Revisiting the F-Bomb

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We’ve had this conversation here once before…

I was recording a skype conversation with my friend Julien Smith a few years back and, during the conversation, we got into this whole thing about when and whether it was cool to drop the F-bomb. He’d just written a marvelous post entitled The Short Sweet Guide to Being Fucking Awesome that exploded online.

I wanted to talk about the post and about how he somehow uses 4-letter words for good. It was a pretty fascinating conversation where he gently called me out for censoring myself on camera, and it got a lot of attention. In the end, Julien doesn’t censor, he is who he is in all areas of life. Take him and whatever comes out of his mouth, or leave him.

More recently, I swung by a book reading by The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, who stepped to mic, looked at the packed house and began, “You fucking came!” as the room burst into adoring laughter and applause.

Then, along comes this week’s episode of Good Life Project, featuring New Zealand transplant turned fellow New Yorker, Gala Darling. Like Julien, Gala tells it like it is. While she has some pretty bright lines about what she will and won’t talk about, she also drops 4-letter words with fair frequency. In honesty, so do a whole lotta New Yorkers, including, er, um…me.

We had a great conversation about life, self-expression, radical self love, blogging and more. And I was psyched to share it.

We rarely do any editing for content on the show. But then I got a note from my editor saying, “hey, wanna take a look at this?” For the most part, the conversation was pretty clean, but there were a few runs where, well, sh*t happened. And f–k happened. A lot. And they kept happening until the end.

And I started to wonder, at what point do we start bleeping that stuff out? Do we ever bleep swear words? And if we make the decision to bleep one, do we then have to bleep them all? We’ve had plenty of guests drop the occasional F and S bombs on the show in the past, and left them in. Nobody’s complained. But, the volume this time around was what stood out. And we’ve also recently learned that GLP has a growing family audience that watches the show every Wednesday night together.

I want to respect our community. I want the core conversations and messages that come out of Good Life Project to be cool with parents and families. I want the conversation to be not about my or my guest’s language, but rather our ideas.

But at the same time, I want to honor the way our guests choose to express themselves. So I reached out to Gala and asked if she’d be cool if we muted the words. Had she felt strongly about keeping it all in, I probably would’ve just run with it. But she said she was cool with the bleeping. So, that’s what we did.

Still, that didn’t feel entirely right to me.

Our guests choose their words, knowing they’ll be viewed and listened to by tens of thousands of people. And, frankly, I don’t have the purest mouth off-camera. Most people I know don’t. It’s not gratuitous, but sometimes you just need the right word to express a thought or emotion and that word is not clean.

By the way, for those who see swearing as a crutch for people who aren’t articulate enough to write or speak without dropping 4-letter ditties, there’s a long history of many of the greatest writers, poets and orators using words that’d make a sailor proud (no offense to sailors!). NPR (or was it WNYC) just ran a great segment about this, citing The Bard as a prime “offender.” It’s not about lack of ability. It’s about how some words just do the job better than others. Offensive as they may be to certain ears and sensibilities.

And, I guess this really isn’t just about the show…

It goes right back to that conversation with Julien about how much of a filter each of us chooses to layer on when bringing our voices to the world. My public voice is the real me, there’s nothing made up. BUT, it’s the real “filtered” me. There’s plenty I don’t say and there are ways I would say things among friends that don’t hit the pages or stages with quite the same level of “sauce-y-ness.”

I’ve occasionally considered launching a different blog or writing under a pseudonym, so that I could express that part of me that has remained, with the occasional breach, fairly tightly bundled in public. Funny enough, when I’m on stage, I tend to share something much closer to my real voice than when I write. I taught yoga for 7 years and swore tactically in class (oh my!), yet I still built a very large community of students. People who not only were able to “deal” with it, but actually appreciated my well-timed use of certain words.


I’m at a crossroads. For my guests on the show, I’m leaning toward keeping everything in, letting whatever is said be what lands on the episode, but just labeling certain episodes with a “Parents: there are some not-safe-for-work words in the episode, do what you feel you need to do.”

For me, do I start to speak and write “professionally,” the way I speak and write when I’m around friends? Or just partly filter? Would I make a different decision if I wasn’t a dad? I’d like to think my daughter is a pretty savvy, socially-aware New York kid. She certainly hears all these words being dropped on the street on a fairly regular basis. Some of the people she loves most have pretty minimal filters. She certainly knows right from wrong and what’s appropriate and doesn’t judge people because of the language they choose, or use language unbecoming a kid of her age.

So, is the whole thing really just in my head? Maybe it has nothing to do with her and everything to do with me. The “public-facing” brand I’ve built and not wanting to monkey with it.

And, just to be clear, I’m not talking about gratuitously dropping f-bombs and beyond when another word will easily do. It’s not about swapping 4-letter words for commas. But, sometimes, there simply is no other word that wields the same power and punch than the one you think…but dare not say.

I know I can’t be the only exploring this. Because I’ve met a whole bunch of y’all in person. And I know I’m not the only one with a more colorful one-on-one conversational presence.

What to do, what to do?

This. Is. Not. Easy.



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75 responses

75 responses to “Revisiting the F-Bomb”

  1. KimBoo York says:

    Please do NOT filter your guests. You might consider putting a warning up for individual shows like Gala’s, but…meh. We’re all adults here (or should be!). I’d rather you stay true to their voices than censor them out of fear of offending a minority of your audience. /2 cents.

    • John Zay says:

      Absolutely agree with KimBoo. If they are offended by the language and want to leave your list I say let them go – they may just not be the right fit for your tribe. If you care about their approval then you become a prisoner. I usually take the time to watch your show because it gets juicy and deep at times, I don’t that should be compromised. A warning could be good….and if I remember myself as a kid I used way more curse words than I do now. Maybe the show could be a good way for parents to show kids that curse words are used for emphasis and not to be abused – or maybe that is wishful thinking:-) I’ve read over & over that those who curse are generally more honest – whether or not that is true it resonates with me none the less. It’s nice to only see rainbows but we also need the thunderstorms to get there….

