Is swearing a ‘bad habit’ or just part of the job?

By Jarrod
3 Min Read

No job site is complete without the constant barrage of f-bombs flying between tradies, but research reveals swearing may just be all part of the job. 

In her paper, Swearing in the ‘Tradie’ Environment as a Tool for Solidaritylinguist and speech pathologist Lauren Mcleod found that, while hard on the ears, swearing might play an important part in bringing tradies together on the worksite. 

Analysing ten conversations recorded between five tradies on their lunchbreaks, McLeod discovered that swearing didn’t hold the same ‘taboo’ for tradies as it does for the rest of society. 

“Just as the phrases, for god’s sake!, hell no!, and damn it! have lost their offensive nature over time, the functions of more obscene words such as f**k and c**t are slowly shifting within society,” read the paper. 

“Due to their excessive use of swear words, Australian tradespeople are often regarded as unintelligent and extremely crass.

“However, it is proposed that this extreme use of profanity in the tradie workplace is not a signal of a lack of intelligence but rather a tool used for building and maintaining positive affiliations between members of this unique culture.”

After listening to all the recordings, Mcelod saw that within a 25-minute period, tradies used a far higher number of intense swear words than what might be considered “socially acceptable” in public.    

However, Mcleod found that despite their frequent use, swearing wasn’t used in the expected derogatory manner, instead using the rough language to build rapport amongst fellow workers. 

“These expletives mostly occurred in general, everyday discussions as both exemplifiers and as a means of building solidarity within the group,” said Mcleod. 

“Although widely perceived insults like “F**k you!” were used quite often, analysis of the speaker’s intention and hearer’s reaction has shown that the phrase was used as a kind of jocular mockery.

“These conversations demonstrate how excessive numbers of swear words are simply accepted as the norm and in some cases can even fuel the humour of a conversation. It is clear from the participants’ continual laughter that at no point is anyone stunned or insulted by the speaker’s behaviour.”

Building a community

While continual swearing might be a shock for some within earshot of the work site, McLeod proposes that this harsh language is just a part of the “tradie club”.

“For the most part, tradies communicate in this way in order to differentiate their culture from the rest of the community,” she said. 

“For the tradie culture at least, these words have begun to lose their literal or offensive meanings and instead are used throughout in‐group conversations as a marker of membership and a means of differentiation.”

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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.

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