is it OK to say “Jesus Christ” as an expression of frustration at work?

A reader writes:

Is “Jesus Christ” an inappropriate substitution for swear words in the workplace?

I have an employee, Angela, who has approached management (not me directly, but someone who reports to me) because she is uncomfortable with her colleague’s use of “Jesus Christ” when frustrated. Instead of a grunt when picking up something, Phyllis will say, “Oof, Jesus Christ.” When Phyllis makes a mistake, she’ll say “Oh, Jesus Christ.” Things like that. Angela and Phyllis both work in front-facing positions where customers may overhear it.

From my understanding (again, hearing it secondhand), the problem is twofold. 1. Angela is worried that it’s directed AT her and that Phyllis is frustrated with Angela specifically. 2. If customers overhear Phyllis say it, it may be offensive to them. (Angela did not say that she herself is offended, just cited the potential for customers to be.)

I am not religious now, but growing up, I was taught not to say “Oh my God” or anything of that ilk, so I do realize there are people who may take offense. But I’ve really never thought about having a chat with an employee over the use of it, and I absolutely hear multiple people use this phrase every day. I’d much rather someone say “Jesus Christ” than drop an F-bomb on the service floor. However, I’m worried I’m letting my atheism minimize the situation.

The manager Angela approached and I both plan on watching the situation. Neither of us believe Phyllis is directing it at Angela, and we’ll definitely clear that up between them. But, we’re curious if Phyllis is saying it loud enough for customers to hear. Does it even matter whether or not customers can hear it — is it just inappropriate period? Do we tell Phyllis that she can’t say “Jesus Christ” at work?

Using “Jesus Christ” that way offends enough people that I wouldn’t want it used around customers any more than I’d want profanity used around customers. But more concerning to me would be the hostile vibe of the exclamation; it’s not great for customers to hear angry, frustrated, or jarring outbursts, no matter their content. So I’d advocate for addressing it with Phyllis as part of the overall polish required when you’re working around customers.

I don’t think you need to ban it at work in non-customer-facing areas though. If an employee is personally offended (which doesn’t sound like the situation here — or least if it is, Angela hasn’t said that yet), it’s reasonable to ask their colleagues to make an effort to stop using it around that person, which is different than a complete ban.

If employees use the phrase around a coworker because of the coworker’s religion, not just because they’re in the habit of using it generally, that’s a different issue and would be illegal harassment that the company has an obligation to stop. That’s backed up by court cases like Griffin v. City of Portland, where the use of “Jesus Christ” was specifically at issue. In that case, the court noted, “A line exists between the use of general profanity in the workplace and the use of profanity directed at the plaintiff because of her religion” and “If the speaker used the terms out of habit, perhaps without even thinking of their religious connotations, and not because of (the plaintiff’s) beliefs, then such language … could not be used to support the claim.” (In that case, some of the language was directed at the plaintiff because of her religion and thus she won the suit.)

{ 402 comments… read them below }

  1. sweary religious person*

    Hmmm, so as a sweary religious person, the framing of “Jesus Christ” as a *substitute* for swearing is odd to me. Used as an exclamation in that way, “Jesus Christ” IS a swear. And, though I don’t care if other people use it, it’s a swear that I personally avoid using; the f word actually feels more innocuous.

    I bring this up simply to help OP see another perspective on how the language may be coming across.

    1. Sir Ulrich Von Liechtenstein*

      Agreed. I wouldn’t say it’s offensive to me (as another religious person) but on the scale of sweariness, I’d categorize “Jesus Christ!” as being closer to “Damn it!” than to fiddlesticks/fudge/other deliberately SFW pseudo-swears.

      1. Chris too*

        I find “Jesus Christ,” more offensive than the f word too. Because people in general aren’t as religious any more, they don’t realize that Jesus Christ is a *literal* swear word, whereas all the words referring to bodily functions are just potty talk.

        That said, I’m not going to faint with horror when my boss uses it, but I’d be upset if it were somehow considered ok when potty talk wasn’t.

        1. JustaTech*

          When I was a tween going to sleep-away camp one of my cabin counselor’s rules was “no taking the Lord’s name in vain”, and that it was better to use other, “harder” swear words. I had to have this explained to me because even though I was in the choir at my church, the East Coast Episcopalian approach to swearing was very different from the probably-Baptist Southern approach to swearing.

          All of which is to say that it is very much dependent on cultural context, and it is one of those phrases that is very likely to seriously upset some people, which given that there are customers in the area, is more likely to happen than in the back room. So it would be easier to ask Phyllis to try to find a new mild swear (because to people who aren’t concerned about taking the lord’s name in vain, saying “Jesus Christ” *is* a mild swear).

        2. starfox*

          Yes, this is how I feel. If all the other “swear words” were banned, it seems like it’s being disrespectful of someone’s religion to allow this one? But if people say all kinds of swear words, and this one, it doesn’t seem bad.

          I’m semi-religious, and I will say every curse word out there, but I won’t say “Jesus Christ” or even “oh my God.” I’m offended if others do or anything… but in my mind, the f word is “fine” but “taking the Lord’s name in vain” is… bad. (Even though I don’t think God, if God exists, and if God exists as I understand God would ever care….)

      2. lostclone*

        I mean – it depends on cultural context right? I wouldn’t consider it a ‘real’ swear word or the least bit offensive, but obviously I wouldn’t use it in front of someone who might be upset by it!

      3. RagingADHD*

        In my formative years, I once had a very interesting discussion with a teacher about the technical distinctions among vulgarity, profanity, and blasphemy.

        Vulgarity is using crude or pejorative terms for body parts, body functions, or body waste.
        Profanity (being profane) is using the name of a diety “in vain” as an oath or a curse.
        Blasphemy is insulting, mocking or degrading a diety directly.

        Non-religious people tend to understand that blasphemy would be offensive, but consider profanity as less offensive than strong vulgarity, because you aren’t mentioning anything that can’t be discussed in polite company.

        The more religious someone is, the more likely they are to consider profanity worse than vulgarity. They hold the diety’s name as sacred, so misusing it is a serious violation, while body talk is merely coarse.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think across languages, profanity pretty much comes down to “Sex!” “Excrement!” “God!” I’d be interested in exceptions.

      I have read that all languages have some form of bad words you shouldn’t say–it seems to be something every culture feels a need to develop.

      1. many bells down*

        It’s really interesting what some of them are, too. Like the “big bad” Finnish swear word is basically just “the devil” or “dammit” translated literally. And in Quebec it’s “tabernac” that’s the very naughty word. So, god-adjacent profanity, as it were.

        1. Anecdata*

          I worked in a French speaking environment for a couple years (and am practicing Catholic) and I found the occasional Quebecois use of “tabernac” as a swear /deeply/ jarring. I think it is because it only “works” as a swear /because/
          it’s sacred to me, and the user is basically using something that’s deeply personally valuable and sensitive to me, but not to them, for their own convenience (although definitely not thinking of it that way)

          It’s tricky because Christianity has a cultural expression in the US (and Catholicism in Quebec) that can make it feel like a shared heritage that’s open game for anyone to use the trappings of (and often enjoys the privilege of majority status; I don’t want to say it’s the same as eg. using words of religious significance to groups historically discriminated against in jest or as swears, without being a member of those groups) but still… if you can possibly avoid it, please don’t use those words at work. I’d /much/ rather hear f***!

          1. Anon For This*

            Christianity has a cultural expression in the US (and Catholicism in Quebec) that can make it feel like a shared heritage that’s open game for anyone
            I think, for many of us in the US and Canada, it’s in part because Christianity in general is essentially the dominant culture, that it is hegemonic… many of us who are not simply ex-Christians or atheists whose ancestors practiced Christianity, but who come from non-Christian ethnic groups and who actively practice religions that are not Christianity – we experience Christianity (whether religious or “secular”) as an imposition that we have no control over.

            So to be perfectly frank, I don’t really care about offending Christians, when everything about the culture in which I live privileges their preferences and practices, and when I experience this every single day of my life, and especially during the Christian holiday season.

            If I know a specific individual in my immediate vicinity is offended by this usage, I’ll avoid doing it around them. But beyond that, I’m not going to make any special effort.

            1. Observer*

              <i.So to be perfectly frank, I don’t really care about offending Christians, when everything about the culture in which I live privileges their preferences and practices

              This is something that I have a lot of sympathy for. But the OP *does* need to care about offending Christians, because they happen to be their customers.

              Of course, since there are probably a significant number of non-Christians among the customers, they need to worry about offending them too, but that’s a different piece of the discussion.

            2. Little My*

              Yeah, I feel like one of the benefits of not being Christian anymore is not having to be scolded for taking the Lord’s name in vain, since it is a very common way to express mild distress in American English. The people in my life who care about this are very religious (and specifically evangelical and conservative, not to say that’s everyone). I can see asking someone not to use any negative exclamations when they can be heard, or asking someone not to direct religious exclamations at their religious coworker, but “Jesus Christ” is not bad enough to get you fined by the FCC. Being told not to take the Lord’s name in vain would feel like adding an uncomfortable religious overtone to the workplace, honestly.

              1. BabyElephantWalk*

                It’s hard because it’s very not ok to disrespect someone’s religion. If people were saying “Allah” as a swear word in the workplace, it would absolutely make sense to ask for that to stop.

                But when we pair that with how dominant and oppressive North American Christian culture is, it becomes a dichotomy and I think there’s no easy solution. The best option might be to make a blanket statement about not using any diety’s name as a swear.

            3. MBK*

              I don’t care at all about being offensive toward Christianity conceptually, or individual institutions like the Catholic Church or the Southern Baptist Convention. But I do care about individual Christians – the vast majority of whom are not directly responsible for the overreaches and abuses of their institutions – and I therefore care about offending individual people.

              Kind of like the current geopolitical situation. I’ll blast Russia all day every day. But I also work with several Russian expats who still love their country of origin, and I’m sensitive to their conflicted feelings about it all. I won’t shy away from expressing opinions about the war or about Putin (though such things generally don’t come up at work), but I’ll steer clear of anything that might be construed as being directed toward Russians or Russia as a whole.

            4. si*

              Same here, really. Christianity got all up in my childhood and my culture without my permission, my country privileges Christianity and Christian worship, so you bet I’m going to choose how I interact with it. I’m going to take the bits I like (Christmas) and use them in a thoroughly irreligious way, I’m going to be flippant about the bits I don’t like, and everyone will survive. Of course I won’t go out of my way to be rude or upsetting to the individuals around me, but I’m not going to afford religion more consideration than it has ever afforded me.

          2. AntsOnMyTable*

            I will make efforts to eradicate it from my language as long as those who are religious stop saying “god bless you” or “I will pray for you” or any other ways that they try and put their religion on me. I find it offensive and it frustrates me that I am suppose to not allude to the fact that god doesn’t exist but others are allowed to proclaim the supposed existence willy nilly.

        2. Elder Millennial*

          In Dutch we have a whole bunch of swears/exclamations/slurs that are all illnesses. Most of them are by now no longer around or no longer dangerous, bur there is still a not insignificant part of the population that curses by means of cancer, which is actually quite painful for me, as someone who lost basically half my family to that particular disease. (I am wondering whether COVID will make its way into that list too, in a couple of years.)

          1. Clorinda*

            How interesting. A lot of the swear words in Shakespeare are disease-related too, such as “pox” and “plaguey” and some others.

            1. Somniloquist*

              Oh wow, I really need to bring back “a pox on both your houses!”

              I’m looking at ways to reduce my swearing in front of my kid but still have it fun. I was using “jumping Jesus Christ on a pogo stick” but now I’m reevaluating it based on this letter.

              My mom used to say “Jimeny Cricket”.

              1. Caroline Bowman*

                Jesus, Mary, Joseph AND THE WEE DONKEY is a deathless phrase, even better in a strong Northern Irish accent. I love it, along with Jesus Christ in the marketplace or ”for the LOVE of the Risen Christ”

                Then again, I swear like a very angry sailor and am resoundingly atheist so. Saying that, I do try and 99% succeed in not using my most profane language around those who don’t like it and most assuredly not in a work setting. That’s just unprofessional and has no place in a work environment.

                1. John Smith*

                  Eisbar. my Nan – a staunch Roman Catholic – would go through the entire heavenly hierarchy – seraphim, cherub, martyrs etc, and end with “and that poor little donkey” if she was sufficiently annoyed.

              2. TheRain'sSmallHands*

                My youngest says “sweet baby Jesus in mother Mary’s high heels!” And I’m fond of “Christ on crutches” but we are both audience aware when we say these things – as we are with other swear words – I can swear like a sailor, but don’t use those words at work and soften it to “darned” instead of “f’ing” which I’d use freely at home.

                Personally, I’d just mention it “hey, its been brought up that some of our customers would find this offensive – and if its a habit, we understand it will be hard to change and don’t expect perfection, but if you are saying this to avoid swearing….pick a different phrase.”

                1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

                  Oh, I have used the phrase “we need a come to Jesus meeting” at work….but I do chose the audience for it. It does get the point across.

                2. PerplexedPigeon*

                  Mine was always “Christ on a cracker!” But I now work in a high school so I tend to even keep that swearing to a minimum. Although the other day when I had forgotten for like the 3rd or 4th time to do something and then was asked again to complete the task, a very audible “daggummit!” came out in front of my seniors. And I wasn’t even sorry about it.

            2. As per Elaine*

              I am given to understand that “drat” was originally “God rot their bones” which feels like a rather more potent curse than we are accustomed to thinking of it.

              1. cmcinnyc*

                I can’t reply to @TheRain’sSmallHands, but I truly had no idea what that phrase meant when I first heard it. I was at work, and the boss sent out one of those ominous “staff meeting, now!” pings. I asked a co-worker (who is from the South) what was going on, and she said, “Come to Jesus meeting.” I seriously considered not going to the meeting. I thought she literally meant the boss had suddenly decided to proselytize on a hectic Tuesday!

        3. CatMintCat*

          Ijust had to google “tabernac” because my generationally-atheist mind was equating it with “tobacconist” not “tabernacle”. Words are hard sometimes.

          1. Chinook*

            Even googling the word “tabernac” won’t give you the flavour its offense, as it refers to the container housing the body of Christ, so it contains the most sacred thing in the Catholic Church. To those of us who believe, this is the centre of our faith. There is a reason it is considered a high level swear word in Quebecois French. It can be as jarring as hearing “Jesus Christ,” which are words I bow to when uttering them at mass.

            I like that someone referred to using “Allah” out of context in front of a Muslim – you are going to get a negative response from believers, whether it is an internal shudder or an external expression. Some of us have learned to school our responses but we are also judging the type of person you are based on how you not only use those phrases but also your reaction if you are politely asked not use another phrase (literally almost any other ones in the English language and rational people understand the difference between an automatic response vs. choosing words to express frustration). We aren’t asking you to change your beliefs, just respect that others may have beliefs different from yours.

            Which is also why the phrase “holy cow” was stricken from my language after my family hosted a Hindu exchange student. He wasn’t offended, he thought it unusually funny and a quaint cultural experience that was part of visiting rural Canada, but it did alter how I viewed “throw away phrases” and how they might be perceived by others.

            1. Gennaria*

              “Holy cow” is a good example. Another one that bothers me is the constant use of “Namaste” everywhere in Western culture, including truly heinous variations such as sleep shirts reading “Nama-stay in bed”, etc. Don’t use the sacred words of others if they’re not sacred to you, it’s tacky, and you can experience the tyranny of cultural hegemony and still be tacky in your response to it, I promise you. In my unscientific opinion, the world is generally the better for devotion in all its forms, mixed bag though it is. I remember in high school every time someone slipped and said, “Oh my God” in front of the nuns, which was rare, they would say, “That better be a prayer.”

