Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Boy that timeberwolf was one ectoplasm deal

Political correctness has seeped into every facet of life. Witness Goldman Sachs's recent policy banning profanity from emails. Fair enough - it seems reasonable that employees should not using four letter expletives in formal communication. But then where does normal venting of spleen end and profanity start ? Apparently asterisks aren't allowed too. You can't say s@#*. You can't use popular abbreviations such as WTF. Where will this end ? I know where it will end. There will be a Chief Language Officer appointed !

Goldman's reaction is perfectly understandable. In Senate hearings (now commonplace risks for any company), the famous email from Thomas Muntag has been oft quoted  "Boy, that timberwolf was one s___ deal" - now you can understand the title of this post, can't you. This innocuous email has come to haunt the company as pompous and self righteous senators (whose vocabulary of four letter words is no less fearsome) have used it to portray the company as a big bad wolf.

Sure, anybody must be careful if what he puts on an email. Surprisingly, we often write something in an email that we would never dare to say in someone's face. Email provides a false sense of anonymity that leads people to drop their normal caution. Hence the golden rules - never send an email in anger. If you are provoked to send a stinging response, save it in drafts and think about sending it tomorrow. Remember that every email is stored on the company's servers even if you have deleted it from your mailbox. Consider what would happen if your email were published in the front page of the newspaper - would you be mortified at your language or not ?

But policing language seems a bad idea. Social relationships ensure that people would find their own acceptable language. What is profanity in one culture is perfectly acceptable in another. People who use offensive or vulgar language will be  automatically restrained or shunned by their colleagues. It would be better to leave the policy as bad language would be unacceptable and leave the group to determine what is good and bad.

Our respected brethren at Goldman Sachs may be interested to know that their dilemma is not new. It came to one Georges Remi, a Belgian. He was wanting to create a series for children in which one character was a colourful sea captain who was prone to swearing at the drop of a hat. But then, how could you get swearing into a children's series. Remi solved it in a very original way. Thus came the series of mighty oaths that have entertained  millions of us. Billions of blue blistering barnacles, ten thousand thundering typhoons, troglodyte, sea gherkin, blundering bazookas and the like.

Goldman Sachs employees can now send the email - Boy, that timberwolf was one ectoplasm deal. Its officially allowed.

17 comments:

le embrouille blogueur said...

Eureka Eureka ..... Ramesh is back in regular action after his return to India. The Captain and Goldman Sachs in the same post.Only you can draw such an amazing and apt comparison.Brilliant.I would like to be appointed as the CLO ...because I used to be a potty mouth.Now we are mindful because Onga is picking up stuff like pigeons at Gateway of India. :)

zeno said...

Well interesting post, so are you telling us, no profanity but dont enforce it as a rule? So why shouldn't that be extended even to dress code policy?
Disclosure: I do swear and dress sloppily. Oh by the way i have even sent some interesting mails and have even faced the music :P :D

kiwibloke said...

Swearing adds spice! Ask my mates in Bangalore about my colorful language! As long as your immediate environment accepts it, it's fine. But I am extremely conscious of this when there is any lady in the gathering. I then switch from 'French' to Shakespearen English. (Conditioned that way in NZ, where you can be sued for SH for using bad lingo) There is one exception though amongst all my lady colleagues. Prizes for guessing?

Durga said...

Profanities have become the norm. It has become an acceptable part of corporate culture which, many think, that by using expletives, one is establishing his/her authority and position occupied in the organisation. Unfortunately, the "lesser mortals" get a rap on the knuckles for using expletives. The "luminaries" get away with it. I concede that dealing with some people is an exasperating experience and no matter how spohisticated one is, they tend to mutter expletives to themselves, if not aloud!

But if I were to envision people doing a Captain Haddock in their corporate lives, I'd be more than willing to listen to all those curses! Imagine a person calling his boss a Bald Headed Budgerigar just because his appraisal/hike wasn't as per his expectation! Or calling a slow team member a Dunderheaded Coconut!

And kiwibloke, I have a vague idea who that exception might be. Not sure though! :-D

kiwibloke said...