    • Cheryl says:

      As a former English teacher, those words that we consider curse words in today’s world became such when the Normans conquered England a fucking long time ago. The native Anglo Saxon language in which fuck meant “to plant” was considered vulgar and rude by the ruling class. This also explains why we have cows in the field (Anglo Saxon) and beef (from the French boeuf)at the table. The problem occurs when we use words so often because we have limited expressive ability so the “f bomb” becomes our only recourse when expressing something strong. When used appropriately and occasionally, it’s powerful. If it’s the only adjective (or verb), we know, that’s just pathetic.

  2. I had a similar issue when I was interviewing a lot of senior executives in the TV industry for a book. Some of them used some pretty fruity language and I considered editing it out but decided against it as, in reality that’s how people sometimes speak in the industry – it’s pretty informal at all levels.

    The feedback that I’ve had is that readers appreciate the sense that they were eavesdropping on a real ‘offline’ conversation in a bar rather than being given the official ‘party line’. So in this instance I think the sparing inclusion of the F-word conveyed authenticity and honesty. Also as the book is aimed at a specialist audience who are part of that world too, I don’t really have the same worries as you do about offending a wider audience.

    I have more of a problem when posting content on my website, which is a curated resource of information for filmmakers and TV producers who are trying to pitch new TV shows to broadcasters and other funders. A lot of content relates to recent commissions and some titles can be fairly explicit (especially UK TV shows), which I imagine gets my newsletter filtered as spam. I also occasionally get people outside of the industry signing up to my newsletter and I always wince when they put their occupation as ‘pastor’ or something similar as I KNOW that at some point they are going to get more than they bargained for…!

  3. Chuck Smith says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    It’s a tough decision. Over the years, I’ve become much more free with my foul language, mostly as a result of being more comfortable with who I am, and with the people I choose to spend time with.

    In the case of your show, the production values are very high, and the whole experience is very polished. It almost begs to be held to the standards of network TV based on the content and the care you take in choosing guests. I don’t think it would bother me at all to have the swear words bleeped, especially since you said you are attracting family viewers of all ages.

    As far as creating something different, perhaps you can have a GLP Unfiltered, which could include outtakes or add-ins that would not be appropriate for a more sedate audience. I also like the idea of a separate avenue for an Unfiltered Jonathan – it could be fun. Just don’t do too much and dilute Jonathan

    Thanks for all the great content, and for caring enough to share.


  4. There is nothing quite as satisfactory as a juicy swear word when I’m telling a story or making a point. You’ve articulated it well– the crowd’s energy shifts as the little zingers happen.

    But I once wrote the word A-hole on my blog (literally that abbreviated) and for the first time was really harshly attacked for it. And there were emails asking me if I really needed to resort to lazy language and also ones asking me to please not upset them with my swearing. It was weird.
    I definitely felt it was odd for people to ask me to not upset them,… I mean, isn’t the power to be upset or not a self chosen thing?

    But in the end, my big take away is that written word vs. spoken word seems different to people.

    As for Good life interviews, I’d find it okay see the disclaimer vs bleeping words.

  5. Irene Ross says:

    Like you, Jonathan, I also grapple with this–and, like you, I don’t have the purest of mouth in private!

    I tend to write professionally, but then I become worried that it doesn’t show any authenticity. So a few months ago, I took a BIG gulp and used the word sh%t. Amazingly, I got a lot of letters from people saying how much they loved my authenticity. No one unsubscribed–and I was expecting some unsubscribes. A few months later I took another gulp and used the phrase p%s$sed off. Both are words and phrases that I’d always use to describe the situation, without ever replacing it with something else.

    But I’ve never–and don’t think I ever will-be able to drop an F-bomb in any writing (and, believe me, I have no problem using it in every day speech)

    So to answer, I use the more mild swear words very, very sparingly.

  6. I grew up with a mother who used what I now know to be some of the foulest language ever (it was in Spanish). We knew she was saying something bad. We shuddered if we caused the problem!!

    I have taught my daughter the proper names of all body parts, explained to her where babies come from, showed her how to grieve when my Momma died suddenly. She is 22 and a fully realized adult in this world and she knows where the *f-word or the *s-word belong. Thank you, I am proud of how I have raised my daughter. I wouldn’t associate with you Jonathon if I didn’t think you were doing things right. Listen to your gut

  7. Shane Ede says:

    Why not split test it? Create one long “final” version, then go through and create a “bleeped” version and let the users choose. Leave a warning explaining that there’s a NSFW-language one and an edited one and see what the results are. If nobody ever watches the edited version, then you can stop doing it.

  8. This is such an interesting topic, and one I often think about as my business grows. I absolutely think that setting a standard by letting your guests know that swearing is ok, but to please keep it reasonable, is totally warranted.. IF, as you say, it’s because you have decided that your business and your brand if a family-friendly brand. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling like it’s a stretch to have to keep up this persona you have created (which is still YOU, but not all of you), then it might be worth opening up more conversation about what it means to be “real” online… how do you show up? How do you let yourself be seen?

    And if you choose not to swear and you’re intentional with that because it doesn’t jive with the vibe you want for your business, you’re 100% allowed to do that. I don’t see that as being out of alignment. Would you swear like a sailor in front of your kids? Your mother? Your neighbour? Likely not.

    We all filter ourselves in different circumstances and I think the most important thing to remember is that filtering our language doesn’t mean we’re not being “real”.

    Looking forward to seeing the conversation continue!

  9. Hi Jonathan,

    Yeah, tough one for all the reasons mentioned. Some good comments as well.

    Personally I like the idea of giving each show a restriction rating and then letting audiences decide. Since its not every episode parents could decide to skip certain shows if necessary.

    I am sure any of your reasonable ideas and whatever decision you make will be accepted by your true followers.


    From Zululand, South Africa

  10. Haider says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I think it would really help your guests to know who your audience is, so they can choose the appropriate words during the show. If your past guests knew kids were watching GLP, then I’m sure they would’ve expressed themselves differently.