        4. allathian*

          As a Finn, I’m not sure I agree. The “big bad” word you’re talking about is a loan word from the Baltic languages for the local god of thunder (equivalent of the Norse Thor), which became the Devil when Christianity became the dominant religion here. In practice, the most commonly used swear is a pejorative word for female genitalia, the equivalent of the c-word, but its usage is at least as frequent as that of the English f-word. Oddly enough, I find the English c-word far more offensive than its Finnish equivalent.

          We’ve become a very secular society, so profanity has largely lost its power to shock people, although long profane oaths are quite popular in some circles. “Jumalan pyssyt ja puukuulat!” (literal translation “God’s guns and wooden bullets!”) is one I heard frequently in my childhood.

          That said, I doubt swearing would be acceptable here in any workplace where it could be overheard by customers. It’s not the swearing itself that’s the biggest problem, it’s the overt expression of frustration in front of customers that is the problem, like Alison said.

      2. Toodie*

        When I was in grade school my best friend’s mom got us to start using “piffle bugs!” as our swear word. I’m still using it many many years later …

        1. Slightly Above Average Bear*

          I watched Angry Beavers around the same time I taught Kindergarten, so “spoot” was my “piffle bugs”.

          1. aunttora*

            I had adopted the Red Dwarf general swear “smeg” into my own vocabulary, turns out my manager was offended because of the word’s actual meaning (which I hadn’t really known). Well, smegging happy to report that manager has smegged off!

              1. Gritter*

                I can’t see a SMEG refrigerator without struggling to supress a snigger. My wife disowns me in John Lewis.

                1. workswitholdstuff*

                  I giggle too. And I used to work in call centre for extended warranties. I giggled internally though…

                2. GythaOgden*

                  Can’t afford a fridge, but saving up for a kettle!

                  They are probably laughing all the way to the bank thanks to us nerds.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              Oof. I don’t know. Maybe because I only know of the actual meaning, I’d be gagging if I heard you say it. I think it was used as a swear word in Fury Road as well.

        2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          My mother used to say “Sugar!” instead of “Sh*t!” and I 100% thought that sugar was a swear word when used in that context. It wasn’t until I was a tween that I realized it was just a her thing, not a general thing.

          1. QAPeon (formerly HelpDeskPeon)*

            I used to say Sugar and Fudge. To the point where when I once actually said Sh*t! (at work no less) – everyone in the room turned, stared, and then came to help with the thing I was struggling with and all but offered me smelling salts and a cold compress.

          2. Hollywood Handshake*

            My Girl Scout troop leader growing up used to say “Sugar Honey Iced Tea”. I didn’t realize the acronym for many years after I started saying it.

      3. metadata minion*

        I have issues with some of the conclusions in it, but if you want some interesting cross-language surveys on swearing, the book “Holy Sh*t” (asterisk in original) is a great pop-science introduction that goes into pretty much exactly that.

        1. Ghosty*

          I almost enjoyed that book but the voice was very strange. The author seemed almost viscerally uncomfortable with her topic. The history was interesting but it was definitely weird and occasionally jarring how hard she seemed to be cringing. I had put it down to her being (I presume!) middle class American vs me being Australasian but I could be wrong!

      4. Charlie*

        In the Netherlands they also swear with diseases. These days many people now think this is unacceptable, but you might still hear it if you do something really egregious such as walking in a cycle lane.

      5. ThursdaysGeek*

        Actually, vulgarities are words about sex and excrement, profanities are words with religious connotations.

        1. Philosophia*

          One more distinction: obscenity is the category for words about sex (although “when correctly viewed, everything is lewd”).

          1. Les Cargot*

            “I could tell you things about Peter Pan,
            And the Wizard of Oz —
            There’s a dirty old man!” — Tom Lehrer, who (fans may rejoice) has placed his works effectively in the public domain; see tomlehrersongs.com for details

      6. Zephy*

        There’s actually a difference between obscenity (“Sex!”), vulgarity (“Excrement!”), and profanity (“God!”). Which class of “exclamations and interjections used to intensify emotional expression” is appropriate in a given context and which class is “worse” in terms of being more offensive/extreme depends heavily on cultural context, both between and within cultures. There’s an OLD-old episode of Lexicon Valley about this, from the pre-McWhorter days even – if you’re curious I recommend checking it out.

      7. Jessica*

        In Spain there’s a whole series of swears/curses/praises connected to milk, as in breastmilk. Although excrement does get involved, as in describing what you might do to someone’s mother’s breastmilk. The funny thing is that falling/shitting are similar words in Spanish, so a “softened” version of this phrase is to say, literally, “I fall in the milk!” Which you might exclaim when, like, getting a flat tire. It’s a weird idiom. :)

        1. Nesprin*

          In Italian, Cavolo (cabbage) is a frequent stand in for their version of the F word.

      8. Lora*

        Exceptions: definitely look up the various South American varieties of Spanish, as they all have their own slang (or lunfardo in Argentina). Many are based on gang languages and dialects that are…I guess the closest English version would be Cockney? Some are class-based but a lot of the words themselves tend to be food-centered, and many are focused on various personal qualities (appearance, style, where you come from regionally) or occupation. There are a lot of interesting Colombian slang words in the first season of Narcos on Netflix, including a hitman who is named after a disease.

        My personal favorite, work-safe, is “noqui” (same as the Italian food, gnocchi): someone who has a job that pays them to sit around and do nothing, someone uselessly drawing a paycheck, often used to describe a government employee. Noqui being the Argentine equivalent of $0.20/pack snack ramen, it’s something you eat at the end of the week when you’re running out of money and payday isn’t for a couple of days, but it’s not actually good and doesn’t fill you up. So it’s a person who is not fulfilling their job.

      9. ThursdaysGeek*

        Now I’m curious. In Christian-dominant countries, there is the ‘don’t take the Lord’s name in vain’ vibe about profanities but profanities are also very commonly used. Is there something similar in Muslim-dominant or Buddhist-dominant countries? Is there an equivalent way of swearing using Mohammed’s or Krishna’s or even the FSM’s name in vain? And if not, why not?

        1. Whimsical Gadfly*

          My impression from my Desi and Indian friends is that you just want to be very careful about saying anything about any gods that you wouldn’t say to their face. Especially if you don’t know whose devotees are around you. And which sects/guru lines they are part of.

        2. Daisy Jane*

          Muslim reader from Muslim-dominated country here.

          No equivalent. In fact, it’s almost unthinkable to use God’s or The Prophet’s name in that way. It was very jarring to hear Jesus Christ used in that way at first, and I’m still uncomfortable with it.

      10. Saraquill*

        A healthy chunk of Mandarin profanity involves insulting someone’s family. It can get quite colorful, and horrific enough there are phrases I hesitate to repeat.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          There are good reasons to learn some Klingon. Even perfectly nice phrases *sound* ghastly with the right intonation.

          1. allathian*

            Indeed. I have the same reaction to hearing Arabic and Hebrew. Even innocuous phrases sound to me like someone’s uttering death threats. Oh well, some people say the same about Finnish, so turnabout’s fair play, I guess!

        2. allathian*

          How interesting. In many Western cultures, I expect the closest many Western cultures come to that are insults to someone’s parentage. But even bastard loses its power when the majority of first-born children are born to unmarried parents.

      11. hbc*

        My high school French teacher broke it down into sex, unhealthy/dirty, religious, and heritage. Most cultures have some of each, but usually there are gradations of badness to each. Calling someone a bastard or a son of a [something] is almost quaint in the US now, but in other places, it’s more directly offensive.

        Said teacher then helpfully supplied examples of each kind in several languages and analyzed their severity by culture. You have never seen a more engaged group of 15 year olds.

      12. Dr Sarah*

        I once read a children’s book by Noel Streatfeild in which one of the characters, at one point, expresses shock with the expression “Let me swim with my Aunt Fanny down the Suez Canal!” which I have never heard at any other point in my entire life. I have no idea whether Streatfeild got this from somewhere or invented it, but it… probably fits as an exception? Of course, ‘fanny’ has another meaning… I’m now thinking about whether this was a really subtle euphemism…

        Thinking about it, there’s another Streatfeild book in which one character says things like “Apple sauce!” as exclamations. (It’s so long since I read it that I can’t think of any other examples, but there definitely were others.)

        I’ve recently got into the habit of muttering “Oh, flaming Nora” when I’m annoyed about something, and I have absolutely no idea where I got this from, but I think it’s kind of cool so I’m keeping it. The ‘flaming’ does seem to go vaguely back to religion, but ‘Nora’ is pretty random. (My apologies to anyone named Nora; it isn’t personal!”

        And then there’s the good old traditional “Shine a light!”, which I also use all the time, but that one does of course derive from a better-known excrement-categorised obscenity.

    3. kittymommy*

      Yeah same. Also as a sweary religious person (seriously, the f word may be my favorite word) I don’t personally find using “Jesus Christ” offensive when others use though I do not myself as it feels more offensive and profane than almost every swear I can think of.

      1. dawbs*

        That’s rather how I land.
        I never swear at work (Hi, I work with kids, who will never hear me swear), but my OWN child knows how to use most of the major (and many of the minor) swears correctly from me (and also knows when not to use them! mostly. And also doesn’t say “God” as a swear) because I can swear with the best of them.

        I’m not really offended when people use “the Lord’s name in vain” profanities, but I’ve had at least a half-dozen swears today and I’m still trained to not saying “egads” or “gosh darn it” (these were ‘lightly using the lord’s name in vain’ growing up). I slip in an f-bomb well before I would say “jesus Christ” not just because of the childhood training but because I’m more OK w/ offending someone’s prudishness than their religion.

        1. allathian*

          My son went through a period when he was about 6 years old when he swore quite a lot. I sat him down, and told him we don’t mind if he swears occasionally at home, especially if he hurt himself (if I swear when I stub my toe, it would be unreasonable to expect my kid not to), but to avoid swearing in front of the grandparents who would take offence. Because we didn’t act shocked when we heard him swearing, he soon lost interest. Now that he’s almost 13, he pretty much never swears in our hearing. Obviously I have no control or knowledge of the language he uses with his friends, but his vocabulary is fairly large for his age, so he can express himself colorfully when necessary without resorting to swearing.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        This thread made me remember that my late dad (who was Catholic and swore like a sailor) used to say “Christ Jesus!” I’m not sure if that’s better, worse or exactly the same in terms of offensiveness.
        I also thought of Ted Hastings’ many colourful religious expressions on Line of Duty. Though to be fair, he is uncovering shocking levels of police corruption!

        1. Short’n’stout*

          “Christ Jesus” is used in religious texts – it’s exactly the same in terms of sacredness as “Jesus Christ”

      3. Nina*

        I’m a very sweary religious person, the kind of religious that would normally be expected to find ‘Jesus Christ’ offensive. I don’t find it offensive, except from my boss who has in the past told me he doesn’t like to hear swearing in the office and in front of whom I don’t swear at all, but it’s the hypocrisy that bothers me more than the profanity.
        I usually invoke Cthulhu but am partial to ‘holy mary mother of f***’.

      4. starfox*

        Yep, same. I’m religious-ish and not offended by it, but I would never use it myself.

    4. FormerLibrarian*

      I agree. I don’t think the employee should be saying this any more than any other swear word, whether Angela is offended or not. It’s quite possible that she’s bringing this up because she DOES find it offensive, but in a secular work place, she doesn’t want to seem overly sensitive. It’s a perfectly reasonable request that your coworker not openly swear around you. I disagree that it shouldn’t be generally banned, unless it’s in a work place where people frequently swear out of earshot of customers.

      1. kittymommy*

        This is a good point of view. Assuming that no one is offended because no one has said anything just feels a little off to me. I always think erring on the side of caution over things like these and not putting the onus on the employees/colleagues/others to express their discomfort is best practice, especially in the workplace where power dynamics can come into play more.

        1. FormerLibrarian*

          If anything, the existing debate here, which I’m sure varies widely regionally, is just more reason to be cautious and decide it’s not any more acceptable than the F-word. At my last workplace, we often swore in the back room and coworkers said these kinds of things, but no one complained because it fit the conversation. On the public floor, it would have been just as unacceptable as any other swear word. If the work place in question allows swearing away from customers, so be it. If not, this is unacceptable.

    5. Cj*

      I was confused by that too. OP asked if it is okay to use it in place of swearing, and Alison says she wouldn’t want it used in the workplace any more than she would want profanity used. But it is literally swearing / profanity.

      Even the court case referenced that is about this specific phrase refers to it as profanity.

      1. darlingpants*

        I mean, everyone is bleeping out f*ck and sh*t and so forth and even those who say it’s a worse swear than that are spelling the whole thing out. So there’s demonstrably a cultural difference between those two types of words.

        1. FormerLibrarian*

          I think people might be doing that because they think it might trigger an algorithm that will flag their comment. I will say that I deliberately left the swear in question out of my comment, because it’s just a swear word.

          1. darlingpants*

            But if the algorithm is set up to flag swears and it’s not flagging religious words then… that still a widespread cultural understanding that religious-based profanity doesn’t need to be moderated

            1. FormerLibrarian*

              You can use “Jesus Christ” in a way that isn’t swearing. You can’t do that with the words people are censoring.

              1. Anonymouse*

                Sure you can! Both “fuck” and “shit” are verbs. You can refer to the act of fucking, the act of shitting, of having a nice fuck, taking a shit, etc, and simply be literally describing something, rather than swearing. “Fucking” is certainly a more evocative way to describe intercourse than “having sex”, but it’s only a swear word when it’s used as a swear word.

                In the sentence, “That fucking asshole was fucking my sister this whole time!” “fucking asshole” is swearing, but “was fucking my sister” (if referring to an actual sexual relationship) is not.

      2. A*

        I agree with Alison, but I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s ‘literally swearing’. That’s very dependent on the individual and culture. I don’t say it because it’s easy enough to avoid and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I would never think of it as a swear – just as a phrase that can be offensive. That’s not to say some might find it both offensive and to be a swear, but I do not.

    6. Just Another Techie*

      Yes, it’s absolutely a swear in that context. And I’d treat it like any other outburst of profanity. If you don’t want the person in that position dropping the f-word or a GDI, then don’t allow JC either.

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed.

      While the f-bomb is widely frowned upon,it isn’t as bad as creating a hostile environment (in legal sense) by making people of Christian faith uncomfortable.

      Secular naughty naughty words for the win!

      1. Let’sBeReal*

        Also people of faiths other than Christian may be uncomfortable hearing a religious swear word/profanity. I’m not Christian, but JC used as a swear word makes me uncomfortable, likely because I am religious and object to irreverence in general.

    8. Seanchaigirl*

      Yeah, I’m confused about what it’s a replacement for. I would think replacements would be more like saying “cheese and rice” instead of Jesus Christ.

      1. rubble*

        I would say “jesus christ” or “jesus” at work in place of saying “fuck” or “shit”.

        I am australian and raised catholic, the whole “don’t take the lord’s name in vain” thing was taught to me as not saying “I swear to/on god [etc]” when it wasn’t a really serious situation. like if you’re going to swear an oath on god, you must really seriously mean it. but exclaiming “jesus” at my catholic school was perfectly acceptable – “fuck” or “shit” was not acceptable.

