomeness in the world," I'm totally comfortable with reclaiming it positively. Heck, sometimes I'm perfectly comfortable with playing with the negatives uses, too — although I absolutely understand why some people aren't, which is why we're cautious when we use it that way on the sites.

As with all things language and colloquial, things are always shifting and ultimately this boils down to each reader making the decision for themselves about what they're comfortable with reading. For me as a publisher, I'm totally comfortable with using cursing in a celebratory way. FUCK YEAH!

  1. Keep doing what you're doing. There are plenty, PLENTY of other very dainty wedding sites that use so-called professional language, and the beauty of this site is it gives a safe space for everyone who does not fit into that world of daintiness and professionalism. You can't be everything for everyone, that's for sure! Better to be the best fit for a small but awesome group of like-minded individuals.

    19 agree
  2. I've always felt like it served the Empire (ha) by doing a few things:
    • stating that "Hey, it's okay to be you here. We are!"
    • offering a level of frankness that other wedding blogs shy away from
    • communicating in the language of the people, mannnn. To throw on my ethnographer hat for a moment, subcultures speak in coded (and often subversive) language. One of the biggest and most general subcultures that the Offbeat Empire serves is heavy internet users who tend to be connected to memes–like "Fuck yeah, [x]!" To not use that language is to say "I am not one of you." Not that every heavy internet users curses or considers cursing to be part of the culture, but it's a common theme.

    23 agree
  3. I'm always surprised by how offended a few people can get at a little bit of cursing. I'm a fairly mild person, to the point where people are surprised if I curse, but I just don't get what a few people manage to get so very upset about. They are just words- and it's all about tone and context. For example, there is a facebook page I follow "I fucking love science" whose title I appreciate. I wouldn't endorse hate speech, insults, or rampant cursing, but a few curse words here and there aren't a BFD.

    11 agree
  4. Ah Motherfuckergate…. Sigh… I love a good flounce. They're so hard to come by these days. Even that one was really only a B-grade flounce. ( To give the person some credit, it's hard to pull off an A level flounce without swearing.)

    12 agree
  5. Oh man, motherfuckergate. The picture for that particular line was from my wedding so every time my friends hear that song they will send me a text and get me giggling.

    3 agree
  6. I hate cursing but luckily this blog is not in my native language so it doesn't really bother me. If it was my native language no way I would read it. Cursing in English doesn't affect me the same way, even though I still avoid cursing in any language.

  7. I am 100% OK with swearing as long as it isn't something that deliberately puts down people (like c**t, n****r, or f*g, for example, now *those* words I'm not OK with at all).

    But words like fuck, shit, damn, etc. – FUCK YEAH ALL THE WAY!

    P.S. I've seen some intense cussing on even some of the most mainstream wedding sites. So if you're going to boycott a website just because of language, you might as well boycott some other sites too. Maybe even the whole Internet.

    The fact is that lots of people swear on a daily basis, sometimes even in the most professional and formal settings. I've been to a job interview where the manager said "shit" while describing the duties of the position I applied for. Even my conservative mom has uttered a few cuss words in her lifetime.

    There is no getting away from swearing if you're human.

    3 agree
    • My boss just dropped an F-bomb the other day. She doesn't do it often, and she's the first one to correct us if we swear in front of interns. But the circumstances warrented an solid "FUCK", and she didn't hold back. It helped us see that she was just as frustrated as we were. Team-building F-bombs for the win.

      7 agree
  8. I think the swearing makes you more relatable. Lots of people swear. It shows us that you're being transparent and honest and not putting on a front or hiding/censoring who you are to us. That builds credibility in my book!

    8 agree
  9. Definition 2: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intensifier?s=t

    Intensifiers exist in every language and have done for as long as we've got written records. "Fuck" or its equivalent has been used as an intensifier in northern European languages roughly since its inception over 1,000 years ago. Protesting it usually runs hand-in-hand with the notorious "tone argument" leveled on outspoken opinionated women (aka Bitches or "Babe(s) In Total Control of HEr Shit"), which I'm proud is not something often seen here, and quickly addressed if it does come up. If I think someone's dress is fucking gorgeous, I'm going to say it that way, whether I'm typing in public or speaking. If I think something one of my aunts does or says is ri-goddamned-diculous, I'm going to say that too.

    In short, it's nobody's fucking place to tell you how to speak, especially in your own fucking forum. 🙂

    5 agree
  10. "That said, as someone who 100% identifies as a bitch and sees it as a term of endearment equating to "empowered, outspoken women creating awesomeness in the world,""

    Can you make that into a t-shirt? Cuz I'd wear that shit all the time. Or you should make it for yourself and wear it only when doing business/"professional" things, like instead of a suit you wear your bitch shirt.

    Also, to say something post related, I love that swearing happens here. It's pretty natural for this market and for most people in general. Even my mom who still gets so angry when I say shit around her, not even in conversation with her, has been known to drop an F-bomb or two especially when she's trying to put the lights on the christmas tree….Essentially, haters gonna hate.

    1 agrees
    • As a native Californian who never swore until I moved to Massachusetts (like, literally never, as a point of pride)… can I just say that this list is fucking absurd?

      2 agree
  11. Thank you so much for pointing out how much the context matters! I don't curse myself (mostly), but I don't get offended for the most part when anyone else does. I'll only get upset if it's being used to be mean or degrade someone else. And then again, I'd be just as upset if someone did that without the swear words.

    And yeah…anyone I know who would be offended by cursing in any context wouldn't read OBB in the first place.

  12. I just love it when some one calls me a bitch or the "c" word….neither bothers me in fact I always come back w/ "you say it like its a bad thing!" Ha-FUCKING-Ha….keep 'being who u are & always say what u feel….cuz those who mind don't matter & those who matter don't mind'(~Dr. Suess) oh btw love this fucking blog!

  13. Every few months, I refer back to this post and share it with those who chastise me for "language" that is "embarrassing" and "lessens [my] credibility." So, fuck yeah this post!

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