Swearing Is E-Business: Expletives in Instant Messaging in Hong Kong Workplaces

Bernie C N Mak*, Carmen Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter explores an area that has received little attention in the field of discourse analysis, namely the use of expletives in computer-mediated workplace discourse. Generally, expletives have been associated with negative attributes such as being uneducated, anti-social, over-emotive, and provocative (Jay & Janschewitz, 2008). Nevertheless, scholars have contended that swearing can generate normal communicative effects (Christie, 2013). Early studies (e.g., Chaika, 1980; Hutton & Bolton, 2005) noted that swearing as covert prestige can bond adolescents in the street; some recent works (e.g., Daly et al., 2004) have discovered that the use of expletives in backstage workplace talk is strategic, rational, and business-oriented. But still, as Jay (2000) acknowledged, because of the taboo nature of swearing and the difficulty in collecting data, it has received very limited attention in academic research. With the increasing reliance on digital communication at work, swearing takes place not only in face-to-face interaction, but also in computer-mediated communication (CMC), such as in instant messaging, in the workplace. Despite a handful of scholarly works (e.g., Darics, 2013; Quan-Haase et al., 2005; Stephens, 2008) that have articulated the linguistic features of workplace instant messaging, there has been generally little research on swearing in workplace instant messaging, especially in Asian contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigital Business Discourse
EditorsErika Darics
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781137405579
ISBN (Print)9781349487776, 9781137405562
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Instant Messaging
  • Virtual Team
  • Computer Support Cooperative Work
  • Joint Enterprise
  • Speech Event


Dive into the research topics of 'Swearing Is E-Business: Expletives in Instant Messaging in Hong Kong Workplaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this