        I think the culture around christianity is very different here vs in america

    9. Hamster Manager*

      To me, the way the letter is written it’s unclear whether the tone of the exclamations are actually angry/passive-aggressively directed at Angela, or if they’re pretty banal and Angela is being overly-sensitive to it/reading things into it.

      Since it bothers Angela enough to bring it up, I assume it’s the former and Phyllis has a history of being passive-aggressive, and maybe that’s what Angela is getting at with her complaint? If so, that’s the behavior to address, not the particular words. (Though as a non-religious person, I’d also much prefer non-religious exclamations where possible, personally.)

      1. Short’n’stout*

        I find sudden angry outbursts unpleasant even if they’re not directed at me. It’s partly about being startled and distracted from what I’m doing, but also about being uncomfortable in the presence of someone else’s negative “energy” (there’s probably a term that better expresses what I mean, but it’s not coming to me right now).

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I agree. A former coworker used to growl to herself when she was frustrated. She was also prone to aggressive typing to the point that she got an extra-sturdy keyboard after she’d broken two of them in three years just by hitting the keys hard, i.e. she never used the keyboard as a blunt instrument or anything like that. That growl was very distracting when it came from behind a cubicle wall…

    10. Hannah Lee*

      From a workplace perspective, I think it’s perfectly fine to ask employees not to use profanities when they work in customer facing positions, or are in a space with customers, non-employees in general. They’re representing the company when they are at work, and sending out profanities isn’t typically the image most companies want out there. Of course there are exceptions for certain industries or even some companies … I’ve known a couple of places where the most prolific and loud profanity users were the owners/bosses … and in those cases, any customers who didn’t care for it simply voted with their business.

      That said, those kinds of exclamations can be almost hard wired in and very hard to bypass if something surprising/painful happens. I was raised Roman Catholic by Roman Catholics, am a Christian today, but if I drop something on my foot, you know frequently what comes out of my mouth? Yup, the same thing as the swear in this letter. The other one that pops out, when I make a mistake or drop something is one my mother used to say when I was a kid … a profanity side-stepping “son of a Beech Nut gum!” It’s not something I consciously choose to say, it’s just built into the reflexive %#@*!*%! pathways of my brain. (My brain occasionally spins the dial and serves up “oh f… a duck” … I have no idea where that one came from)

      If I were facing LW’s situation, I’d consider a policy of no profanities (religious or otherwise) in front of customers, because that gives the employer standing to address it, give feedback and manage egregious/frequent offenders, and encouragement to keep ANY exclamations over something going wrong to a low volume … because even if it’s not a profanity, do you really want your customers hearing your employees saying loudly “oh DARN! the TPS system is down again!”? And then I’d try to be reasonable on how I enforce that policy, expecting people to be able to manage their emotions without outbursts when they accidently print the wrong file but understanding that human beings are imperfect and someone who swears when they spill hot coffee on themselves is probably not being purposely unprofessional.

    11. BabyElephantWalk*

      I’m nonreligious, and it was the default swear in my house growing up. It’s very odd to see it framed as not a swear word.

    12. starfox*

      I’m semi-religious and “Jesus Christ” is the only “swear word” I won’t use. It just feels disrespectful. But I realize that’s my religious background talking.

      I don’t like hearing it, but I’m not offended, and I certainly wouldn’t ask someone not to say it… just like I wouldn’t ask someone not to say the F word (as long as customers/clients weren’t around). But if I were in a workplace that banned all kinds of swear words, I would feel a bit offended if that were “okay” when other words (that I use) aren’t. But, again, I think it’s my religious upbringing talking…

  2. B*itch in the corner of the poster*

    You didn’t ask my mom, but my mom would like to weigh in anyways..

    “You don’t say that! Say the f-word, that’s better!”

    1. londonedit*

      This is SO interesting. I had no idea there were places/cultures where ‘Jesus Christ’ would be seen as WORSE than the f-word! Where I live things like ‘Oh my God’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ are definitely on the very mild side of the swearing spectrum – you might find people who would object in very polite company, but most people wouldn’t even consider them to be swear words. If I exclaim ‘Jesus Christ!’ it’s because what I really want to say is ‘F**k’s sake!!’ but am in an environment where that sort of language isn’t appropriate (around my mum, for example!)

      1. B*itch in the corner of the poster*

        My response to my mom saying this was to drop several f-bombs and she got mad and tried to ground me (i’m 36)

      2. As per Elaine*

        My grandmother would be horrified by either, but I suspect that she might be more horrified by “Jesus Christ!” because that’s taking the lord’s name in vain, rather than merely being crude.

        (I’m also religious and have retained enough of the early training that I wouldn’t use it in that manner, but I wouldn’t be offended by anyone else using it.)

          1. Antilla the Hon*

            Thank you, Let’sBeReal. I think it’s kind of you to be cognizant of that.

            If we replace Jesus’ name with one from another religion—it sounds really jarring, disrespectful and unkind. I’m not a Muslim and can’t imagine imagine ever using Mohammed’s name as an invective or expression of frustration. (I don’t think it should be any different for Jesus in my mind.) I live in a very small predominantly Christian town in a rural state, but happens to be a very ethnically and religiously diverse community. Our town draws people from all over the world for jobs in a certain industry. I wouldn’t want to offend or hurt the feelings of someone who is new to our town or make them feel unwelcome by casually invoking the name of their particular religion “in vain.”

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Interesting. My grandmother is probably similar, but finds the F word the most horrible word ever created. I think she could probably rationalize a “Jesus Christ” as the beginning of a prayer.

      3. KittyKuddler*

        It is definitely what most people would consider “taking the Lord’s name in vain” and I’d have had my mouth washed out with soap for doing it growing up. Although I’m probably not much better now because my go to is usually God Bless it!

        1. LittleDoctor*

          I’m sorry you lived in an environment where physical violence was used against children. Hope things are better for you now.

          1. Just Another Starving Artist*

            …well that’s just passive aggressive and condescending for no reason.

              1. Ally McBeal*

                Not figurative. I’m not KittyKuddler but I grew up in a household where anything stronger than “crap” and “gosh” got a bar of soap stuck in our mouths. The first time I heard either of my parents (BOTH preacher’s kids) swear was when I was 12-13 and my dad’s car literally spontaneously combusted (fortunately no one was harmed). My grandma was even more strict – “gosh” was strictly banned.

                I once had liquid soap put in my mouth – I had to hold it there and desperately fight the urge to swallow – and that was by far the worst, but scrubbing bar soap fragments out of my molars wasn’t fun either.

                1. Antilla the Hon*

                  We grew up in the soap-in-mouth generation too. We “joke” (sarcasm) that Zest soap was our preferred flavor. I cannot imagine the liquid soap. I’m really sorry that you had to deal with that. My spouse and child have no idea what it was like to grow up that way—I’m very thankful for this.

                2. GythaOgden*

                  Oh [insert strong oath of choice], I’m so sorry. That is utterly terrible and I’m sorry to have doubted that it was real.

                  I’m tempted to say /Jesus wept!/, but to be frank, I’m sure He would when things like that are done in His name. My personal faith is strong and emotional, but I have to say I’m continually disgusted by what people have done while claiming to follow what I believe in.

                  I’m just so sorry to have added to whatever pain you felt.

                3. allathian*

                  Ugh, yes. My parents never routinely used corporal punishment, but our mom once washed my sister’s mouth with soap when she was about 8 and started lubricating pretty much every sentence with swear words, probably because her best friend at the time had a potty mouth. To this day, she can’t stand the scent of that particular soap, and I don’t blame her. She learned not to swear in our parents’ hearing, but elsewhere her language got, if anything, worse. I also seem to remember that she sulked for a week or two, and used me as an intermediary so she wouldn’t have to talk to our mom directly. I agreed to do this because I felt that our mom had gone too far with the punishment, and said as much to her. My sister finally relented when our mom apologized for overreacting, but without the apology I have no idea how long she would’ve kept this up, because my sister’s notorious for holding grudges even as an adult.

                  I can’t remember ever hearing my mom swear. She’s not particularly devout, but her parents, especially her mom, were. At grandma’s we weren’t even allowed to play card games or read comics on Sundays.

            1. LittleDoctor*

              How is it condescending or passive aggressive? I read it and it made me very sad as someone who’s been a foster parent, to think of a child being treated that way. I’ve met MANY people for whom that wasn’t figurative. I really intended it as a genuine remark of sympathy about having to endure that.

      4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m also UK and would consider J- C- worse than the f-bomb. I’m generally casual about bodily functions swears, but don’t like blasphemy swears.

      5. Chas*

        I’m in the UK and while my mother considers herself a Christian, my sister and I didn’t grow up particulary devout (we went to a church of England school and went to Church for occasional special events, but we didn’t do church every Sunday and I don’t think either of us believed any of the religous stuff we were taught- I know I certainly didn’t), so I remember saying things like ‘Oh my God!’ and ‘Christ!’ as a kid and not being scolded at all, whereas saying s**t or the F-word would result in a telling-off from my mother.

        However, now my sister’s an adult she seems to have flipped this around completely. She routinely uses the f-word when she’s annoyed (to the point that her son dropped an f-bomb at his 8th birthday party, in front of all his friends and several of their parents) but once told her kid off for getting over-excited and shouting “Oh My God! I sucked up a TREE!” at a video game I was showing them.

        I find it incredibly odd, to be honest, as until I was an adult and saw people complain about it on the internet (which I put down to ‘I guess American’s care more about that kind of thing’), I’d never seen people get offended by ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘Oh my God’ being used as exclamations, and while I now try not to use any of them (I usually defualt to ‘Aaaargh!’-type noises) I still don’t think they’re anywhere near as offensive as the f-word. But obviously the people my sister interacts with think differently.

      6. Annony*

        Many people interpret the third commandment (“Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain”) as meaning that it is a sin to use his name as a curse. That would make it worse than dropping F bombs since that isn’t addressed in the bible at all. One is blasphemous while the other is merely crude.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Exactly!

          I’m sure there are theological scholarly interpretations of that particular commandment which might support or discredit that interpretation … but that doesn’t mean it’s not widespread.

        2. Little My*

          This is part of why I don’t think it makes sense to single out “Jesus Christ” for a ban. In a secular workplace I am not required to follow Christian commandments. If you don’t want to take the Lord’s name in vain, don’t do it yourself.

          1. starfox*

            If all workplace cursing is banned, then I think “Jesus Christ” should be banned, too. No, you aren’t “required” to follow Christian commandments, but that doesn’t give you free rein to disrespect their religion in the workplace.

        3. A*

          Sure, but not everyone knows or is exposed to that. I never say JC in any capacity as I never really heard it growing up so it wasn’t a part of my vocabulary outside academics, but I used to say ‘oh my god’ because in the household and area I grew up in it was an extremely common phrase. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I encountered someone that explained they found it offensive because it was taking the ‘lord’s name in vain’. Since then I’ve switched to oh my gosh / oh my word with ~75% success rate because it’s an easy enough swap to avoid offending anyone – but familiarity with this kind of stuff depends on a lot of factors.

      7. NotAnotherManager!*

        Try being raised in a household where it’s totally fine and then having a parent find Jesus and suddenly be more bothered by that than fuck (her least favorite swear, followed closely by any non-straw or vacuum-related use of the word “sucks”). And my MIL is also devout, so I try so hard not to use Jesus Christ (or Jesus H. Christ and certainly not Jesus f–ing Christ) around any parents and also to remind my teenagers not to.

        I try not to use it because I know it offends people, but, having been raised somewhere it was no big deal and better than actual swear words, it’s been a hard adjustment.

      8. Nina*

        My mother’s approach was that if you could find it (and read it) in the Middle English Canterbury Tales, you could say it at home without penalty, but other people’s homes had other rules.

        Anglo-Saxon vulgarities (some of which are by modern standards very vulgar) were fine, invoking actual gods was unacceptable (anybody’s gods; ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Adon Olam’ and references to Hindu gods were all equally off the table), invoking demi-gods, saints, or non-god religious figures was fine. I’m not totally sure what her logic was there.

      9. starfox*

        In a lot of religious cultures, mocking God is seen as much worse than using words for bodily functions.

    2. Kali*

      Right? My mom – a devout woman – barely blinks when I swear anymore, and I swear like a sailor. But if I blaspheme – “Jesus Christ” in particular – she’ll scold me for it. I’m 37 and an atheist, but I’m still her kid, I guess, lol.

    3. ArchivesWorker*

      My mother, who raised me as a ELCA Lutheran would swear in German rather than use a swear word or saying Jesus Christ

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          That’s really interesting to me. I’m also Unitarian but on the vaguely culturally Christian side of things (my Dad goes by the early definition of Unitarian, followers of his teachings but don’t believe in his divinity) and “Jesus Christ” is my go-to expression of frustration. I sort of thought it was along the lines of “Christ, give me strength” rather than a swear word. If anyone has been offended by it, they haven’t said anything to me. Reading the comments has been eye-opening, and I’ll have to work on changing the habit.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I had a religious school principal who would swear in French instead of English thinking it was better because the kids couldn’t understand him. Until he let fly in front of a family that had lived for a few years in France……where obviously French is an official language. They spun on a heel and instantly unenrolled their kids, that principal didn’t speak a word of French, didn’t know what he was saying in French, but just felt comfortable letting fly. If you’re going to swear in a foreign language – know what you’re saying.

        Others had tried to get him to stop – but he felt that nobody around spoke French (I knew some from school, and had tried warning him what he was saying was really bad, he didn’t believe me), so what did it matter. Moral is – you never know when another person will know that language, know what you’re saying!

        1. GythaOgden*

          I did similar in Poland. I’d learned a few colourful words, and my Belarusian flatmate was my age and boisterous in all three of her languages (Polish, Russian and English). She taught me the words that were mild in Russian but filthy in Polish, and vice versa.

          But the crowning moment of awesome came when we had an infestation of a certain insect and we caught one. I called it a name which I’d heard was a Polish version of ‘son of a b****’. Except it was so strong a word that my friend told me never to repeat it in her presence.

          Russian swear words are a whole art form in themselves and I take some satisfaction in having a phone wallpaper with a Ukrainian poster giving Putin both barrels in his own language. If words could win the war, that poster would have Zelensky at the gates of Moscow.

      2. Nina*

        I was allowed to swear in German as a kid (no German family whatsoever) which backfired spectacularly in my first job (weirdly German-majority colleagues in an Anglophone country, who took about a day to realize that I could swear in their language but I couldn’t say or understand anything else).

    4. JustSomeone*

      Im not religious now, but it was the same in my family. I had a very liberal, only moderately religious upbringing, but anything that used Jesus of God was considered the absolute worst swearing possible. Other swearing is just rude; using god’s name in vain is specifically prohibited in the Bible. It’s up there in the commandments, on par with murder and worshiping other gods. (Yes, I know there’s debate on what that actually would have meant in the original language.)

      Funny story: I went through a phase as a little kid where I wanted to be an actor. I very sadly decided I would have to let that dream die because a script might have “god” in it as a curse word. (I was a far more proper and rule-following child than my parents asked for; I never told my mom about that broken dream, but I’m sure she would have laughed and said it would be totally fine.)

      1. PhyllisB*

        I feel your pain. When I was in college in the early 70’s I took an acting class. We had to do a scene from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woof. Well, if you are familiar with this play you know there’s a scene where she gets pretty salty. I had read the script (director wanted spontaneous reactions.) I came to that scene…and froze. I refused to say the line. My instructor got angry and told me I would get an F for the day if I didn’t say it. I took the F.