    But I do think many people tend to confuse authenticity with foul-language: using foul-language isn’t a sign that you’re being authentic or “true to yourself” or “have found your voice.” We should communicate in context. I wouldn’t use foul language at a funeral ceremony, but it’s perfectly reasonable with friends.

    It’s your call on what kind of context you want to have for your blog and for GLP, but your audience and guests need to know it, so they know what to expect.

    I’m personally not a fan of bleeping. It’s esthetically harsh on the ear.

    • Erin Healy says:

      Haider’s advice to “communicate in context” is so wise. Your desire to respect your audience is admirable, and perhaps most authentic of all guiding principles.

  11. Cassia says:

    It’s a tough question…
    No, it’s a hard f-ing question…
    I’m inclined to vote for the fullest expression that allows you to communicate your message in a way that allows it to be processed and absorbed… Whatever type of languaging that entails.

  12. Kath says:

    I am afraid of being real all the time. I am afraid of that vulnerability. I think that’s what you are deliberating. Being real. Remember when you interviewed Brene Brown and she said academics write for just a few people in language very few people will understand? They do it to impress. I don’t want to impress, I want to connect. And I want to do it with all of me. But I am afraid, just like the Velveteen Rabbit was probably afraid the first time the girl was given a shiny new toy. Let’s do it anyway, let’s be real whenever we can and even sometimes when it’s scary. The Rabbit says it’s worth it.

  13. I loved the interview with Gala Darling, AND I appreciated the bleeps. If a word really is used for strategic effect, the bleep is just as effective! The point is made. (In my opinion, her use of the words was more habit than strategy.)

    There’s a difference in personal and professional personas for most of us, just as we wear grubbier clothes around than house than we wear to work. Of course, I grew up in an era when “damn” and “hell” were bleep-able words, so I may be a hopeless old boomer fogey by now.

  14. lauren Rader says:

    I love the post, the deep questioning and honesty, and the other comments you’ve gotten. I don’t swear when I write somehow, but when I’m comfortable teaching I sure do! After a weekend art retreat with lots of F****s I sent out a survey to hear what people thought of the retreat. Suddenly I was scared I’d hear about the swearing that people found it offensive, but a friend of mine said, I think they’ll say Lauren didn’t say f*** ENOUGH! That gave me a good laugh.
    No one mentioned the swearing. It’s part of who I am and they can sense that it’s me being comfortable, which I think allows them to be authentic and comfortable as well. Besides, in the right context there’s nothing better than a well placed f***!

  15. Elissa says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    As a parent of a broad-minded teen and nine year old, this is a tough issue at home, and I really appreciate you thinking about it. I want my kids to hear interesting conversations, and sometimes those have swear words. When used effectively, they do their job.

    Your guests are thoughtful too.

    Yes, you could put out a disclaimer, but even more actively, express to guests before the interview that this is a show that reaches a broad audience, including families. That may moderate the language enough for progressive family consumption without you having to restrict or grade it.

    And if it’s not, then it’s up to your family audience to make their own calls about when to pull the plug, just like with music. It’s not on you, you did your part.

    And if you decide it’s not appropriate for kids, period, you can just enjoy having an adult program. It’s ok to give back the ‘gift’ of a family audience if it doesn’t fit.

  16. Keep the “juicy language” (as earlier post noted). Add a disclaimer. I want the full package.

  17. Lisa Johnson says:

    I saw a great bit with Matt Damon about Fuck being his favorite word and he riffed on at least 10 different inflections and how the word could be used. It. Was. Awesome.

    I’m Boston Proud and yeah, we know how to swear … and I do censor myself almost completely online. I think I’ll drop an F bomb less than once a year. But ask my kid how often he hears it, um.

    Also bleeping out the swear word to me was always irrelevant, everyone knows what was said, how does deleting the audio change the word or the point for that matter? Just leave it in with maybe a word to parents so they can decide what they want their kids to hear. 🙂


  18. John Dinner says:

    I think using those words and others like them are not the worst thing in the world. It’s just lazy and unimaginative. We can do better. And someone needs to encourage that.

  19. Mark Silver says:

    Hmm…. It’s a great debate to dig into, Jonathan, and I applaud you for jumping in.

    My take is that swear words don’t feel good to my heart. This may be getting too deep for some, and I can hear people say, “Hey, lighten up already…” but when I think about the f-word and what it truly represents, it’s a twisting, a desensitizing of something very beautiful and holy- the sexuality of our beings.

    Turning it into a swear word for emphasis does make an impact… at what cost? I would never want to see censors step in, and I know since I took on a commitment in myself years ago to stop using swear words, I find I can articulate what I need to articulate with proper emphasis, and my heart feels better about it.

    I think in our culture there are many factors that have overridden the underlying sacredness in our lives, and the f-word is not the worst offender by far- it is a relatively minor one that I would never really make a cause out of except in my personal commitment to my heart.

    But since you bring the subject up, this is how I feel about it. I don’t think using it does justice to the truth of what is really inside each of us.

    • Jenny Blake says:

      Mark – thank you for sharing this perspective. You really hit on something important – I don’t swear often, but when I do drop the occasional f-bomb in conversation I often regret it. It has that immediate sense of cheapening the real emotion, numbing it with “color” or with an odd, uncharacteristic sense of aggression. On many occasions in those moments I want to rewind 30 seconds and re-state what’s *really* going on for me. It takes awareness and practice (especially in the heat of the moment), so I appreciate this great reminder 🙂

    • Katrina Ericson says:

      This is such a complicated subject on all the levels you mentioned, Jonathan. There is truth in so many of the comments, also. I listened to your Gala interview and was surprised because she is one of your first guests to really freely use language like that. Yes, it’s her authentic self. So now I know who she really is. But I’m with commenter Mark Silver. It doesn’t “feel good to my heart” when I hear swear words in the context of sitting at my desk to view Good Life Project. I wasn’t prepared, I guess?