Durga. I have been your boss for quite a while and I have the Yul Brynner or Telly Savalas 'hair'style(by design since 2003) Was that a Freudian Slip about the Budgie! Ha Ha

Anonymous said...

LOL :D ectoplasm padicha udanaye nenachen..ithu engayo keta mathiri irukaynu :D my boiling point is just above my freezing and most of the time i end up searching for my lost temper :( i first pew out all venom in a mail and save it..after a few minutes will re read it and make corrections in that..the final draft would be a 360 degree change on the first version and might probably contain some smileys too :D definitely the intent would've been conveyed but in a more satirical way :) i find that it irks people more when they are made fun of.. rather than being shouted at in mail :D hehee

Anonymous said...

LOL :D ectoplasm padicha udanaye nenachen..ithu engayo keta mathiri irukaynu :D my boiling point is just above my freezing and most of the time i end up searching for my lost temper :( i first pew out all venom in a mail and save it..after a few minutes will re read it and make corrections in that..the final draft would be a 360 degree change on the first version and might probably contain some smileys too :D definitely the intent would've been conveyed but in a more satirical way :) i find that it irks people more when they are made fun of.. rather than being shouted at in mail :D hehee

Ramesh said...

@blogeueur Ideal candidate for CLO, since we can't even pronounce your name !! Onga will only pick up the nuances from your delightful conversation style.

@zeno - I am all for not nannying employees. Dress code should just say neat attire and leave it at that.

@kiwi - even when you use "hot" language its all in good spirit and we all know when never to cross a line. Yes, I can guess the lady in question.

@Durga - Yes aggressive behaviour to put down people is not on, swearing or no swearing. I love the Dunderhead Coconut !!

Deepa said...

There was a phase when I was absolutely puritanistic about profanities, but friends and well-wishers turned me into a "normal human being"! :) Not that you would hear me dole out some gems with elan, but now I can appreciate the humour and the ingenuity!

But coming to think of it, when a door is closed, there's always a creative way out, just like you found out. Cocktails became popular during the prohibition period in the US, 'coz liqour was illegal during that time! :)
-----------------------------

Btw, after reading the comments I've learnt, not only one should watch the contents of the mail, but also who all are in CC.

:D :D :D (all in good humour!)

Ramesh said...

@Gils - Excellent. There's no better wa than humour if you really want to sting somebody. Nice tuch about the boiling point being very close to the freezing point !

@Deepa - Colourful language will out itself, but I really think moral policing of language is a step too far. Nice one about the cc !!!

Durga said...

@ Kiwi - Boss! That was mere coincidence! :-) Btw, you were not my only boss! Will let you draw your own inferences about the Budgie! ;-)

Vishal said...

Thankfully, I am currently with a company (or perhaps in company of people) where such language is rarely used. Though, there are people who vent out their anger furiously, seldom they cross any line. Emails does not contain such things at all.

I guess any provocative emails for that matter (whether swearing or no swearing, as you rightly said) does not contribute a single penny in resolving the matter. It is very easy to write something in the emails and start a never ending chain. More important is to avoid any altercations and look to close the matter.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - I still continue to be amazed how awful some emails are. From perfectly reasonable people.

zeno said...

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/breaking-news/its-ok-to-tell-police-officers-to-fck-off/story-e6freuz0-1225902009653

I just just couldnt resist giving this link!I was reading this link and just couldn't help be reminded about your post!

Ramesh said...

@zeno - Ha Ha .

Sandhya Sriram said...

well, the topic did not really ring a bell to me as i am neither obsessed with usage of the "Human language" nor does it really bother me if someone else does so. when i was in school, i think some class 6th or 7th, in one of the heated debates on some topic with a fellow student, he used the word F@!# u. and i went to the toilet and cried for a long time. now i have a hearty laugh when i think of that episode.

i agree with you that moral policing on language may not be required, but some people do go overboard and are not really bothered about the context. but as you rightly said, social circles take care of this unless the person is too important or too high in the hierarchy and people have to end up putting up with stuff of this sort.

PS - every thing on world conspired against me coming on your comment column in the past few days. finally managed :-)

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Yeah - actually this isn't all that big a deal and probably the less said, the better.

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