Poll: What is more offensive: tone or language?

So, where I go to school right now, there are a bunch of old timers and some of them have a serious problem with cursing. Now, it may be just because I’m a 24yo who grew up mostly in NYC, but four-letter words are part of my everyday vocabulary (this is not to say that curse constantly, but the words have little emotional resonance to me). I nevertheless think that I am very polite and very perceptive of rudeness (I even tend to say “I’m sorry?” rather than “What?” when I didn’t hear someone).

Recently, a classmate insulted me by taking a very condescending tone in response to my making a simple mistake. What struck me as strange, however, was that the very instructors who are bothered by expletives did not blink an eye to this behavior. (Don’t worry, my confidence is intact ;)).

Age-stratified poll: Which aspect of a verbal statement is more offensive, the words or the tone?

Hmm. Not too many responses. Guess I’ll have to declaw my cat while reading Scientology pamphlets and anti-vaccination articles.

I have a hard time answering this. While I detest the idea that certain words are automatically offensive, I believe intent has a lot more to do with it than anything else. It’s not tone, per se, though, as you can sound perfectly cheerful and happy and still tell someone off.

I’m between twenty and forty. Tone.

I find “You know, I think you’re really awesome but sometime when you’ve have a hard day you act a little bit like a fucking cunt. Let’s have a beer!” much less irritating than “Well, bless your heart, little missy. I’ll pray for you.”

It could be either, it depends, it could be how loudly they talk, or how fast, or how they’re standing, or if their eyes roll, or what happens with the corners of their mouth, really, it could be anything. It’s really meaningless to establish a scale where one factor trumps another factor.

Thanks for lumping me in with 60-year-olds.

If I say that with the right tone, it can be non-offensive to most, but there will always be offenderati waiting to pounce.

Anyway, I voted for tone.

I guess I’d have to go with tone, in that swearing in itself doesnt necessarily involve intent to belittle or attack someone.


Well, yes, obviously every minuscule gesture or expression contributes to the overall impression. I was just curious whether some older people–who are more likely to be opposed to the use of expletives, given the social mores they grew up with–are more likely to put up with a rude tone than with non-cotillion vocabulary.

Those of us over 60 don’t mind the words, because we’ve forgotten what they mean.

Words can be made to mean the exact opposite of what they should using the right tone.

“I hope you have a lovely day” can sound positively venomous when said in a certain way, whereas I’ve had good friends say “what up queer boy?” and it clearly be meant as a term of endearment, so that’s how I took it.

Tone. However, I really REALLY dislike the manner of speaking where the speaker uses 4-letter words as almost their entire vocabulary, and/or simply canNOT speak a sentence without using at least one.

I generally don’t put much weight on the tone a person uses. The words they choose to use matters much more to me. I think this stems primarily from the fact that my own speaking voice is deep and rather harsh sounding. At work, I’m in a noisy, industrial environment with OSHA mandated hearing protection. I have to yell just to make myself heard by the person right next to me. There, my tone isn’t an issue. At home, I often get accused of being angry because I’m bellowing at people five feet from me.

60 years old and I find words more offensive than tone, but not by much.

Offensive words are deliberate and indicate that the speaker doesn’t give a flying fuck about the impression he wishes to convey. He essentially writes you off.

Tone on the other hand is somewhat involuntary, an honest reaction that doesn’t neccessarily mean that he’s written the object off.

The difference is vague, but I’m well aware that I often give off a tone that can unintentionally upset people without any intention of doing so.

My mom always said, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” I’m too old (47) to start arguing with mom.

What’s the difference between a “bless your heart” which is a blessing and one which is a curse? Tone.

But, as others have said, that doesn’t mean I like hearing people who use one “clean” word for every cussword, specially when they keep repeating themselves. It makes me think they don’t have the brains God gave to a pebble.

Where’s the option for us under 20s, huh?
I say it’s tone, for the record.