      It has been said that when a person is reading text and comes upon a word they do not understand the meaning of, but they keep reading anyway, their mind shuts off a bit & they don’t really absorb the rest of the text. Their brain is still hung up on the unknown word. Well, I feel that way about most swear words that are sprinkled in to blog posts and interviews. For a few seconds my mind & heart is rattled by the swear word and I miss the main point the person is making. When it’s a blog, I can reread the post, but a video interview is fast paced so I missed some of the nuggets of wisdom Gala was sharing. Too bad.

      Bleeping out swear words can be just as unsettling as hearing them, BTW.

      My vote: just a simple “Adult Language” disclaimer before the interview, and then let your guests express themselves authentically.

      I sure do love you, Jonathan!

      ~ Katrina

  20. Tom Webster says:

    I think a disclaimer (and marking it as “explicit” in the iTunes music store) would suffice.

    But I will say this about “authenticity”: It is true that my language in private is somewhat more colorful in private than it is in public. But when I let loose an F-Bomb in a small gathering, or choose NOT to in a larger group, I am being no more or less “authentic” in either case. My choice to use or not use vulgarity is ALWAYS a choice, and is ALWAYS authentic, because in both cases I am making the choice that is comfortable to me and the choice I want to make. Do I care what others think of me? Yes, of course I do. That’s the authentic me. There is no more “real” layer than that.

  21. Jenny Blake says:

    JF – thank you for bringing this up! It’s something I think about, debate and struggle with often.

    Just recently I posted a review of my dad’s book on my two blogs. Norman Mailer called it “f*cking brilliant” – a pretty epic endorsement worth sharing . . . but how?! Look…I just bleeped it. In the end, I censored it on Life After College (Mailer would probably shake his head in disgust), but kept the color on my new site which has a more “mature” real-me vibe. Neither felt right.

    Sometimes I wonder if its better to bleep just for plain-old email deliverability, and I agree that in general, f-bombs don’t always translate as fluidly in writing as they do in person. Sometimes they come across as tacky. But sometimes they are a direct pipeline to communicating something in a truly authentic, real way.

    I wish I had a clear answer on this too, but until then I extend my gratitude to you for sharing your thoughts around it (I too wondered how I’d handle the Gala interview while watching), and will be refreshing these comments frequently 🙂

  22. Joanna Penn says:

    This is a tough one Jonathan, and I don’t think it would be a big deal to most of your audience.

    I think the bigger issue is how you want Good Life Project to be perceived as you will have to label it as ‘explicit’ and ‘adult content’ on iTunes and perhaps on video sites, which clearly it isn’t compared to other shows. If you told your guests it’s a clean show/podcast, they might try to tone the language down and there would be less editing.

    I edit out swear words from my own podcast – as I want to stay out of the explicit zone. I had a dodgy moment when one of my guests used the word ‘masturbation’ in a purely literary context – as I’m (still) unsure as to whether this counts!

    I also get crazy emails from people who read my fiction. They don’t care about ritual murder of children, but do care if I use the word f**k – so basically, you will never please everyone 🙂

    Love GLP and I listen on the podcast now whilst out walking.


  23. Robert says:

    I would come down on the side of non censorship, If I don’t like it, I can censor it myself.

  24. Tim Brownson says:

    I think you have to leave them in for the integrity of the show.

    They don’t reflect on you, they reflect on your guest.

    Personally I swear like a sailor after half a bottle of rum who’s stubbed his toe and then when bending down to rub it impaled his head on a metal spike, and I make no apologies. Especially as the most time it’s in humor.

    Words like that don’t feel good to Marks heart. Hunger, poverty, war, corruption, greed and homelessness feel bad to mine.

    As the Bard said, “Nothing is neither good or bad but thinking makes it so”

    Billy knew a thing or two.

  25. Katie Hill says:

    Hi Jonathan –
    Thank you for the thought provoking post. I wanted to be honest with you, as I watched the Gala Darling video (loved, a lot btw), I was really distracted by the censoring of her words. I feel that it took away from her flavor and flair and expression, and that to me is censorship. If it were my highly successful blog (and it clearly is NOT:) I would have preferred using a warning statement about language and letting the f-bombs fly.

    Knowing you can’t please everyone, if you are doing it well, you will offend some people. I would rather err on the side of free expression.
    I love you for tackling the tough things.

  26. Paul Bigham says:

    For me, speech is a choice, and in a public setting I prefer the “modicum of decorum” option, and the thinking that one shouldn’t always do what one sometimes can do. I don’t enjoy being exposed to such F/S/AH/etc bombs or throw-away discourse in pedantic presentations and favor to move, disengage, or re-select my audiences rather than be held captive by someone else’s choice for self expression, or lack of restraint, as the interpretation may be.

    I am more to the side of feeling that “speech is a mirror of the soul, and as a man or woman speaks, so is he or she,” to paraphrase Pubilus Syrus, or whomever.

    And I’m freely reminded of the encouragement that: “Your thoughts become your words; your words become become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your character; and your character becomes your destiny.” Personally, I am thinking I’d rather not F-up my destiny by F-ing up my words, in a public forum that is.

    Oh, and I’m not sure that 4-letter bombing in broad social venues is emblematic of “being adult,” for in other views, it may be more descriptive of “being childish.”

    So Jonathan, as you tally the votes, here is a logical vote for not encouraging, or appreciating, such illogical choices of self-expression, or self-adulation, as the case may be. And as always, the only difference between logical and illogical is a matter of perspective. So perceived.

  27. Peter Hodges says:

    I agree that leaving them in is a reflection on your guest and not you.

    People who use salty language need to understand they will alienate a portion of their audience by not “filtering.” I think using *excessive* profanity is lazy. It shows a lack of respect for the other people around you and a general lack of manners. Call me old-fashioned. 🙂

    On the other hand, using it strategically can be very effective to bring a point home or to grab attention.

    As the Buddha would say: “Take the #%!?! middle path.”

    P.S. I am a fan of the cartoon #%@!#! in writing because it lets the reader fill in their favorite expletive.

  28. Robert E says:

    This is a tough question and I am going to go the opposite way from most of the respondents.

    What’s the important message you are trying to communicate to your audience? And does using this language better communicate that message, or better open the eyes and ears or viewers/readers?

