Cussing - all in an effing day's work

By Alive Neville, Andrew Alderson

Black Caps cricketer Tim Southee has been banned for a match after a foul-mouthed outburst, as the sport cracks down on on-field swearing.

But experts say cricket officials may be fighting a losing battle - New Zealanders seem to be becoming more immune to workplace cussing.

Victoria University linguistics professor Janet Holmes, who has researched swearing in the workplace, has found that being potty-mouthed is not a problem in many jobs.

"We found quite different norms in different workplaces," she said. "There are workplace teams where swearing is not only acceptable, but even normal, and part of what makes the group feel like it belongs together."

Even the most obscene insult is okay in some contexts, as long as it's said with a smile on your face. "Jocular insults are an example of making it clear you belong to the team," she said.

Holmes said that swearing was more likely to be acceptable in blue-collar workplaces. "But there are some white collar workplaces where it's perfectly okay to swear," she added.

In the world of sport and entertainment, cricket's toughened stance seems to be a lone one. TV close-ups of rugby players often show their mouths clearly forming a swear word and anyone who has turned on their TV after 8.30pm or listened to Lily Allen - whose song F*** You is a worldwide hit - will know cussing is fairly common.

Both Northern Districts' Tim Southee and Central Districts' Tim Weston have faced the NZC commissioner to defend charges brought by umpires. Southee was banned for one match while Weston was let off.

That follows what Cricket Players Association (CPA) boss Heath Mills describes as a "vigilant" note sent out at the start of the season. But Mills said players weren't perfect.

"I think it's misguided to try to snuff out every swear word. It's human nature people will express frustration in intense situations."

NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan agreed. "You can't eliminate competitiveness. And on a cricket field I think you can say some things you mightn't say walking down a busy street for instance. It's about judging where it crosses into unacceptable behaviour.

"Compared to 10 years ago on-field standards have improved dramatically."

Mills says that's been a trend. "Consistently results in the player surveys show on-field behaviour has been better than it's ever been.

"If anything, club cricket is the part needing attention on the language front."

Northern Districts chief executive David Cooper said that since the Southee incident and the team's move to support breast cancer by wearing pink uniforms in the limited overs competitions, there had been no further problems.

"Men in pink aren't likely to overstep the mark."

While swearing can have a positive effect in the workplace by uniting people, researchers have found it has even greater benefits.

In July last year, psychologists from a British university released their findings of a study that discovered swearing can reduce pain.

"Swearing triggers not only an emotional response, but a physical one too," said Richard Stephens of Keele University.

- Herald on Sunday

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