By now the whole world has blown up over President Trump's "sh!thole" remark. It even caused a stir as foreign newspapers tried to figure out how to translate the word properly.
Chinese media outlets are tightly controlled and have relatively little latitude when it comes to creative interpretations. The official Xinhua News Agency and other outlets translated the expletive as "fenkeng" -- literally "cesspit."
In Africa, the continent that was the object of Trump's insult, Tanzania's Mwananchi newspaper translated his comment as "mataifa chafu" -- simply, "dirty countries."
Taifa Leo, a sister Swahili publication to Kenya's leading Daily Nation, chose "nchi za kinyesi," a more or less direct translation that has a gentler word for excrement.
I don't want to address the content or of his remarks or what they mean in a global content. I want to address his word choice.
This is what we call a swear word. And I know, I'm an old-fashioned kind of a gal, because I don't swear and I have said in the past that it's not appropriate in the workplace. (I totally understand an expletive when you accidentally drop a box of printer toner on your foot and splatter cyan all over your white blouse.) When I say swearing at work isn't appropriate, I get comments like this one (edited by replacing all bad words with "squid lips"):
I swear all the squid lips time and guess what; many people consider me intelligent. Are you seriously going to attempt to tell me that I don't have a rich vocabulary because I use words like "squid lips," "squid lips," "squid lips"? How about you fix your lack of understanding; I don't give a squid lip which words I use no matter how rich my vocabulary is. It's really that simple.
You need to educate yourself; your puritan belief system is nothing but non-sense.
Nonsense, eh? Let's think about what would have happened if President Trump had used the type of language that I advocate. Then his quote would read like this:
"Why are we having all these people from unstable and unsafe countries come here? Why aren't we attracting people from places like Norway?"
Much less inflammatory, and it opens the conversation for discussion. Why don't we attract people from stable countries? It's pretty obvious why people would want to leave a dangerous place to come to the United States, but what can we do to make our country more attractive to the rest of the world?
Totally different, right?
Alas, that doesn't fit the president's personality. However, bad language in the White House is nothing new. Democrats and Republicans alike have been known to use "salty" language while governing. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were famously foul-mouthed. Barack Obama explained his philosophy toward swearing like this:
I curse. I curse. ... Bad stuff, or stupid stuff, is happening constantly, right? Every day. So you have to be able to just make fun of a lot of that. Like "that was even dumber and more annoying than usual." That's when cursing is really valuable.
I disagree, as I rarely see the value in cursing. Nevertheless, many choose to do it. I'm not the morality police, but I am going to point out that when you choose to use strong language, you bring a lot of baggage with it. You may offend people when it's completely unnecessary. This whole thing would be a non-story if President Trump had used respectful language.
When a manager uses bad language it can be interpreted in ways that person didn't mean. Is calling a female employee a [squid lip] a sexist remark, or just a word that this manager uses 50 times a day? When someone says "go [squid lip] yourself," is that sexual in nature, or just a general remark of anger? Do you want to land in court on a sexual harassment/gender discrimination charge over words that you use that have additional meanings, none of them good?
Of course you don't. So, think about that before you shoot your mouth off again. Try using polite language to get your point across and you might find that people take you more seriously.