    One lives an uncensored life at his own peril. While living as a nudist shows us as we really are, we do use clothing to both hide ourselves as well as present who we are. Language can be the same.

    Though using different kinds of words than in discussion here, Paula Deen certainly learned how people react to language.

    Most “language” you are talking about concerns anatomy, dangerous waters to navigate in public settings – verbally disrobing in front of an audience? It has it’s place in some settings (as you note), but in yours?

    Additionally, live has a different vibe. Recorded presentations can’t control the where or who context for you to make those vibe-driven decisions on how much to expose.

    My opinion is these words still have much power and can divert attention from the kinds of insightful, thoughtful, life-changing messages you want to deliver.

  29. Bradandotis says:

    I’m 100% fine with f-bombs, but I grapple with this same issue myself. Thinking about how other industries deal with this (video games, movies, etc)… can you think of an efficient and understandable way to put a rating/classifier in the title of posts/podcasts? Or perhaps do a separate channel/class altogether (i.e. “The Good Life Uncut”)?

    Another way of doing it would be to ask a question in the signup process via your email subscription service (something like Mailchimp)… i.e. “Do you want me to withhold posts that have profanity?” with Yes/No answer. That’d seemingly give you a good indication of how your target market feels about the issue.

  30. Arlan says:

    I’m not some one who’s ever really been offended by foul language, and have been known to use it myself. But I must tell you that I do have a higher respect for people who communicate well with (as you called it) “Professional” language. By extension of that statement, I guess that means I have less respect for people who resort to using foul language to get a point across. The truth is, the great communicators don’t need to. The rest of us, well………we have our work to do.

  31. Let a speaker censor themselves, if they so choose.

    This is new media, authenticity matters. The more real and unfiltered something is, the better it can connect.

    You have a grown up audience, they can handle it. There’s enough censorship in old media as it is, new media should be a safe place for independent producers.

  32. Mike J says:

    I was wondering they the sound went sort of mushy, you knew what she said, but it was not as clear…

    There are more than a few layers of swearing in conversation, and if not done right, you know it in your gut instantly. For example, you are among friends AND kids, and then the f-bomb is not appropriate, you know it and your friends know it, the kids may not. If you are camping with they “boys” (or girls), then the appropriate level changes, but even then, if it gets slung too often, it then gets uncomfortable and inappropriate.

    The level of swearing sometimes implies your “level” in society ; I have starting companies in high tech and companies in construction – believe me, the conversations are completely different, and I need to adjust accordingly. It’s led to a few interesting conversations and situations, especially construction to high-tech. 🙂

    Anyways, everyone has great comments, but it brings up an interesting idea.

    If you are editing the conversation video, I think it would be great to have a BLOOPERS video once in a while – those are great, and often a little 3 second blooper shows more of the true personality of a person than one hour of steady conversation.

    Johnathan, I am sure you have some treasures in those hours of raw video!



  33. Randy says:

    Maybe post two versions with buttons/links to each: an uncut and uncensored version, along with a family-friendly version.

    Seems easy enough…you had to make the bleeped version from the original version anyway.

    Whatever you choose, the series is fantastic. Keep up the awesome work!

  34. sara says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Loved the interview. Gala’s way of speaking suits her, and I think the un-bleeped version would be just fine… especially with the ‘warning’ for those listening with kids.

    More and more, though, I’ve come to feel almost assaulted when I hear someone in my presence using a lot swear words in their conversation. I actually can have a visceral sense of pain. It can just feel ugly. (And, I mean a fairly heavily sprinkling as opposed to the occasional use for emphasis.)

    I think of Masaru Emoto and his experiments with water and what the sound of harsh music or the word ‘love’ can do to the molecular structure of the water…

    Thanks for all these wonderful interviews.

  35. Wendy says:

    I’m with the others here who say don’t censor, with a caveat for the family viewers.

    I commonly drop F and S bombs while teaching spiritual classes. It’s important to speak one’s truth, and as messy as life can be, the truth sometimes requires the F-word. Being offended by such words is often a denial that life and emotions that flow through us can’t be controlled.

    The notion of some words being “unprofessional” is a problem for me. It’s pervasive in business that we feel we must present ourselves not as we are, but as who we think we should be for someone else. It’s a lack of personal transparency that can, at best, waste my time, at worst, create feelings of mistrust.

    I think the difference is the intention behind the word. I will listen to a speaker drop F bombs every other word if they’re doing it out of emphasis, rather than anger. It’s the aggressiveness that bothers me, not the word.

  36. As a business coach and entrepreneur I have no problem letting the F bombs fly – reason being, rightly or wrongly, it’s how I talk … and if I’m censoring myself in a coaching session, it means I’m more worried about how I’m coming across v. helping my client get what they want.

    That being said, if you have kids watching your GLP shows, maybe a brief “there may be some swear words in here, do what you need to do” should take care of it and allow you to continue to “keep it real”

  37. Meg Worden says:

    Great topic.

    As someone who has made a conscious choice to swear openly in my business and social media, I think it’s really important to revisit this topic as much as possible because it is also important to me to respect my people and the line between using these words to connect, and using them for gratuitous impact, can get blurry. I have plenty of moments of asking the opposite question to myself – wondering if I should stop. But, ultimately, it feels like me. It feels like my people. And when I have openly asked them, they overwhelmingly remind me that they like it.

    Language is a dynamic space, and gratefully not the same for everyone, so we have diversity in the ways the words are used, choices in the kinds of language we get to consume. In my business, I find the swear words make deep, emotional, tender or esoteric topics feel approachable and grounded. I love the marriage of health and hilarity vs the common paradigm that healthy = pretentious and buttoned up. These words can provide the perfect levity as they often make people pause, laugh, or feel another level of okay about the ways they aren’t perfect.

    I would let my 11 year old watch your show with any and all language included and would prefer it to censoring them. Our word policy is that none of them are off limits, but they must be used appropriately, respectfully and never to hurt anyone.

    Thanks for writing about this. Also, thanks for includine Julien’s article. Loved finding him.


  38. Tim Brownson says:

    I just watched and I have to say mate I think you took the worst option available!