        1. Ana Gram*

          I went to college with a devout classmate who wouldn’t swear, so when we did in class readings, she’d pause at profanity and I’d shout it out. The professor thought it was hysterical and my classmate was relieved. Gotta love college!

        2. Just a different redhead*

          Yeah, I’ve had that – I don’t typically swear, to the point that I have actual trouble reading fiction aloud where there is a word with… uh… a “swear value”(?) higher than that of damn or hell (used to include those – my class was reading Death of a Salesman and for some reason I was reading Willy, fortunately (?) everyone else just thought it was hilarious when I eventually half-mumblewhispered “damn” in the middle of his sentence and didn’t get in trouble for refusing all further “bad words”)
          Casually, I can tolerate plenty of non-denominational swearing, especially if I’m expecting it to happen or it isn’t continuous or escalating without any break.
          I guess, when I’m working, if I hear a sudden loudity, I startle and see if all is well; if I hear a sudden loud not-a-name swear word, I startle and flinch/cringe and see if all is well; but if I hear the topic exclamation or similar I just feel incredibly shaken and sad. I do get that it’s my deal, not everyone else’s, but it feels…. well, like someone is defacing something sacred to me. ^_^; Not a nice feeling, not ideal to working at my best. Not that I would take that even as a remote intent of whosoever busted it out. I’ve only had to ask twice, and each of those two coworkers were so incredibly apologetic and kept the religious-figure-names out of it around me from then on. I think if something like that is already brought up and still happening at work, it’s reasonable to redouble the request.

    5. Smithy*

      I do think that exactly because of replies like this, that particularly in a US customer service role, I’d want to encourage coaching it out of someone.

      I grew up in a non-Christian household in the Midwest, but it wasn’t until I was an adult in another context where I was in a place to ask a friend if those exclamations bothered them. They said yes, and during my efforts to stop using that as a replacement exclamation realized how frequently and without thought I was using it. And it was cases like stubbing my toe or being startled, so it meant trying to correct an impulsive response more so than anger specifically.

      Personally, this really wasn’t coming from an angry place but one of frustration or being surprised. And where the exclamation served to release some of that. So instead of picking another word or phrase, I ultimately defaulted to noises – particularly “bah”.

      And I do think that often why that variety of replacement exclamations may be chosen isn’t coming from a desire to be profane but to release exasperation or surprise and in some cases, to curb anger. I think of times when I’ve almost been hit by a (very slow) moving car through a crosswalk. Having that exclamation is often a way to let out that reaction and avoid any further anger or dwelling over the situation. Certainly depending on the frequency, that level of exasperation in customer service isn’t great – but just wanted to flag that this may be a way of releasing frustration before it builds rather than an anger response.

      1. Avril Ludgateau*

        I say “cheese and rice”, even though I’m not any denomination of Christian, just because it makes me smile when I’m feeling exasperated. But I will also say “Jesus Christ” (outside of work settings) as a swear. What’s funny is, I picked it up as an interjection in the first place because of growing up in a Christian-dominant society, but I use it freely because it never offended me the way it offends true adherents to these religions. It’s a funny sociological study, when you think about it. It is “profane” vocabulary that implies a dominant religion, and yet people who follow that religion are the least inclined to use it in a vulgar way.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Funky bullshrimp is one of my favorites, although still probably not work appropriate lol.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I sometimes use “Jimminy Christmas!” I was once at the laundromat and saw a guy drop a whole load of clean laundry on the floor and yell out, “cinnamon biscuits!” and I immediately adopted that one, too.

      Point being, it seems like a habit of mind, which the sayer can change with a little practice and some delightful new phrases.

      1. Princess Xena*

        I will sometimes go with “son ofa biscuit” when I’m tremendously frustrated with something.

      2. Teapot Librarian*

        I almost wish this was a regular part of my lexicon so that I could adopt “cinnamon biscuits”!

        1. BubbleTea*

          I like “oh buttons”, which I believe I got from Tracy Beaker, and “bums”, which has the added advantage of making children giggle.

      3. MistOrMister*

        I go with Jiminy Christmas, Son of a Biscuit or (my personal favorite) Good Googagly Moogaly!!! When I was young we used to say Great Day!! My grandmother kept that one going as long as I knew her. Hopefully I can remember Cinnamon Biscuits…thats a good addition :)

        1. JanetM*

          And in the movie _The Music Man_, one of the characters would swear “Great Honk!”

      4. Le Sigh*

        As a rather prolific user of swears and vulgarities (to my mother’s resigned dismay), I very much enjoy her substitutions, among them, “sugarbuns,” “for fudge’s sake,” and “son of a basket.” Why that last one is basket and not biscuit, I couldn’t tell you.

    3. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      OrigCassandra, +1 for referencing Manitowoc Minute! I do so enjoy Charlie Berens! :)

      1. Just Another Reader*

        Son of a Monkeys Uncle is what I say if I need to sensor my otherwise sailor-esk words.

        But the question remains, should we sensor ourselves at all? Or why are employees so frustrated that they feel the need to use expressive language?

      2. Le Sigh*

        I would 100% join the First United Church of Pepperoni or Our Lady of Mozzarella.

    4. Picking Wildflowers*

      Lol, as a Michigander living in California, I love that guy. Sounds like home!

    5. Marthooh*

      Or “wholly forking shirtballs”, on the assumption that this is a good workplace.

    6. Aka*

      I volunteer with children and occasionally hot objects (glue guns up through soldering irons) as part of various after school programs. “Fudge, fudge, fudge, fudge!”

      1. Black Sheep*

        I had my very fundamentalist family over for a holiday meal when my niece was small. During the preparation I forgot to switch the oven from preheat to bake, which I didn’t discover until it was time to eat. My sister’s hands hovered over her daughter’s ears. Do you know how many times you have to say “shoot!” when your mouth wants to say “sh*t!”? It’s about 20.

        1. GythaOgden*

          I still remember the night I learned the s-word. My mum was not amused but because I’m autistic and the sound of the first three letters was fun to say and had a kind of stimming effect, she had to spell out what it meant and why I shouldn’t say it.

          My mum is a retired teacher and her ability to convince a young child of things — why you shouldn’t say shi…shi…shi… all night, why X word is racist, why spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them — is legendary. Watching her go through it with my nephews brings back a lot of genuinely happy memories. Treating kids as if they can actually understand why something is a bad idea is a real skill.

    7. Jaid*

      The “Recess” cartoon had an episode where the kids made up a swear “whomps”. The principal was offended and they went to court to debate on it’s use. The ruling is made in the kids favor.

    8. Threeve*

      I hope people are just having fun here. It wouldn’t bother me at all if I was asked to stop using profanity at work. But please don’t sincerely suggest I start using a cutesy-poo replacement like “oh, sugar” or “jeepers creepers” when you bring it up.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        A friend of mine works with kids & families a lot, and she has ingrained in herself the use of “Oh, boogers”. I love it because it’s not really a reference to some other more swearier swear. Instead, it’s like the preschooler equivalent of “Oh, sh*t”.

  3. Amber Rose*

    Yeah, maybe just ask her to work on keeping the frustrated exclamations in general contained in her thoughts.

    Or at least replace it with something calmer/more positive? I tend to overly pronounce or draw out “OK” when I feel the need to make sound. Ohhh kaaaay. Because sometimes when I need to crouch or bend and my muscles are sore, silence is just not happening.

    1. Sir Ulrich Von Liechtenstein*

      Yeah. The exact content of an outburst can intensify or mitigate things, but content aside, regular sharp angry outbursts aren’t a great thing to have in most offices.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This to me is the bigger thing to address with Patricia. What is going on with the job/workload/workplace that Patricia is so constantly frustrated to the point that she is constantly letting fly with enthusiasm that many swear words (and potentially around customers too). Might be worth a good root cause analysis session to see if there are things that can be fixed to lessen the feeling that I need to use these phrases.

    2. ferrina*

      Sometimes I start listing things in my cutlery drawer until I’m able to find more appropriate words.
      “Forks and knives and spoons and napkins….okay, that was unfortunate.”

      1. JanetM*

        When I’m completely befuzzled, usually by some unfortunate national news, I will recite pronouns.

    3. lyonite*

      We’re overlooking the first part of Angela’s concern, but I wonder if that’s actually more consequential? Not that there’s any sign that Phyllis’s anger is focused on her, but working with or near someone who regularly vocalizing that level of frustration is probably not very pleasant. I’d focus more on the frequency of the outbursts than the exact words, I think.

      1. COBOL Dinosaur*

        Yes! I used to sit next to someone who would get so upset with whatever she was working on that she would curse like a sailor. All day long I was hearing these outbursts. They were directed mostly at herself but I found it to be really annoying and it would really drag down my emotional well being just to listen to it all day.

        1. pancakes*

          Yeah. The person I sat near-ish wasn’t cursing so much as grumbling about his own moods. It was tedious, and did drag me down on the days I couldn’t or didn’t want to wear headphones all day.

      2. Gothic Bee*

        I agree. I had a coworker for a while who tended to make audible noise whenever he was frustrated or upset and it was awful and made me tense up every time (and it was pretty frequent). And he wasn’t even saying any actual words, much less swearing. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional exclamation of frustration, but if it’s constant and involves being angry to the point that Angela is wondering if the anger is directed at her, it’s probably excessive.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, like the coworker I posted about earlier, who used to sit and growl more or less all day. And when she was particularly frustrated, she’d type so aggressively that she broke two keyboards in three years just by typing. She was finally issued an extra-sturdy keyboard.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      I didn’t read the letter as Phyllis being constantly frustrated, just in a habit. OP’s first example has Phyllis saying it as an intensifier for “Oof!” while picking something up off the floor.

      1. OP*

        Office Lobster DJ- yeah, that’s my sense as well. I’ve personally never heard her be intentionally hostile. But, I also feel it’s a culture difference. They have very different backgrounds and Angela is incredibly sensitive, so I could definitely see how it would be shocking to Angela and not even being thought about by Phyllis.

      2. Amber Rose*

        Exactly, which is why I suggest replacing it with something generic like “great” or “OK” or even “I love that for me.”

        Because muttering religious things under your breath could still be offensive and we should always lean towards thoughtfulness to others, it’s better to either not speak or keep it out of the realm of the offensive entirely. No substitutes for swears, no religion, just sarcasm.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          Oh, I agree that Phyllis should probably cut it out, although I think it’s waaaay beyond OP’s scope as a manager to suggest “calmer/more positive” alternatives to her.

    5. Gerry Keay*

      I go with a very sarcastic “Cool very cool!!!!” when I stub my toe or other such minor frustrations.

    6. Jonquil*

      I attempted to correct myself to “oh cheese!” after I heard our toddler repeating one of my “Oh Jeez”s, but it’s probably a bit close to the original so I am trying to adopt “Oh biscuits!” (as used by the parents in Bluey) as my non-swear of choice. Growing up non-religious (and Australian) I am generally unfazed by swearing and don’t really think of “damn”, “hell” etc as being swears, but my Christian-raised husband doesn’t like “Jesus Christ!” so I’m trying to train myself out of it and “bloody hell!” (which the toddler has also said a few times).

  4. I should really pick a name*

    I remember as a kid someone saying “Cheese and rice” as a substitute for “Jesus Christ” XD

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mutter “Jiminy Christmas” as my benign-expletive-substitute-of-choice on a regular basis, both in and out of work.

    2. They*

      Technically a different expression, but I love a good jeepers creepers instead of saying saying “oh christ!” if I’m in public

    3. Evergreen*

      I learned a lesson in substituting words when I whispered ‘shoot’ when dropping the paper my speech was on in the middle of it and due to static everyone in the audience thought I had said the expletive instead…

      1. Southern Gentleman*

        It’s no a coincidence that “Jeepers Creepers” and “Jiminy Christmas” are “JC” utterances like the one in question. They’re basically the same. I live in the Bible belt, and the use of JC as an expletive is widely frowned upon. I would acknowledge that many people in my personal and professional circles would find this more offensive than any traditional “cuss word” you could spit out in frustration.

    4. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I’m am atheist and still say this at 45, along with “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”

    5. Fiction Reader*

      My father was a minister (mainline Protestant church). He told me not to say Gee or Geez or Dang, because that was too close to swearing. He also said that sh*t and f*ck were not swear words, just vulgar. So I guess it was better to say f*ck than gee whiz, but I just learned to code switch. I only swore/used vulgar language with my peers, never with adults.

    6. Just a different redhead*

      My “this is really bad” adjective phrase is generally a delicately enunciated “divinely condemned”… My noun is generally “nonsense-monger”. But my exclamation is very boringly “Oh dear”, though I guess it sometimes bounces to “Holy Batman” or “banana monkeys”.
      I was really surprised when one of my sisters-in-law called me out with, “whoa, Language!” for saying “darn” in front of one of her children, but she was smiling so I had no idea wherher she was serious. I was already in surprise mode from all of them including the children saying… tu*d, but I do tend to have very negative reactions to expressions of bathroom-encountered materials/objects. Ironically, sh*t is less offensive to me than the others because it’s so commonly used that it’s kind of dissociated from its actual meaning by this point, even though I still don’t use it.

    7. K*

      I attended Jewish school and was pretty sheltered in grade school. I knew who Jesus was but I never made the connection, so when I heard people say “Jeez” or “Jesus” as an exclamation I thought they were saying “cheese” or “cheeses” until I was maybe 10?

  5. Sara*

    If Phyllis says it enough that Angela thought it was worth bringing up, then its probably more a “why is Phyllis constantly frustrated or making exclamations” problem than a use of Jesus Christ. Even if you got her to use something non-religious, its more about her demeanor.

    I say this as someone that does use Jesus Christ pretty frequently when I’m startled or frustrated. Though my nephew who attends Catholic school recently called me out on it so I’m trying to redirect to something more mundane like “shenanigans” or “cheese and crackers”

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      Yeah, I think if you solve the frustrations, you solve the problem. And if Phyllis is easily frustrated to the point where no solution will last and she’s going to keep making frustrated noises where clients can hear, it’s an “Is Phyllis right for the actual expectations of this role?/Are the expectations of this role reasonable?” kind of question.

    2. Sara without an H*

      This. If Phyllis is constantly frustrated/angry while working a front-facing position, her manager needs to raise it with her and find out what’s going on. The profanity may be a symptom for something else that needs to be addressed, preferably before Phyllis uses it within earshot of a customer who gets upset and complains.

  6. BBBB*

    So weird to phrase the question as if every workplace has the same culture and standards.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Yeah my immediate team has been know to bust out various JFC style acronyms in Teams chats. But we all know none of us would be offended by it. I do have some more religious coworkers who don’t like swearing at all so I make an effort not to say those things, and if one slips out apologize.

      1. ferrina*

        This is a fine line to walk, because if someone new joins the team is uncomfortable, they might not feel able to say anything since it’s so normalized. It can be done, but it needs to be done thoughtfully in a way that makes it clear that different viewpoints are welcome and respected, and we are actively inclusive (not just waiting for someone to tell us/convince us that we need to change).

        1. Lab Boss*

          That’s kind of what I was thinking. I’m not sure where you draw a line between “This language is obviously going to be offensive to some subset of people so we’re going to not allow it at work, even if no specific person has said it offends them” and “This language would offend some people but nobody who actually works here has said it offends them, so there’s no point in trying to control it when it’s not actually a problem.”