    Either censor or don’t, but a half-hearted censorship where it’s plainly obvious what the word is doesn’t achieve much other than to distract people.

    I bet a few people when she used the first ‘f’ bomb did a double-take like I did. I even wound it back because it sounded so weird.

    And Gala is awesome, she would sound inauthentic NOT swearing!

  39. Zane Safrit says:

    ‘All of me, all the time, everywhere.’ A friend of mine shared that phrase with me a few weeks ago and it stuck.

    What’s great about you Jonathan is it’s all you, all the time, everywhere. I don’t agree with everything you write. But I agree that it’s you, all the time, writing it, sharing it, pulling the same honest out of your guests; all in proper context.

    We love you for it. It’s how you’ve built such a huge following. You, all the time, everywhere and then we go and tell our friends about you, about us.

    Now it’s a community. It’s all us, all the time and it’s spreading.

    Whatever language has been used to date….It’s been awesome and correct.

  40. Pat Hayes says:

    What the fuck are y’all talking about?

  41. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, I think putting a “Not Suitable for Children” sticker on the GLPs that have salty language would suffice. The bleeps just make for a continuity crack, and lose the audience (or at least me) for a moment, and perhaps the crux of the communication could be lost too.

    I wholly disagree that profanity is lazy language; in many contexts, a pointedly placed WTF is spicily expressive of emotion and meaning. Of course, speech that’s peppered with cursing has no savor, because the bite of the cayenne is lost in a barrel of cayenne. But a flaming arrow here and there can spread fire.

    Language and its intents can be so fun to think about, using Lenny Bruce and George Carlin as people who pushed language limits (and sometimes had them push back). Many people who have read Chuck Wendig’s blog have undoubtedly been appalled by his profanity-laced blogging. But he’s so damn good at playing with his perverse utterances that I find it hilarious. But that’s just grinning while I run away from the 10 years of Catholic school still twisting in me…

  42. Daniella says:

    It’s a false dichotomy given the benefits of technology. Create two playlists and do both an unedited AND a family-friendly version. On each video, clearly refer to the alternative option to facilitate your viewers decision.

    I’m open-minded on cursing with my kids & point out that words are merely vibrations for expression and are, otherwise, vacuous of any substance. While words shape and express ideas, they are just invisible, fleeting, temporary symbols. They are only significant inasmuch as the power we impute to them.

    I also point out to my kids the paradox/hypocrisy of our so-called freedom of speech given the radical editing that they struggle with at school and around grown-ups. Let’s face it, they’re swearing up a storm when we Maxi-Mes aren’t around! 🙂

    Having said all that, I’m also not inclined towards gratuitous, competitive cursing. Well placed f-, a-, s- bombs provide wonderful vernacular color, punch and texture to speech. Overdoing it for shock value drains the well of interest.

  43. JJ says:

    Ok, stepping in where angels fear to tread…I think that foul language has morphed into common language as a dumbing down of discourse. Of course there are moments when an interjection needs that jolt–but when it becomes commonplace in the speech of a colleague, there is no jolt…only a trepidation about whether I can invite him/her to x or Y without risk that the language will reflect on my choice of colleague. There’s a great assumption in the commentary that people know when and when not to use swear words. I, frankly, doubt many do.

    So, to answer your question, I’d say be sparing, but not anal about it 😉 And, to convey a certain professionalism, I’d say that if a swear word needs inclusion (needs inclusion for a demonstrably important effect), then consider whether if f-ing needs to be spelt out or can be abbreviated without losing the effect.

    The media provides a model for discourse generally. Has it improved over the years in which everything from sitcoms to blogs to news stations shift to colloquial language? We do a disservice to those who look for models when we teach them to communicate in ways that will harm their presentation of themselves. Does that mean a return to archaic, convoluted constructions? It shouldn’t. But that’s about the skills and competencies of the communicator.

  44. Mike Warwick says:

    Well sometimes a swear word is the only word that gets the pint across. For example in EFT we encourage clients use whatever language is appropriate so that they can be authentic and heal fully. I admit I used to swear a lot and still do from time to time, but I don’t do it in front of a class of kids, unless I’ve asked their permission to make a point!
    I agree that context is the key. If I’m sitting down to watch something inspirational with an innocent mind, I’d like to know in advance if they are about to hear some strong language. That way I can make a decision.
    I don’t like bleeping either. So maybe a warning for parents is the best way forward.

  45. Rain Longson says:

    Don’t edit verbal f-bombs or such, they are expressions used daily. But they can get annoying as written words – they seem to get repetitive in text.

    What stood out to me the most in your article was that you have a show! I live in British Columbia, Canada how would or where can I go to see some of your shows? What is your show called?

  46. Peter says:

    I think the more authentic the conversation is, the better. And if it includes swearing, don’t bleep it. Maybe include a description to point it out so that people who get offended by that don’t view it, but don’t censor it.

    Coming from Europe I find all the bleeping going on in American media really strange.

  47. […] ourselves for some unpleasant riding. If I was talking to you in person, I might just throw in a few F-bombs to describe the next stretch of road. But this is a family blog so I won’t. Let’s just […]

  48. Brett Jarman says:

    This video from Osho takes a light hearted look at what has become ‘the most important word in the English language’.

    I haven’t seen the interview yet but wonder if Gala (and others) would use different language on other shows, Oprah or breakfast television for example. I suspect so so maybe if you were to let the guests know in advance what the demographic of the audience is they can ‘censor’ themselves accordingly. If that includes colorful language then so be it. I’d prefer to hear the words rather than bleeps myself and even children know that a bleep is a substitute for a word anyway so I think the same ‘harm’ (if any) is done.

    On the matter of being authentic or otherwise there is nothing inauthentic about changing our language for different circumstances. In casual conversation or small groups the words come and go and we can be sensitive to the impact we are having on those we are in conversation with. If someone is taking offense or misunderstanding us we can address that in the moment.

    But on paper or a recording they linger and the impact is unknown and un-felt. That doesn’t make it wrong to use such words but if we know our audience we can adjust our style accordingly.