          1. ferrina*

            I have gently corrected a direct report who started using “Jesus” as his go-to swear. I didn’t say anything the first time (cuz it was a one-off), but after a few times in a week I mentioned it as part of our 1:1. I just said “I noticed you’ve been saying “Jesus” as an expression of frustration. Please don’t do that, as it may make some people uncomfortable.” The employee was a new grad who was still learning professional norms, and he immediately stopped. He just hadn’t thought about it!

        2. starfox*

          Yeah, I’ve been in a workplace where people frequently used “JFC” but actually said the whole thing out loud. I never said anything, but I didn’t really like it.

          I’m not even all that religious, but it just seems so disrespectful.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I feel like it was more specific than that, given the detail about being a customer-facing employee.

    3. OP*

      That is a good point, but it’s the public-facing aspect I’m most concerned with. We are a service that sees all walks of life (think similar to a DMV), so it’s really the public I’m asking about. Behind closed doors, we definitely speak differently than we do on the floor, and most of us have an understanding of what others are/aren’t comfortable with. I guess my question about banning JC altogether was if it’s THAT egregious that it should just never be said in the workplace… and I’ve just went my entire life without knowing this unspoken rule. lol.

      1. Just Another Librarian*

        I think you can address the public part right away. It is profanity, and any even potentially offensive profanity is not the polished presentation you want in front of the public. Especially if you are government or government adjacent. The public is looking for fault in public institutions right now, don’t give them something easy to hang on!

      2. Critical Rolls*

        I think the comments here suggest that enough people find it offensive that banning it on the public side of the house is perfectly reasonable.

      3. Observer*

        I guess my question about banning JC altogether was if it’s THAT egregious that it should just never be said in the workplace

        What gets said in the workplace is far more workplace specific than what gets said in front of customers though. And if you are dealing with a really broad section of the public, then you are definitely likely to be making people uncomfortable.

        So, in this case, maybe not so egregious that it should never be said in an office, but still a problem around customers.

  7. Falling Diphthong*

    Using the Lord’s name as profanity is going to offend some people. (I realized I am not sure if this is taking the Lord’s name in vain theologically, or if that actually refers to “As God is my witness…” claims.)

    Replacing “f***” with “name of religious figure” just alters the subset of people who might find it offensive–like Alison says, it’s not what you want in a customer facing interaction.

    I think darn, drat, good golly are all so innocuous very few people would object to them.

    Angela interpreting Phyllis’s frustration with moving a box as directed at Angela is a whole ‘nother thing, and probably a case where Angela needs to learn that people near her can experience frustration and it’s not directed at her personal failings. I totally get the mindset and the background that can create it, but it’s not a helpful one for making people want to work with you.

    1. Sir Ulrich Von Liechtenstein*

      (I realized I am not sure if this is taking the Lord’s name in vain theologically, or if that actually refers to “As God is my witness…” claims.)

      There’s no real official standard on that, and interpretations vary wildly.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Might be one of the few cases where Christian thinkers are LESS consistent than Jewish thinkers, then! In Judaism it’s pretty consistently understood to refer to swearing false (or futile) oaths in god’s name, not to just using god’s name.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Ok ignore the weird phrasing of that first sentence…obviously there are multiple different types of Christians which disagree with each other on major points. I meant to just remark on how unusual it is for Jewish thinkers to have a general consensus on anything.

        2. starfox*

          I think the Christian consensus among scholars is that it’s about swearing oath’s in God’s name and not upholding it… but most non-scholar Christians think it means saying “oh my god.”

        1. JustaTech*

          This was my preferred “baby swear” as a little kid, until the week my grandmother died and I started to shout it at my brother and realized mid-phrase that my grandmother’s name was Louise, and I shouldn’t say it out of respect for my dad. (My grandmother was also a devout Catholic, but also the mother of 9 children who liked to blow things up, so I imagine she had some very creative swearing.)

      1. Becky*

        I was never allowed to use what my mother called “substitute words” growing up, so I certainly wasn’t allowed to use deity as a swear and wasn’t allowed to use “gosh” or “geez/jeez” either as they are corruptions of “God” and “Jesus” respectively.
        My mother would use “oh bother” like Winnie the Pooh.
        My sister broke her leg and we have a recording of the injury happening and all she says is “oh my.”

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          It’s interesting how many words tie back to religion. Even “goodbye” started as “God be with ye”.

          As far as work situations, I think just like social situations, you need to know your audience and coworkers. It’s not appropriate to swear in front of a client or customer, and I’d generally avoid swearing in front of coworkers you don’t know will be okay.

          I’m pretty professional and put together with most people, but one of my coworkers is part of a D&D game with her husband, my husband and a couple other friends. From those more social interactions, I know it’s okay to drop a couple swears around her and she won’t be phased.

          Basically, if you have to question if someone might be offended, just don’t say that thing. Find something different to say. If you need to go into a bathroom or scream into a pillow later because of the frustrating thing, then do that, but otherwise, just be respectful.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who uses “hother!” I think part of why it works, for me, is the initial /b/ sound. Also, yes it’s toned-down, but when I say “bother!” it’s also a true statement, rather than a redirection like “cinnamon biscuits!”–something happened that bothers me.

        3. Antilla the Hon*

          I think I need to go with Pooh’s “Oh bother” in his gentle voice to his spread frustration. I am one serious stress monster and I shudder at the things that come out of my mouth when I’m having a “moment” (ahem, meltdown) at home.

        4. starfox*

          For a while as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to say “shoot” because when my little brother said it… well, it didn’t sound like “shoot!”

  8. quill*

    The difference on the scale of things not to say at work is going to be very dependent on what branch of christianity each person is from.

    From my (former catholic but not THAT catholic) perspective it’s not too much worse than saying Oh My God in response to a surprise or near miss with something that could cause injury. The issue for me here would be the fact that it appears to be being used with hostility / irritation, constantly. Which is less about taking the lord’s name in vain, which is up to each person’s personal discretion, and more about the fact that it is clearly being used in lieu of swearing.

    1. Chris too*

      I was raised – catholic father, Protestant mother, both pretty open-minded – that sometimes OMG was ok, depending on context. Usually it’s a swear phrase but sometimes it’s a very quick prayer – OMG are you ok? Used after you’ve witnessed a car accident or something and are trying to help.

  9. bunniferous*

    I would a million times rather hear the f word than to hear the name Jesus Christ as a swear. I offer up as a replacement “Holy crapbeans!”

  10. Gracely*

    I’m a Christian and also apparently in the minority on this, but I think it’s wild that “Jesus Christ” is considered a swear. If anything, when I say it in the context of frustration/anger, it’s more like when other people say “Lord, give me strength” just, shorter. I know it’s seen as a swear because people have this idea that it’s “taking the Lord’s name in vain” which is one of the 10 commandments, but the meaning of that is actually that you should not swear an oath or vow in the Lord’s name and then lie/renege on it.

    Regardless, if it’s being said AT someone because of their religion, that’s not cool and should be dealt with. Even though I definitely say “Jesus Christ” in frustration frequently, I try not to use it if I’m around coworkers of a different faith, because I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable, since I know Christianity is the dominant religion where I am. It’s not *that* hard to curb it or substitute something else.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think it’s also very context dependent – if you are saying it becaue you are fruitraedbut don’t feel thatusingthe F word is appropriate, then I think it’s fair to see it as a swear, as that’s your intent.
      If you are saying it as a shorthnd for a parayer for patience, it’s not.
      If your prayer for patience sounds agressive then it ‘s likely that others will take it as an oath rather than a prayer

      I’m in the uK and would see it as being at the milder end of swearing, but equally where I work, swearing at / in the hearing of a client would not be accepatbel regardless of the words used.

    2. JanetM*

      Some people take blasphemy *very* seriously. The game site Pogo uses a customized error pop-up to the effect of, “Cripes! Something went wrong! We’re very sorry, please try again.”

      A user wrote in to explain that “cripes” is a deliberate mispronunciation of “Christ” and therefore blasphemous, and requested that they change their error message.

  11. R*

    or you can work in theatre and exclaim, “Jesus Christ Superstar!” which makes it sillier.

    1. ferrina*

      Or have a rotating “swear” that is always a stage production.
      “Oh, Chicago!”
      “Hello Dolly!”
      “Oooooklahoma!!”

      1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

        Alexander Hamilton… I sweated with Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million words that I can sing. So just you wait, just you wait.

    2. Beth*

      In grad school, I adopted some terms from German theatre as cusses, because they sounded so resoundingly fearsome. “Gesamtkunstwerk” and “Verfremdungseffekt” were my faves. “Götterdämmerung” works also (thank you, Anna Russell).

  12. L-squared*

    I feel like, at least in the US, this is going to be VERY regional.

    I’m in Chicago. I can’t see anyone really caring that much about hearing that, even a somewhat religious person. Whereas I can totally see being in the south, or other more religious/conservative areas and that is something you JUST DON’T SAY.

    So I think you have to really look at your area/customer base and see if it is noticeable enough that people would actually be offended by it.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, in the UK less than half the population identifies as religious and even fewer as Christian, and the majority of those would be the ‘nominally Church of England’ sort (and if you want to know how fundamentalist the C of E is, Eddie Izzard will tell you). It’s pretty much a secular society with cultural nods to religion, so while you might not exclaim ‘Jesus Christ!’ in front of your extremely elderly aunt, no one else is really going to care. Very different from the religious parts of the US in that regard (and even we don’t swear as much as the Australians!) Our bad swear words are the F and C words – I wouldn’t say the C word at work and would moderate my use of the F word until I’d gauged the general office culture, but I’ll happily say things like sh*t/cr*p/bloody/bugger/damn in front of my mum.

      1. Carbon Neutral*

        I’m in the UK and I totally disagree that it “pretty much a secular society with cultural nods to religion.” People may not be as religious as the used to be, but Christianity still has a huge influence on everyday life. Maybe it’s more noticeable to me because I am not Christian, but I still see the influence in government, social life, work life and everything else. The monarchy is based on Christianity and is still hugely influential on our society, so I don’t think it’s accurate to call it a secular society.

        1. Bagpuss*

          It’s secular in the sense that religion *as religion* doesn’t have anything like the weifght it has in some other countries, including the US.
          It’s definitely truw that an awful lot of our cultural background and historical institutions are based on Christianity and Chritian beliefs, but (to take the monarchy as an example) while the Queen is also the head of the Church of England, most people don’t see her as a spiritual leader, or view her as having a god-given role. I think there’s a big diference between historial importance / power and current importnace / power.
          I mean, our public holidays are in part based on Christian festials, but most people aren’t actually going to church or considering the religious background at Easter.
          A lot of the influence is historic, not current.

          If you look at it as whether, and what proportion, f people would find the use of ‘Christ’ as an expletive offensive, and the number who would find it as offensive or more offensive that F**k, I think you would find that it was a minority (and that ofthose who found it offensive, a significant proportion would find any form of swearing offensive )

          1. Carbon Neutral*

            I still don’t agree that it’s accurate to call us secular society. The UK was built on a foundation of Christianity and that foundation is still there. Even if the role of the monarchy and the CoE are mostly symbolic at this point, the fact that we keep those symbols around says something about their current influence on our current values, not just historic.

            1. allathian*

              This is accurate for most of Western Europe, although some parts are still more Christian than others. The most conservative ones seem to be in the former Soviet block (for example Russia and Poland).

              It has been said that Western democracy wouldn’t have been possible without the Catholic ban on marrying your cousins. Most non-Western (and pre-Christian Western) societies are traditionally built around clans, which are kept together by cousins marrying each other. The Catholic ban ensured that both smaller units (nuclear families) and larger ones (parishes and villages, boroughs/neighborhoods, towns and cities) became the unit around which society revolved. The ban on marrying cousins has since been relaxed in many non-Catholic Christian denominations, but it was too late to stop the trend.

              Protestantism, which was largely based on the idea of everyone having a personal relationship with God without requiring a priest as an intermediary eventually led to the idea of universal education. It took a few hundred years, and really speeded up when industrialization required a literate working class, but the Reformation was a push in that direction.

              But this is a great example of Christian privilege. I’m not a believer myself, but because my religious background is Lutheran, and I live in a country where Lutheranism is a state religion, my view on whether Finland is a secular society or not is based around that. Someone with a different religious faith or background is going to see Finland as a Christian country.

              I think we’re pretty secular, because religious authorities don’t have a say in the legal process, even if our Parliament opens its sessions after an election or the summer recess by attending a church service together. Most MPs attend, although it’s no longer mandatory to do so, unless they are known atheists, or members of another religion (we have a few Jewish and Muslim MPs).

              That said, Finland is one of the last European countries where blasphemy is a crime, but it has to be said that it doesn’t just protect Christianity, but all religions. A high-profile MP got fined for stating on social media that “Islam is a religion for pedophiles” following a number of cases when minor children, some as young as 12, had been taken to their parents’ countries of origin and forced into marriage. It was simply a case of someone conflating cultural traditions and religion. These marriages aren’t recognized in Finnish law and they’re summarily annulled. The kids have the option of marrying again once they reach their majority, but in the meantime, the foreign spouse isn’t allowed to stay in the country.

      2. Kitty*

        lol no you can’t claim to be a secular society when your society literally has a queen “chosen by god”

        1. An O'Nymous*

          I think the point being made is that the vast majority of people don’t genuinely believe that. Views on the monarchy are fairly varied, but even most arch royalists don’t actually believe that the queen was chosen by god, they just like the tradition etc.

          (As always, there will be some people who disagree with this, but it genuinely is an incredibly niche view outside of Jacob Reese Mogg’s household)

    2. HufferWare*

      Absolutely. In the South, Phyllis would have already been fired and there would be a prayer circle held as she departed the building with her belongings.

    3. Cat*

      Yeah I’m from the PNW and that wouldn’t even register as a swear word to me. If someone suggested any of the replacement phrases up above I would definitely think they were joking. Outside of situations like having a nice dinner with religious old relatives or maybe interacting with children I wouldn’t think twice about saying jesus christ if frustrated or whatever. It’s at about the same level as dammit to me, so I would be very surprised if a workplace put that on the list of no-no words here (unless they didn’t allow even mild swearing, which is totally fine).

    4. RussianInTexas*

      I am in Texas and I picked up “Jesus Christ” and “Good God” as a milder, acceptable in polite company, swear, from friends and coworkers. Right here, in Texas (English is not my first language).
      Have never once was told it was inappropriate.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I remember fairly recently that J*sus Chr*st, said as an exclamation, was bleeped out on a morning show and there was a big uproar from the religious community for (IIRC) denying Christ’s name? Or something like that?

        I honestly think that JC, JFC, and JMFC are my go-to exclamations without even thinking about it. It would take a LOT for me to fix it. Luckily, those around me don’t seem upset by it.

        I just rewatched Rudy this weekend and am reminded of a line from Rudy’s friend after his new girlfriend admonished him for swearing. “I’m not allowed to say G*d d*mn no more. What’s a lapsed Catholic to do?”

        I’m sure I’d feel similarly!

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Sorry! Nesting fail! This was supposed to be an independent comment at the bottom!

    5. A*

      Yup. I had no idea until reading this thread that it is considered a swear word by some. I’m honestly baffled by the comments I’m seeing that it’s obviously/literally a swear word, or that it’s common knowledge since it’s against a commandment. I don’t question their opinions and feelings on the words/phrases, but it is not obvious or well known by all. I started phasing this kind of language out of my vocabulary after I moved down South and learned how offensive it could be for some (I try and keep my language in the workplace as neutral as possible regardless of my own thoughts & feelings). Prior to that it just wasn’t an issue. And that’s not specific to my household – also schools, community, across all social groups from various chapters of life etc.

    1. Tuesday*

      I have mixed feelings. To me personally, when I hear those words it’s like a thunderclap – it’s so jarring and off-putting to me. But I also know that someone who isn’t a Christian wouldn’t feel convicted about it in the same way that I do, so I don’t think I could expect them to change their language if it was something I just happened to overhear. I just chalk it up to any number of things that people who aren’t Christian do that I wouldn’t do myself.

      1. allathian*

        The only people I’ve heard use JC as a swear word are either those who were raised Christian but actively rejected the teachings of their family’s religion, or who consider themselves Christian but aren’t particularly devout, or who grew up in a traditionally Christian country but were raised in a secular or atheistic family so they have only vague ideas about Christianity in general and no personal relationship with it.

        I’ve never heard a practicing member of a non-Christian religion use JC as a swear word.

  13. CY*

    As someone who works in customer service and tends to swear a lot if I don’t watch myself: One time I was in the middle of helping a customer with a fairly complicated problem when my phone went off with a tornado warning for our area. This was during a very stormy week and was like the third tornado warning we’d gotten in recent memory, so without thinking I muttered “oh, Jesus CHRIST” in frustration. Customer looked up at me with a kind of “…what did you just say?” reaction and I instantly scrambled to clarify that I’d been reacting to the weather alert and my words were not in any way directed at them and their complicated problem. They seemed understanding (and went on to share my frustration about the tornado warning), but, yeah, ever since then I’ve tried extra hard to watch what comes out of my mouth around customers.

  14. Jellyfish*

    I’m an atheist and enjoy being a bit blasphemous in private as a response to a painful background in Christianity. At work, though? No, I don’t do or say anything that would potentially bother a reasonable coworker or client who happens to be religious.

    Now I’m not going to take down the little pride flag at my workspace because it might offend a bigot, but it doesn’t hurt or inconvenience me to find expressions that don’t “take the lord’s name in vain.” I guess this is a case where I pick my battles as an employee who doesn’t fit in with the religious majority. If I choose to go to the mat over something relating to faith, it won’t be my right to use someone else’s religion as my expression of everyday frustration.

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask your employees to be cognizant of the language they use around other people.

    1. Sylvan*

      If I choose to go to the mat over something relating to faith, it won’t be my right to use someone else’s religion as my expression of everyday frustration.

      +1 to this.

      Also from an atheist perspective, I don’t use “Jesus Christ” to swear because that’s… not blasphemous, I guess, and I’m not asking god or Jesus to help me with whatever I’m swearing about, either.

    2. All The Words*

      This is right where I am too. I’m actually pretty hostile to most religions, but I respect that the entire world doesn’t think like I do. And I swear more than I probably should. If I tip over my coffee tumbler “oh shit” will burst out of my mouth no matter where I am.

      But I stay away from religious swearing because there is a decent chance it’s going to offend someone. We’re (the world) having enough trouble getting along these days.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I think this is roughly where I fall. If I am going to offend anyone I want it to be intentional, I dont want collatoral damage or to come over as attacking or belittling someone’s faith.

      I don’t swear much,but when I do, I don’t typically use religiously themes swears (maybe ‘bloody hell’ but I don’tthinkthat is typically offensive in the way that ‘Jesus Christ’ might be)

    4. Some Dude*

      Yeah, I’m not religious but I try not to blaspheme because I don’t want to mock someone’s faith in my attempts to vent. It’s just disrespectful in my opinion. Think of it this way: most people won’t be offended, but the people who are offended are offended because you are literally mocking their faith. Is mocking someone’s faith worth it to express frustration that the copier is jammed?

    5. Emma*

      I’m a bit further over to one side of this. I was also raised christian, quit, and then looked back and started to recognise the incredible harm that was done to me and my family (most of whom are still christian). So I do use lots of christianity-adjacent swears (I particularly enjoy ‘christ on a f***ing bike’ – although not at work – it’s just a great image), and I feel that’s a lexicon that I’m entitled to just as a currently practising christian is, because it’s shaped my life as much as it would if I were still christian; and I can’t imagine a practising christian being told off for saying “jesus!” in frustration, though perhaps others can!

      On the other hand, I wouldn’t go around saying inshallah all the time, even though it’s a neutral term and not sweary at all, because that would feel appropriative towards muslims.

      1. starfox*

        I hope you don’t use those words around practicing Christians, though. Having a bad experience with something doesn’t give you the right to disrespect things that mean a lot to others.

        I’m not particularly offended, as a semi-religious person, but I try to respect everyone’s religion. I was hurt a lot by the particular brand of Christianity I grew up in, but I don’t think that gives me the right to be disrespectful to people who practice that faith.

  15. Not Your Catholic Schoolgirl*

    On the topic of amusing substitutes, I’m prone to saying “F***in’ Jesus” in private and “Fudge ‘n’ cheese” in public. Sometimes you just need to drop an F-bomb, and the bomb itself doesn’t matter so long as it begins with a nice, satisfying, hard F-sound.

    1. Not Your Catholic Schoolgirl*

      *Fudge ‘n’ cheeses, plural. Gotta work in all the necessary sounds without using the actual words! And when you’re really annoyed, an F-bomb is too much for a single cheese to handle. ;)

      (Browser is fighting me today…let’s see if this comment works.)

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Chumbawamba have a song with a repeated line of “Jesus in Vegas!” which in our family has been transmogrified into “Cheeses and Bagels!” (Note that our family is fine with swears, and also fine with wordplay. And also with bagels.)

  16. MysteriousMise*

    Sweary Irish (lapsed) catholic here.

    It’s not great. It would be considered a fairly….agressive outburst, imho. Less awful that F***; on a par with “holy sh1t”. It would be saved for occasions of deep astonishmet, pain,or anger.

    Happily, as a sweary Irish (lapsed) catholic, I have an extensive repertoire of curse words available. For a good religious curse, I swear by:-

    HolyMotherOfDivineLanternJaysusAndAllTheAngelsAndTheSaints.

    1. Weekend Warrior*

      You might like the Irish-adjacent Newfoundland phrase “Lard t’underin’ Jaysus!” !

  17. Not Your Catholic Schoolgirl*

    *Fudge ‘n’ cheeses, plural. Gotta work in all the necessary sounds without using the actual words! And when you’re really annoyed, an F-bomb is too much for a single cheese to handle. ;)

    1. Not Your Catholic Schoolgirl*

      This was supposed to be a self-reply, not a new comment. Fudge ‘n’ cheeses, I am at war with my browser today.

  18. LaFramboise*

    My dad can rip out “Judas Priest” or “Jesus Wept” in a truly horrifying tone, one that’s worse than the stand-in swear words. I shudder when I hear it (and I’m now an Old).

    And by describing this, I mean that Phyllis shouldn’t be saying “Jesus Christ” OR making exclamations when the public can hear her. Both are bad, but in my opinion, her tone of voice is worse, and the swear (and I’m not Xtian) makes it all the more bad. Sounds like an angry response to poorly managed frustration. I’d have your manager ask Phyllis to alter her entire approach to her reaction to what happens when things go wrong.

  19. Atheist 5eVar*

    I would tell the employee not to use it. Imagine someone saying “Oh Allah!” or “Oh Yahweh!”
    Same thing. While it’s not a “curse word” it’s not polite, either.

    And I say this as a 100% atheist.

    1. Autumnheart*

      Which is funny since “Allahu akbar” is frequently used the same way we use “Oh my God!” or “My lord!”

      1. Moira Rose*

        And Jews don’t say “Yahweh” out loud (though perhaps the original commenter was thinking of Jehovah’s Witnesses).

      2. Jessica Ganschen*

        Also, Jewish people basically never attempt to pronounce the Tetragrammaton out loud. In prayer, we replace it with “Adonai”, in regular speech, most people just say “God”, or if they’re in a very Jewish context “HaShem”, meaning “the name”.

    2. Taxidermybobcat*

      Thank you. Agreed – there’s no need to make any religious figure into a swear word, especially when there are other alternatives that don’t have the loaded potential to alienate/make others uncomfortable in a work environment. It’s just not appropriate.

      My advice from a practical perspective to the employee would be – 1) You need to work on not expressing frustration in a visible way in front of customers, and 2) if you’re going to express frustration in front of other employees, don’t use religious terminology to swear, period. That makes is less about the phrase JC specifically, and more about the fact that we don’t want to create an environment where religious figures of any kind are used as swear words, because that’s not inclusive. The rules of civility should not be “what can I get away with saying?” but “how should I appropriately filter myself, knowing that I live in a pluralistic society and my intent is not to cause harm within reason?”

  20. That_guy*

    This is an interesting one. I grew up in a religious house and we never swore. The typical words like the f-bomb and the like were verboten, and we were taught that the Biblical injunction on profanity was technically specific to the “Jesus Christ” example in the letter.
    When I left home for college and started ignoring Christianity, I picked up casual swearing, but could never get myself to swear using “religious” words. When my oldest child was born, I just gave up on swearing altogether rather than code-shift between swearing when not at home and abstaining when home. I’ve since returned to Christianity and although there really is no scriptural reason to avoid using Anglo-Saxon words for bodily functions, I’ve just never returned to it.
    I have never objected to the language people have used around me, no matter how coarse, because it generally does not bother me. My lack of swearing must be noticed by my coworkers though, some have apologized when using profanity around me. I always tell them that there is no need to apologize.
    Amusing anecdote – I was so annoyed by a something once, that I actually dropped the f-bomb, admittedly slightly calculatedly. Everyone got really quiet and one guy said something along the lines of “I guess he must really mean it.”

    1. Bagpuss*

      HA, yes, if you don’t normally swear, it *really* catches people’s attention when you do. I definitely get this reaction as I very rarely swear (to the exten that I have had people make the assumption that I find it offensive, and they apologise if they do so in my presence. I don’t find it offensive , but I always found it easier not to swear then to code switch depending on where I was / who I was with , and learned that it has way more impact if you only use it rarely.

      (I did once hve a situation where my muttered ‘oh, for F***k;s sake’ had a bigger impact that another person’s shoted F-bombs, becasue they were typically foul mouthed and I wasn’t, so the rather trowdy group decided that they had, in fact, gone a bit to far and backed down (context was a bunch of students in a pub, so the language wasn’t out of place!)

  21. Library_Lady*

    FWIW, “God Bless America!” became my go-to for times I needed to swear at work in front of the public – i.e, I just dropped a book on my toe and “(*&$#!*@^” isn’t appropriate due to my surroundings. It’s completely benign but the tone of voice still allows me to express my frustration/pain/angst. And other than my coworker laughing at me, no one has ever commented on it!

    1. Not Your Catholic Schoolgirl*

      I have definitely sarcastically whipped out “‘Murrica–FRICK YEAH!” when I’m annoyed at US news, US happenings, or just at someone who is probably a fellow American. XD (Or just because.)

  22. SheLooksFamiliar*

    People get frustrated at work, especially people who work with or around customers – and if you are one of those folks interacting with customers, especially in retail, I don’t know how you do it. Customers can suck. Well, they suck at my grocery store, anyway. It’s not reasonable to expect employees to never, ever show frustration – not that anyone is suggesting it. But I do think it’s reasonable to ask employees to be mindful of their surroundings.

    It took time but I trained myself to say ‘I’ll be darned’ or ‘phooey’ or nothing at all. Maybe a deep sigh. You get the idea. I’m an atheist and don’t have a problem with exclaiming ‘Jesus Christ’ in general, but I know it could offend a person of faith. I’d rather not offend people if I can avoid it since I seem to do it when I don’t mean to.

  23. FloraPoste*

    I was brought up not using ‘Jesus Christ’ in a swear-y way (Catholic mum), but randomly said it once in response to a shocking new story my boss was telling me over lunch – probably because my first reaction to this story would be an F-bomb in another context, and this was what I hurriedly reached for instead. Anyway that was how I found out my boss was religious – I had been in the role for about a year, and religion had never really come up. She visibly flinched and said ‘Please try not to say that in front of me!’ I was MORTIFIED, stammered out an apology, and then everything was cool. And religion again went back to being something that doesn’t really ever come up.

    We have both very much F-bombed around each other on appropriate occasions in the two years since then, which indeed seems to be much less of a big deal! I will still steer clear of the F-bomb in other work situations, and will DEFINITELY steer clear of the JC-bomb for all time, because you never know.

  24. Stressed*

    I think the visible/audible frustration is far more concerning than the language used to voice that frustration. That’s where you should keep your focus.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Right. The real issue is, what’s going on that Phyllis is so frustrated/angry while at work? That’s where OP needs to dig in.

    2. Gothic Bee*

      Yeah, I don’t know that there’s any word that would be good in this context if the issue is that Phyllis is frequently having angry/frustrated outbursts.

  25. anonymous73*

    I have a potty mouth, but am always aware of my surroundings when saying bad words. If Phyllis is working within earshot of customers, she needs to learn to control her outbursts regardless of what she’s saying. Even when I worked in an office and was nowhere near any outside customers or clients, I still watched my mouth unless I was 100% sure those around me wouldn’t be offended. You’re in mixed company at work, and people shouldn’t be subjected to cursing (whether of the traditional or religious toned variety).

  26. Aardvark Lover*

    My Irish (ex)in-laws were fond of “Jesus (Mary and Joseph)!” with Jesus being said with all the fervor of a swear, and Mary and Joseph being tacked on hurriedly to keep it from being a sin. I’ve never quite lost the habit.

    1. saf*

      My mom’s former boss, Irish American Catholic, horrified my good Presbyterian mother once. When discussing a supplier’s new prices, he roared out “Holy mother of god I’m being crucified!”

    2. Grey Panther*

      My non-swearing mother used “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” occasionally, but only when extremely provoked. My own personal favorites are “Oh, my sweet baby Jesus!” and “Hockey puck!” Surprisingly, they do release frustration.

      In my own life I’m a creative curser, but then I live alone and my cat doesn’t care. The f-word did escape me in public once … in public … on stage … at a local library event in a very conservative small town. I wasn’t overly popular after that …

  27. Lorna*

    I’m amused by the fact that I read that people would be offended by hearing “Jesus Christ” like that and thought to myself: “oh my god”. However, I’m Welsh/British and reckon there’s a totally different culture around it here.

  28. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    When in the safety of the IT department we swear like Malcolm Tucker. When in front of end users/on site I absolutely don’t want that to be the impression people get of us being angry foul-mouthed geeks.

    So the prevailing advice here to my staff is usually ‘if you’re getting frustrated or angry enough to let loose with offensive words and you’re in an environment where you know it is not appropriate then stop, take a breath, even pop to the bog for a minute or two’

    And believe me I know it’s hard – I have a very bad temper and keeping that from entering my voice at work is an ongoing process. I still hold to not saying things in anger in front of others though.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Btw what is offensive to e.g. an end user on site may not even register on our barometer of rude words but I’ve found the ‘don’t say stuff in anger’ has generally prevented most complaints of offensive behaviour.

      (Of course there’s people who get offended at other stuff that I don’t have any control over so you’ll never eliminate all the complaints)

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Ooh, thank you! I searched that name and it led me to the fictional character protrayed by Peter Capaldi. Which, I love that guy! I loved him since I saw him in “Children of Earth” and then I loved his Doctor as well. And I remember reading at the time that part of the joke was that his former character had had such a foul mouth.

      And fwiw, I get a fair amount of mileage from just saying “Ooh, this makes me want to use very bad language”. Which doesn’t actually satisfy the swearing part of the brain, but it certainly gets my point across.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        * the swearing part of the brain….