    The most important consideration for me is the intention behind the word. The ‘c word’ for example, only ever seems to be used in an abusive context and out of respect for women is about the only word I don’t use myself. Beyond that most colorful language can be just that, colorful.

    I expect this is one of those conversations our grandchildren will look back and think how quaint we were back then.

  49. Sandi says:

    Tricky subject, what with freedom of speech and all. I personally believe everyone has the right to speak the way they want to. Except in the face of children and the elderly. And, actually in the face of people it offends – with one caveat. If there’s a button I can push – it’s on me to push it. I don’t think swearing is so impactful that those are the only words with which to make a point. I think one can find more resonant words, and tune out what people say if there’s a lot of swearing. It sounds like laziness or ignorance, and ain’t nobody got time for that. 🙂

  50. Susan says:


    I totally appreciate GLP and you. And thus far I have not found any of the f’bombs offensive. I view them as just expression. It’s just letters put together…the meaning behind them excitement and joy—at least from your peeps. If there was anger and malice then I’d be offended because of the meaning I would associate with them.

    Am I accurate in my meaning making? I don’t know. Sometimes.

    How else do you express “holy shit” with the same enthusiasm. Those two words share a feeling (along with the tone of your voice and facial expression) that would probably take a sentence or two.

    I have never seen you on stage. Or been your yoga class.

    I do hope you find the space to express yourself in a way that feels good. That maintains your desire for professionalism and self expression.

    Cause sometimes we just need to say “fuck it” literally and metaphorically.

  51. When people put in a bleep, it doesn’t really do what’s it supposed to do. Everybody knows what a bleep means. Everybody adds the F word in their own heads.

    It seems silly to me that people who complain against foul language accept the bleeps. What if I call someone motherbleeper? Will he be offended? If he gets offended can I tell him to bleeping bleep off!!

    If you really want to keep your shows child friendly then you’ll have to ask your guests to just not say the F word at all. Bleeping it doesn’t make it child friendly. Children too know what bleep means. All those reality shows where contestants fight each other and argue with each other and all the abuses are bleeped are watched by a lot of people because of the fights and the producers know that bleeping doesn’t make any difference and they know that their show sells because of the bleeped fights.

    I think you should keep the F words in because these are probably not used in an obscene manner. It’s bleeping time we accept how big a part of our vocabulary this word has become.

  52. Evan says:

    Self-censoring isn’t a problem when done consciously. Censoring the censor isn’t an advance.

    I do think taking an audience into account is good manners. Unless you don’t want to; in which just put up a warning

  53. Maitri says:


    I really enjoyed reading this and know that it is a dilemma for many. And you know, the first time I really noticed it as a possible issue — having watching every single GLP episode — is the one with Gala because there were so many places it was bleeped out, ha ha ha, that the bleeping became a bit distracting and it is just so much a part of her personality and she is so delightful I don’t think twice about it. With some people I find it offensive, not because I’m a prude or haven’t used the words myself, but there is just a TONE to the way they are using the words, often for effect in a not altogether nice (!?!) way. I don’t know how to say that right. But I love Gala and I loved the interview and I think when it’s that much of the conversation, again, the bleeping becomes far more distracting than the words would.

    Just MHO. And I adore the GLP. I look so forward to it each week…



  54. Jonathan,

    This has been so interesting to read and to dive into my feelings about the subject as well. I watched the interview with Gala and was not offended at all with the words being subtley bleeped out – it was masterfully done, I thought.

    Even though I’m also not offended by the f-bomb and love it’s power when needed, I do enjoy the loveliness of having a cleaner presentation; I’m able to focus more on the content and not on my reaction to the content. I don’t need those exclamation marks in the spoken word, especially because they might not be MY exclamation mark portion of the discussion.

    As always, thanks for being brave and having the discussion.


  55. Mikeachim says:

    Finely argued, as always – thanks for this. And it’s a tough one for sure…

    Odd thing, swearing. Sometimes it’s the way it’s used that’s the offensive part, rather than the words themselves. When someone is throwing in f-words the same way they’d used spacing-phrases like “like” or “you know?”, I find that more offensive because it’s devaluing what swearing is for – to provide a shock, a verbal punch, to emphasize a strong emotion. People who use curse-words well – like Victor Hugo’s “merde!” in Les Miserables – I kinda feel everyone should see that use of language, because it’s language being used exceptionally well and a good lesson for anyone…

    So, that’s digressing. Ahem. I really like the A/B testing suggestion – but I’ll nail my colors to the suggestion for having an advisory notice up front and letting viewers/listeners decide – and maybe, if the swearing isn’t a huge amount, include in the notice (or shownotes) some indicator of how many minutes in that the airwaves turn blue?

  56. LisaBeth Klein says:

    Excellent post. Like others I believe the “warning” before a show would be the best option- as in that way you are keeping it completely real for the viewer as well as for the guests. People then have the option to do what they need to if such things offend them. I, personally, don’t tend to edit myself. People who know me will tell you that what you see is what you get. I’m like that in my personal as well as professional life. Has it ruffled some feathers on occasion? Sure, but I stayed true to who I am and far more often than not it’s been appreciated. Do I drop an f bomb here and there? On occasion, as you stated sometimes it just truly is the best word. And as some of the others posters have commented, people often appreciate that realness far more than any offense it may bring.

  57. Donna Hartmann says:

    Words are powerful, in the literal sense that power — emotion — is contained within the words themselves. That is why the act of breaking a word down into its component parts is called “spelling.” The ancient Egyptians discovered this power contained in words as expressive of something more potent than a grunt. Hieroglyph = sacred writing. Those who are empathic (like you, Jon) feel the emotions behind words. As for the word “fuck” — there is (historically) a lot of pain in that word, and I actually wince sometimes when I hear it — I feel the pain in the word, and the pain of the user of the word. All you have to do is try a few important words (e.g., love, destroy, sweet) and see how you feel when you say them. Soft, powerful, calm, agitated, pained, whatever — it is good to have an awareness of how you feel when speaking (spelling) certain words, and be sure that that is the emotion you are authentically wanting to convey to your listeners. Words are powerful.