        John McWhorter’s new book is Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever. I was just listening to the introduction and he was saying that in studies of people’s brain activity, regular speech “lights up” parts of the brain that are related to language; while swears light up parts of the brain that are related to *emotion*.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. And there’s also some research showing that swearing when you hurt yourself actually makes it hurt less, particularly if you normally don’t swear. That’s why we’ve never objected to our son swearing when he stubs his toe or something.

  29. Office Lobster DJ*

    I seem to be reading this letter a little differently. I’m seeing a lot of comments that Phyllis must be constantly frustrated, hostile, or angry. But OP’s leading example is where Phyllis is using “Jesus Christ” to intensify an “Oof!” when picking something up. That seems more like a verbal habit to me, not an outburst. If this the only issue with Phyllis, I think OP would be in the clear to focus on changing the expression rather than having a larger conversation about polish or Phyllis’s level of frustration.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Fair point. I know I have had to come up with some acceptable habitual words when doing something strenuous (which, being disabled, can mean just getting up from a chair) at work. I’ve used Klingon in the past…

    2. NeedRain47*

      Agreed. Phyllis isn’t yelling “OH JESUS CHRIST” at the top of her lungs when she drops her pencil. It sounds more like she’s muttering to herself in the course of her day, and if she’s saying it regularly, she probably doesn’t consider it a swear word. Asking her to stop saying it where customers might hear is reasonable. But it’s not a Major Behavioral Issue and I hope Angela isn’t seeing it as one.

    3. gev*

      THANK YOU. I don’t understand why so many people are talking about Phyllis’ “constant outbursts” and “loud, angry exclamations” when that’s not in the letter. There’s no mention of volume or frequency, and the LW even said the other employee is extremely sensitive. Not that it wouldn’t be reasonable to ask Phyllis to avoid that phrase, but it’s not like she’s screaming obscenities at customers.

  30. LMB*

    When I was a kid my very Catholic mother had no problem with me exclaiming “oh sh*t!” but if I said “Jesus”/“Jesus Christ” I would get reprimanded, even though my mother said it all the time herself! Thus, growing up it always seemed like an *adult* swear word in some way. And, my even more Catholic grandmother would have had a heart attack if she heard someone taking the name in vain, but she would somehow get around that by saying “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” I say “Jesus Christ” now as an adult/at work usually with a sigh when hearing about bad news or a difficult interaction of some kind. I agree with Alison that content wise it’s probably fine as long as it’s not targeting someone’s religion, but the biggest issue is how Phylis presents to customers in showing frustration, etc. I think it’s a little bit of a gray area though because it doesn’t sound like Phylis is working directly with customers or even often in their presence but just that a customer *could* overhear from where she is. It’s hard to tell employees they can’t let out some kind of exclamation when lifting a heavy box or something like that, and it’s hard for employees to be “on” all the time *in case* a customer happens to be in ear shot.
    Unless it’s totally inappropriate behavior that happens constantly I can’t see policing that. Presumably the customers have jobs too and understand that some days you are just going to mutter “Jesus Christ” in the course of your duties.

  31. Mockingjay*

    “Does it even matter whether or not customers can hear it — is it just inappropriate period? Do we tell Phyllis that she can’t say “Jesus Christ” at work?”

    Regardless of the swear choice, it seems that Phyllis has regular outbursts that 1) disturb her coworker and 2) may disturb customers. That’s what OP and the other manager need to address with her. “There are times when you get frustrated at work and express that feeling, but your exclamations are off-putting to coworkers and customers. Can you refrain from swearing around others?” And ask Phyllis what’s going on. Her expressions may be habitual or maybe there’s a larger issue that needs to be addressed.

  32. Potential Sailor Mouth*

    Apologies if this is too off topic from the subject but what about literally saying “G.D.” (like spelling out the letters)? I’ve dropped that a handful of times at the office and I thought I was doing really well to censor myself in the moment, but now I’m thinking it would still be offensive? Or saying “effing”?

    1. anonymous73*

      I think when you’re in mixed company (like the office), it’s best to keep any and all words that can be considered offensive to yourself, unless you know for a fact that the others around you wouldn’t take offense. You need to be aware of your surroundings and filter yourself as an adult. When I’ve started new jobs, I always observe those around me to determine what’s okay and what’s not, and act accordingly. It’s close to impossible to eliminate everything that “may” be considered offensive to everyone, but trying to contain your outbursts and words that accompany them is a good way to go initially.

    2. NeedRain47*

      It depends on the people in your office/industry, but generally…..

      Any permutation of god, Jesus, damn, dang, effing or any other swear-alike word may offend people who think these words offend their supernatural being. This may only include blasphemous words or may include traditional swear words (like the f word). I’ve been scolded by a coworker who overheard me saying “damn” (without the g word) in a private situation (no customers in the building). So yeah, you may have offended someone. But if you don’t do it often they’re probably not going to say anything about it.

      1. Taxidermybobcat*

        To offer a slightly different perspective…it’s not that I believe God is particularly offended by it. Think about it like this — you have a relationship with someone that you love, that you are close to. You regularly speak with that person. You treasure their name and what it means to you. Suddenly you hear that person’s name being used like a curse/swear word by someone else every time they’re frustrated. It’s not that it’s “culturally offensive,” it’s that it’s painful to you because it cuts you in a way that other words don’t.
        Add to this that if you do bring if up and say it bothers you, people aren’t likely to understand, and are more likely to interpret your reaction as “pearl clutching,” and label you as an overly sensitive religious nut. So you don’t bring it up, but every time it happens, it hurts, and you wince, because they’re using the name of your loved one to blow off steam. I don’t claim to speak for every religious or devout person, but that’s why it bothers me.

        1. NeedRain47*

          Thanks for that. Your explanation makes a compelling argument for courtesy and a lot more sense than “you can’t say that ’cause someone else’s god says so”.

        2. ThatsEnoughTalking*

          100%. God has heard much worse than someone using their name in vain. It is more about the respect for those who love God than offending the deity directly.

  33. Ozzac*

    I had a very religious friend who told me never to use the name of the Lord in vain when he was in earshot, in response to me saying “Jesus” lifting something heavy, so I too would err on the side of banning it on the floor like any other swear word.

  34. FloralWraith*

    I do have to wonder though: “OMG” or “OMFG” are pretty typical acronyms used online and I would say, especially in post-COVID hybrid roles, people are probably using these in their work chats, even informally. Is this okay? Is it as an acronym more normalised and safe than saying it/spelling it out?

    1. Jackie*

      Yeah, I was also thinking about OMG, I must admit I use it a lot without giving any thought to the religious aspect. Maybe I should be more careful. But people do use it an awful lot and in the form of an acronym I think loses it’s power.
      In our family we say zounds (from Shakespeare) sometimes to show mock-horror but we wouldn’t say it around others.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        I don’t use it myself, and it *does* offend me, although more in a reflexive eye-rolly way than the hurt reaction described in other threads. As you say, a lot of people do use it these days. But, like buzzwords or lazy speech habits such as using “like” or “you know” constantly, I do find it annoying. Most people don’t ask, and I rarely mention it because my annoyance or lack thereof has nothing to do with the matter under discussion. It’s more that, when it comes to elective interactions, I’d rather avoid tedious speakers and seek out individuals who express themselves more intentionally and dynamically. Yes, sometimes this can involve mighty, thundering expletives, which have no place in front of customers or clients.

        I want to emphasize that I know that my reaction is personal to me. I also know that one person’s dynamic original wit is another person’s “Oh no, it’s So-and-so again!” It’s just my two cents that using “OMG!” in a chat or IM medium does have the potential to incite the receiver to picture the sender as a gum-chewing Valley Girl stereotype. I just wanted to put this out there to say, It’s out there. Not because I think I’m in the right, or that there necessarily *is* a “right”.

    2. OP*

      Also a good question! This one didn’t even cross my mind. I’m not thinking about the work emails I’ve sent and if I’ve ever seen it/used it.

    3. A*

      I use it all the time – but when speaking I say ‘oh my gosh’. I’m more than happy to avoid saying ‘oh my god’ to be respectful, but I’m not going to avoid letters/acronyms based on the assumption of the exact variation it stands for. Granted this is very much dependent on the audience, region etc. but in my current area and industry ‘oh my gosh’ is not considered offensive or anything to bat an eye at.

  35. Becky S.*

    I don’t patronize any place where employees seem unhappy. Decades ago I stopped using a dentist after 3 different employees complained (bitterly) about him in front of me. He was a very good dentist but something was going to go wrong sooner or later. It’s the same with stores. Yes, it’s difficult working with the public, but if even a few of the employees are visibly frustrated, I’ll find another store.

  36. Moira Rose*

    I feel a little bad that “Jesus Christ Almighty” is fully baked into my idiolect as an expression of frustration, but this is what you get when you grow up with a pre-Boomer ex-Catholic dad in a non-Christian household. If I knew it really bothered someone I interacted with a lot at work I would do my best to curtail it, but I don’t know how successful I’d be.

  37. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    I posted part of this as a reply somewhere up above, but I think it’s worth having a sit down with Phyllis and trying to do a root cause analysis with her. What is causing all the outbursts? Are there any really frustrating parts of the job that can be improved on to lessen the frustration level? Could maybe some part of this be removed from customer view/earshot so that any frustration-spawned epithets don’t accidentally offend the customer?

    The words potentially (depending on the region you’re in) aren’t great, but really my bigger concern is the seemingly constant level of frustration that Phyllis is walking around in at work.

    But if it’s just a verbal tic, and she’s not frustrated, then it’s definitely worth game planning with Phyllis to come up with something else to use, and ask her to dial back on the “level of enthusiasm” in her voice/volume with that verbal tic.

    1. ABCYaBye*

      I am really wondering if it is a tic of some sort. I’ve caught myself saying things – not even in a swear-y way – when I’ve bumped into my desk or lifted something and there’s nothing to it other than vocalizing.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      This feels over the top when a “Hey please don’t say “Jesus Christ” in front of customers in case it offends” would likely suffice. I’d be SO much more annoyed and defensive if a manager tried to make this A Whole Thing instead of just a quick correction.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I’m thinking a lot of the evaluating could probably be done without Phyllis – but if she’s constantly saying this because she’s in a constantly frustrated state, then addressing the why probably makes the swearing reduce as a natural result.

        May also make the work environment better for all if other employees are also sharing some of Phyllis’s frustration, but in a more subdued fashion than she is.

      2. GythaOgden*

        I agree with Where’s The Orchestra?

        If Phyllis is continuously expressing frustration, asking her what’s wrong would be the compassionate thing to do. I used to moderate a forum on Reddit, and one of the other moderators was getting upset on a regular basis both with me behind the scenes and with people on the forum while she was posting as a user. It was clear after a while that her anger was more than just a personal beef with me; it was a symptom of deeper stress.

        So working this out with Phyllis needn’t be a disciplinary thing so much as a check in that she’s OK and doesn’t need more help.

        1. pancakes*

          That’s a different scenario, though. A fellow volunteer mod seems like a different type of relationship than two coworkers, to me. I say that never having been a mod anyplace, but I’m inclined to think that if Phyllis needs help regulating her emotions at work, it’s going to be an intrusive overstep in many environments for coworkers to offer that. A supervisor could point her toward an EAP if that seems helpful, but I’d probably try Gerry’s approach first.

  38. LittleFox*

    If I didn’t work at home and for a different type of company than explained-I would of thought this was written about me-I’m so guilty of using this saying. I agree with Allison’s advice esp with the customer facing issues. I generally approach my management pretty liberally, as a leadership team we often cuss around each other. But never with clients or customers. I’ve worked in a LOT of conservative religious spaces where this phrase would have been a write up so I think it really comes down to the culture of the company.

  39. ABCYaBye*

    As it relates to the letter, I think the observation of Phyllis to ensure that there are no hostilities toward Angela is perfect. But while observing, I also think it is definitely worth noting how/when/how often/where/why Phyllis says this. Then there’s some context when you approach her, as you probably need to discuss with her how this impacts her coworkers and your customers, no matter what phrase she uses. She may not even realize how often it is happening. You do need to make sure that those around her aren’t offended and/or feel otherwise uncomfortable if she’s exclaiming any words loudly, regularly.

    1. OP*

      Thank you! I like this approach. I definitely don’t want to go into the conversation blind, and I feel like since I haven’t seen it in action, I would be.

  40. Former Retail Lifer*

    I’d ask her not to say it. I’m an atheist and I curse like a sailor, but I know both can be offensive so I do my best to leave all of those words and phrases out of work conversations. Neither is offensive to *me*, but they offend enough people (and that’s not unreasonable) that I know I can’t use them at work.

  41. OP*

    First, I think I was so surprised by this being brought to me that I did not think it through or articulate the situation as a whole in my letter clearly. I know I said “in place of a swear word,” but my brain never comprehended that Jesus Christ could BE a swear word. So thank you to everyone who expressed that! Because we work with the public (think DMV or a similar organization that serves everyone and anyone), it is good to know that so many folks that come in may be offended. I typically go for “shoot” and “drats” and the ilk when I’m working the floor and make an exclamation, so I guess in my brain JC was the same! I do apologize for my ignorance in that respect.

    Second, there are very large differences in Angela and Phyllis’s personalities, backgrounds, and cultures. Angela is a very sensitive person, probably more professional than our environment calls for, and wonderfully conscientious. Phyllis could have said it twice and Angela would have brought it up. I personally have never seen Phyllis be hostile, so that’s why I said the manager and I intend to monitor the situation- we don’t know how frequently it is actually occurring. @Office Lobster DJ has the best interpretation of my letter I’ve seen so far:

    “I seem to be reading this letter a little differently. I’m seeing a lot of comments that Phyllis must be constantly frustrated, hostile, or angry. But OP’s leading example is where Phyllis is using “Jesus Christ” to intensify an “Oof!” when picking something up. That seems more like a verbal habit to me, not an outburst. If this the only issue with Phyllis, I think OP would be in the clear to focus on changing the expression rather than having a larger conversation about polish or Phyllis’s level of frustration.”

    So, that being said, I think we’ll start with taking JC off the floor, and go from there. :)

    1. Just Another Starving Artist*

      Angela is a very sensitive person, probably more professional than our environment calls for, and wonderfully conscientious. Phyllis could have said it twice and Angela would have brought it up.

      That doesn’t sound conscientious so much as causing a problem where there isn’t one.

      1. L-squared*

        Right? Someone saying something twice and bringing it to management seems like they are being a busy body more than conscientious

  42. Daughter of a preacher woman*

    America really is a different world. I’m the daughter of a minister and have spent time around maaany protestant ministers and a bishop or two. I’ve never heard of anyone being offended by that phrase or cursing in general. Annoyed, maybe.

    Scandinavia, lutheran protestant.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Or a dozen or a hundred different worlds, many of them overlapping geographically: ride the New York subway and you might hear people swearing in a variety of languages, anything from utterly G-rated to things including F– and invocations of Jesus.

      If I say anything stronger than “bother!” or “oy vey!” someone might be offended. Heck, if it’s about being visibly frustrated, Angela might object to a loud “oy vey!”

    2. Nodramalama*

      This might be because I’m Australian, but I barely notice when people swear at work, let alone use a ‘swear’ like jesus Christ, which wouldn’t even register to me as a swear word. To me, not swearing is kind of from a bygone era of more formal workplaces which I’ve never really experienced. I certainly don’t think anyone would even notice if I were to say ‘oh my God’. But I work in a legal area and have frequently heard people say “oh that matter is fucked”

      But I’m also not in a customer facing role, which would likely to change my answer.