  58. Bicki says:

    Jonathan, I find it interesting and very appropriate that you would use the word f-Bomb in relation to your discussion of this conversation/language issue. The word “conversation” for the most part carries the energy of being alive, living and doing it together with one another. The word “bomb” for the most part carries the energy of death, destruction and violence.

    Are we as a society languaging ourselves into a war? Are we making a subtle agreement to energetically devalue, denude and wound one another with the energy of our words? Is it being truly authentic, or is it a form of laziness about the heart and soul business of dealing with our angers and unforgivingness? Is this habitual languaging at the expense of inner peace and outer peace with ourselves and our neighbors? Does the f-bomb authentically bring the energy of peace, love and wonderful solutions to our community and conversations, or does it more truthfully reveal the frustrations, angers and judgements about how we think things should be?

    Does the f-bomb and similar ‘colorful’ language really expand the power of our ideas for greater good and manifestation or does it in a subtle way undermine and weaken their foundations with imperceptible fractures? In using and making space for the f-bomb and it’s relatives, are we not more truthfully choosing to expand the negative energies around us rather than seeking ways to expand the positive, joyful and healing energies?

    Can we not, as a community seeking the greater good, use our everyday language more consciously in an effort to find the words and energies that enliven greater possibilities and expansion of peace and loving kindness in our world?

  59. Darren Beck says:

    Just go for it. Warn up front and then let people make the decision for themselves. I have a fairly uncensored conversational style, but always try to take into account who I am speaking with and what the topic happens to be. I tell students that being true to themselves can get messy at times, but it is so much better than pretending to be something we are not, perfect. People who are honest with themselves and others are not always going to say things pretty, but we seem to value that realness more than ones that come off a titch self-righteous. Keep up the great work!

  60. I’m just glad you interviewed Gala Darling. As a fellow Kiwi she was one of the first bloggers I came across who really inspired me for just being completely and utterly her. So when it comes to this be her true self on camera, then we want to see her, unedited, exactly as she is.

    This is your special gift Jonathan, to allow us to see others in their true greatest form of themselves.

  61. Karen Bowden says:

    Here’s a true story for consideration. I saw Eddie Murphy do a live show many years ago. Every other word was F this and F that. Unfortunately, that’s all I remember about the show. The old saying about everything in moderation might be appropriate. Consider if the expletives are necessary. For example, in some Mel Brooks movies when specific words are bleeped out the joke just doesn’t work. Personally, in professional writing (and listening) I do not expect to find expletives. In general, I have noticed that expletives do not add anything to the conversation except shock value. So, you must determine if they are absolutely necessary to convey the intended message.

  62. David says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    have really enjoyed the contributions of all of the above.

    Can’t think of the last time I saw or shared in a debate covering such an interesting, everyday observation of words and the context impact of words among “practicing or non practicing” adults 🙂

    My default setting is definitely ” non practicing” although of course no angel and it doesn’t strictly have to the proverbial “hammer and thumb” to shatter my carefully crafted public persona 🙂

    But, like others listed before my entry , I feel that my word quality definitely affects my personal psyche and my observed impact with others. Respect can diminish from my point if I introduce language that is not context specific.

    With young children of my own, like many of your audience, self restraint on my part is a given and certainly I would be extremely hesitant, likely horrified, to air ” verbally” in front of your daughter for instance or anyone’s daughter for that matter.

    In all business meetings, parties, presentations or social gatherings, I find my mind “groaning” when expletives move from the unexpected but undoubtedly funny to the default connectives between thoughts.

    I am of the position that if the interviewee understands the width of the viewing audience then they would self regulate as they undoubtedly do in most other social public situations.

    And that is exactly where I believe GLP already sits without need to make any adjustments or adding an Adult Warning message.

    Your blog and GLP constantly challenges my intellect, my values, my prejudices, assumptions and limiting beliefs.

    It also lifts my spirit, makes me laugh, raises my admiration for people on the programmes and helps me to tune in to the story.

    And that’s what I want to remember – the story.

  63. I love the GLP but I must say some of the interviews struck me as overly sterile. Occasional use of curse words doesn’t bother me, esp. on the internet.

    I’d suggest that if you have an interview that might not be fit for a family audience, note that there is colorful language in the beginning, and let parents decide.

  64. Saul says:

    Yeah, I tend to lose respect for shows/blogs that start bleeping things. There are so other things to worry about in life, that the more those of us who AREN’T offended by certain words pretend that there’s a good reason to be offended by them…. the more it continues the cycle.

    I say let the words be.

  65. Greg says:

    This is a great topic and one I’m struggling with myself. I also do not naturally have an ultra-clean mouth and like to say – and write – the FWord.

    It seems to me though that the heart of this topic is less about swearing than about when, how and with whom we are allowed to just be ourselves.

    I often don’t feel I KNOW what my “true” self is, anyway. I’m a different person with different people, and entirely different when alone. All these “selves” are, to some degree, “true.”

    I suppose I’m my most comfortable self when I’m alone, but I don’t know that that self is more true than any of the others.

    Some great food for thought here. Thanks!

  66. Caren says:

    I find it authentic of you to share how the lines gets blurred.I personally think that your guests words should be their words.

    Disclaimers work. If I read a violence disclaimer, I would simply skip that one. That’s me taking responsibility for what I let in.


  67. Jess says:

    Words are such powerful things…but whilst I don’t think people should be throwing expletives around simply to ruffle a few feathers, I certainly don’t see a problem with it when emphasising a point.

    This has really got me thinking though, so thanks!

  68. Jennifer says:

    I definitely think that it’s alright to use those words, but I also feel that we could definitely use words that are smarter.

  69. Janette says:

    As a professional by day and a stand-up comedian by night, I understand the tightrope. I go between two worlds with very different communication norms. Personally, I like people better when they curse. It makes me feel relaxed. Especially when they curse at my day job.

    Do what feels right. And if someone doesn’t like it– then fuck ’em.

    (Had to, had to, had to). 😉