      1. pancakes*

        There are a number of Australians in the legal world in NYC and yes, I think there’s a lot of overlap between these two spheres when it comes to swearing. But yeah, not in front of clients.

    3. A*

      It’s regionally dependent as well. I’m in the US, but had the same experience as you up until moving to Southern US in my twenties. Not to say it’s just a North v. South thing, just in speaking in regards to the two smaller regions I have lived in.

      The US is very, very large and has a lot of regional cultural etc. differences.

  43. GythaOgden*

    I’m in the UK. I use those words or derivatives a lot, and I’m a practising Christian. No one would care about the specifics.

    That said, this doesn’t sound like it’s an issue about the language used, more the behaviour. We all get frustrated from time to time and occasionally use language that allows us to let off steam. If you’re working with someone, you sometimes need to grit your teeth, blow steam out of your nose and ears and deal with your colleague or customer politely. Or do what I do and go outside the doors and scream.

    1. NeedRain47*

      I get the impression that the UK is far more secular in day to day things than the US, especially certain parts of the US where the Christianity can be…. intense. I’m in the US midwest, and have never worked in a place where this wouldn’t upset someone.

  44. Liz T*

    Foul-mouthed secularist Jew here, and I try not to use that particular oath at work. And I’ve worked at artsy lefty places in NYC! But I know that it’s meaningful, and probably not right for the workplace. Not something I would expend energy on if I heard it once or twice, but I get that it being the go-to like it is here isn’t the best.

    I think “jeez” is fine though. That’s just, like, the social compromise.

    (Also, on a personal swear-y note…the full phrase is a satisfying thing to say if you save it up. The consonants are so good to really lay into, I’m one to save it for when I’m truly exasperated, not just when a box is heavy.)

  45. Ellen N.*

    I am an atheist who constantly drops f-bombs and uses blasphemy.

    When I worked in an office setting I didn’t curse or use blasphemy because I didn’t want to offend others.

    I had to ask others to stop using language that offends me such as the r word, the phrase dragon lady, etc.

    1. Wisteria*

      I see word like the r-word and the other you mention as being in a very different category from curse words and profanity. Words like the r-word make an insult out a particular way of existing as a human, like having an intellectual disability or being a woman of Asian descent. They imply that there is something bad and wrong about having an intellectual disability or being a woman of Asian descent (or whatever). I won’t use any words, including curse words, that are based in misogyny, homophobia, or any kind of derogatory attitude based on innate traits. I won’t tolerate those words being used around me, either. So the b-word is right out, not because it’s a swear word, but because it is rooted in the assumption that “woman” is a bad human configuration. “Fuck” and “Jesus Christ” might offend some people, but they are not rooted in any assumption that degrades a person based on innate traits.

      1. pancakes*

        I think that’s a good approach for work and I definitely get why you want to avoid those words, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to hold people to that standard outside of work because sometimes communities reclaim words for themselves. There are women using b—— to affectionately greet friends, and corners of the LGBTQ community where serving c— is a compliment on one’s look or vibe, and I don’t think any one person can or necessarily should tell them they’re wrong to do that, or that they need to be scrupulous about only doing that behind closed doors.

        1. Lucy Skywalker*

          Sometimes men get called bitches, too. In certain Democrat/liberal spaces, the Senate Minority Leader is referred to as Mitch the Bitch.

  46. Joanna*

    As a sweary atheist, I would not say it in a work environment, especially one with customers . I know how my grandmother felt about it (I would got to HE double hockey sticks or saying it) and understand that some people do find it extremely offensive. It just seems wiser to avoid it.

  47. So F-ing Anonymous*

    I do work in an office setting and the sole reason I do not swear here as much as I do in my regular life is because I cannot afford to be fired over my language (or anything else, really). I realize that in 2022 I am 100% in the minority here, but my language offending you is 100% a you problem. I will respect your wishes about language in your space (home, car, office), but in my space or general life, I’m not going out of my way to avoid offending any or everyone. It’s too much mental gymnastics and that energy is better spent elsewhere, IMO.

  48. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

    You could do what I did for a short time and regularly say “J***s F***ing C***t” repeatedly. That way you can offend as many people as possible in one fell swoop. Luckily, I only got a verbal warning to knock it off.

  49. Nom*

    I am not religious, this does not offend me in that sense. But I would say it’s actually quite a forceful swear and expresses much more frustration to me than if someone were to say the s word. For completely non religious reasons, I really think this is a particularly bad swear and i would not want to hear it regularly from colleagues.

    1. Madtown Maven*

      Yes! My family chose to clean up most of our language around our youngsters, so that they would learn to express their frustrations with reliably polite expletives. “Rats!” was a big one at our house. Other good ones were “That’s a pack of nonsense!”, “Fudge pops!”, “That’s not Scottish!”, and “Blast it!”

      Now that our youngers are grown, they’ve developed language habits that are clean enough to get through most situations without the Big Swears.

  50. CaptainMouse*

    The strongest swear I ever heard my father say was “damnation”. But to 5 year old me it sounded like he was mad at the US, not that the car wouldn’t start.

  51. MicroManagered*

    OP I would not be so quick to assume that Angela *isn’t* offended by Phyllis saying “Jesus Christ.” She may be citing the customer-facing aspect as a way to give extra weight to this, hoping you’ll do something.. I’m basing that off the fact that she also said she “thinks Phyllis may be directing it toward her.”

    1. pancakes*

      Idk, I don’t think it’s quite fair to assume she was being coy. It’s possible, but the letter writer can and should tell Phyllis to stop saying Jesus Christ in front of customers either way.

  52. Lobsterman*

    “J C” is too intense a curse word to be appropriate at any but the saltiest of jobs, and definitely not facing the customer outside of a safety situation. “J C it’s gonna blow, get the hell out of here!” is acceptable; anything less is not.

  53. Despachito*

    I think “Jesus Christ” has a potential to offend people, so I’d think it is better to avoid it around customers.

    And I’d think about the frequently expressed frustration, in front of customers or otherwise, irrespective of the words used for it. Is there something particularly frustrating in Phyllis’s work? Or is it Phyllis who has lower frustration tolerance?

    I do not think it is good to swear frequently, and if you actually have a valid reason, it sucks as well. It might perhaps be worthwhile to try to find out WHY Phyllis feels the urge to swear so often, and what could be done for her to stop. Perhaps there is something in the process where she could use some help, or perhaps she just needs to get over herself, but it would definitely be worth investigating.

  54. Kevin Sours*

    I would not assume Angela is not personally offended. She hasn’t by my reading said that she isn’t and it’s not uncommon for people to focus on “objective” problems rather than just come out and say “this offends me and I’d rather you not do it” (frequently counter productively because the former invites attempts to solve the problem which doesn’t help because it isn’t the real problem).

  55. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

    As far as I’m concerned, respecting someone’s religion means allowing them to observe their own religious taboos. It doesn’t mean their religious taboos have to be observed by people who don’t belong to that religion.

    So if your religion says you can’t eat a certain kind of food, or say “Jesus Christ” or “cripes”, or expose your hair, and that’s not an essential part of your job duties, then my respect for your right to practice your religion means I won’t push you to do those things. (Though if your job requires performing marriages, you really need to find a different job if you can’t marry people of the same sex.)

    But your belonging to a religion doesn’t mean that I can’t eat certain foods, say “Jesus Christ”, or wear my hair uncovered.

    And I honestly think that setting these boundaries is important. Christianity in particular has a long history of announcing, “Because I believe X, you can’t do Y,” and trying to enforce that. Just because refraining from saying “Jesus Christ” is relatively low impact doesn’t mean that we don’t, as a society, benefit from normalizing firm boundaries around “your religious beliefs, your behavior; my religious beliefs, my behavior.”

    I would get very antsy if a company started telling me that I had to change my behavior to conform to someone else’s religious beliefs, or even if they asked me to (because the line between your boss asking you to do something and your boss telling you to can be very thin). I would fully expect my employer to tell a disgruntled customer or coworker that “I’m sorry, but we don’t enforce taboos of a specific religion, or any religion, on our employees.”

    I agree with Alison that the bigger problem is if there’s a hostile vibe being given off. I say “if”, because “Angela is worried that it’s directed AT her and that Phyllis is frustrated with Angela specifically” sounds rather out of proportion to “Instead of a grunt when picking up something, Phyllis will say, ‘Oof, Jesus Christ’.” But since I’m not there, I can’t read the room, and I’ll give Angela the benefit of the doubt here.

    1. allathian*

      I hear what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t go quite that far. In the workplace and in public in general, I think that the world would be a better place if people avoided giving unnecessary offence, like don’t swear in front of a person you suspect might or know will be offended by it.

      That said, if your mere existence offends someone, that’s definitely their problem, not yours.

      I definitely agree that nobody has the right to impose the dietary or vestimentary restrictions required by their religion on others, and I think it’s extremely inappropriate for people to police other people’s religious (non-)observance at work.

  56. wendelenn*

    Any Outlander fans here? Claire’s go-to would definitely not be acceptable but I do love it. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”

  57. Observer*

    OP, I think it’s not just your atheism that obscures your judgement. Because it’s not just devout Christians who would fine this jarring.

    But also, Alison is right that the swearing (of any ilk) should probably be dialed back. Because a lot of customers are going to be put off by the implied violence and hostility. So, people are also going to be put off by someone spitting out da**it! or saying Nuts! while slamming their desk.

    So whatever else you do, get her to dial it down in areas where customers could reasonably be expected to show up.

    1. F This*

      Eh, I think you’ve got it backwards. You’re faith is skewing your judgment because exclaiming “Jesus Christ” is normal and benign as heck.

  58. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Ah, I remember how I handled my nine-year-old daughter when she used salty language.

    “How was the haul today?”

    Huh?

    “Yeah the haul of fish. Because you sound like you just got off of a fishing boat in St. John’s!!”

  59. Coin_Operated*

    I find it interesting that so much of the comments around cursing in the work place associate that with anger. This is telling of the cognitive bias. Studies show that people who curse regularly, are happier and less angry in general in their lives and work, than those who don’t. I work in an office where we are all cuss like a sailor pretty regularly (including f-bombs), and we rarely have any actual hostility with one another. I think that’s probably because there’s a level of emotional intelligence that comes with being in a place mentally where “curse” words are just not offensive to hear. Of course, none of us actually, angrily curse AT each other, which is where there’s the obvious line not to cross.

    1. Wisteria*

      “I find it interesting that so much of the comments around cursing in the work place associate that with anger. ”

      Lol, yes. I find that so amusing. I bet most of those people would be far less upset by cursing if they examined their assumptions behind it and changed how they view the role of curse words in ordinary conversation.

  60. Sue Wilson*

    Well to be frank you’d have a problem getting me to stop by saying it’s profanity (you might have another argument but the profanity one wouldn’t fly). It’s prayer with emotion with my family and with every southern baptist black family I know, so good luck claiming religion on that one. I got in trouble for saying “crap” in my catholic school, but not jesus christ. My mother would get upset if I swore in front of her for years after I turned 18, but jesus christ, and lord almighty, and omg didn’t move a hair because those were both cultural and religiously acceptable request for god to give strength, patient, or when needed, to take to wheel.

    1. allathian*

      It has a lot to do with the tone of voice. If it sounds like a prayer, it’s one thing, but I can easily see that saying JC in the same tone of voice that someone else would say FFS would offend many people, even non-Christians.

  61. angrytreespirit*

    I sidestep this whole issue by uttering “Oh for fucks sake” under my breath 10-15 times a day.

  62. Esmeralda*

    Not offensive to me, and I say it at home (with an H in there).

    I NEVER say it at work, never have. I’m sorry Alison, just because no one feels comfortable saying they’re offended doesn’t make it ok. All sorts of reasons someone would not feel safe complaining. OP needs to tell their employee to find another, inoffensive word.

    I do agree that whatever the word, the tone needs to be restrained. Especially but not only around customers.

    1. AntsOnMyTable*

      If obscenities are banned than, sure, you can ban profanities. If they are allowed the f-word amongst others than they should be allowed this. This is just the flipside of Christianity being so pervasive in American culture. As a staunch atheist who is strongly anti-religion if I have to hear all my politicians say “God bless” so they can pander to the religious element than the religious element can deal with me saying OMG or JC.

      That being said I don’t think in most work places there should be outbursts of anger.

  63. It's Me*

    “Is “Jesus Christ” an inappropriate substitution for swear words in the workplace?”

    ?? In this context, it LITERALLY is a swear. Dictionary definition swear.

  64. Retired (but not really)*

    The workplace and especially a customer facing area is not the right place for profanity, cuss words, crudeness, whatever you want to call inappropriate language. I recognize that people are much more lax in their definition of inappropriate language these days than when I was growing up, but I still cringe when I hear any of it.
    And I’m sure I’m not alone in that reaction. I’m probably not going to say anything about it unless it’s way overboard (f bomb every other word) and then only if it’s someone I’m around often. As others have mentioned, any careless use of names of any deity just “feels” wrong in general.
    One of my college roommates chose the phrase “dirty words” (sometimes repeated multiple times) as her go to phrase. Mine is “oh, fiddlesticks”.

  65. Heffalump*

    I’ve heard, “Jesus wept.” I interpret it as “this situation would cause even Jesus to weep.”

  66. Waving not Drowning*

    My echolaic ASD son picked up using Oh My God as a frustration/swearing phrase. We’d redirect every time he says it, explain that it can make people sad if he says this, and that Oh my gosh was a better phrase.

    It sunk in – too well. He goes to Catholic school, and in morning prayer, would say “may gosh be with you”.

    We had to then talk about appropriate times to say God versus Gosh.

    At work, I have a very annoying habit of sighing loudly and repeatedly when I’m stressed over a problem, or the wording to use. Had no idea that I did it until a co-worker pointed it out. I try now when I’m in a shared office not to be “huffy” as they call it, because it was annoying to my workmates. I swear a little at work – but I try not to in front of my kids (echolaic – picks up on the phrases you DON’T want!), and I had a little road rage one day after a car nearly hit me and let forth a string of expletives with my kids in the car. I apologised for swearing, and their response was “yeah, we know when you actually swear that shit just got real”.

    1. allathian*

      That’s so true. I rarely swear, but when I do, there’s an immediately discernible good reason.

  67. madge*

    Calling fellow Ramona fans: Jeezus Beezus (I told my parents this was the spelling to avoid “taking the lord’s name in vain”) is my personal favorite. Still don’t use it around my religious colleague.

  68. F This*

    It always baffles me how much power we as a society assign to “bad” words. Like literally why care what combination of letters comes out of a person’s mouth in a moment of shock/frustration/anger etc.

  69. Luna*

    I would err on the side of caution and not use it. Similar to how you don’t drop the fornication or fecal matter words at work, this stuff is also something I’d suggest to avoid. I try to refrain from swearing at work, even in frustration, but when I do, I try to go for mild things like “Argh, shoot!” or “Sheesh…!”

  70. Sister Benedict*

    I’m a very sincere, fervent Roman Catholic convert. Hearing the Name of my Lord and Savior treated as a swear word is distressing to me. I’m concerned for the immortal soul of the person saying it. I might not ask the person to stop saying it, or otherwise cause a stir, but each time they do, I will silently say a prayer asking God to forgive the person for their blasphemy and not hold it against them. I’ll also silently pray for their conversion to Christianity.

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