The Survival of the Prudes
[French, short for prude femme, virtuous woman : Old French prude, feminine of prud, virtuous; see proud + French femme, woman (from Latin fmina; see feminine).] Word History: Being called a prude is rarely considered a compliment, but if we dig into the history of the word prude, we find that it has a noble past. The change for the worse took place in French. French prude first had a good sense, “wise woman,” but apparently a woman could be too wise or, in the eyes of some, too observant of decorum and propriety. Thus prude took on the sense in French that was brought into English along with the word, first recorded in 1704. The French word prude was a shortened form of prude femme (earlier in Old French prode femme), a word modeled on earlier preudomme, “a man of experience and integrity.” The second part of this word is, of course, homme, “man.” Old French prod, meaning “wise, prudent,” is from Vulgar Latin prdis with the same sense. Prdis in turn comes from Late Latin prde, advantageous,” derived from the verb prdesse, “to be good.” Despite this history filled with usefulness, profit, wisdom, and integrity, prude has become a term of reproach.
Can you be a prude and effectively work in Human Resources? If you’re excessively self righteous and overly modest, can you truly handle the variety of situations that arise when working with people and situations?
Anyone following this blog knows that I just returned from attending our state Conference on Human Resources. With 300 plus attendees, there were bound to be a variety of opinions on everything from the food to the temperature of the convention center (“it’s too hot!”; “it’s too cold!”). And obviously, differing opinions on the topics, speakers and overall conference experience. But a few comments from attendees stuck with me:
- “I found it distasteful that the speaker (an attorney) referenced male and female genitals” (referring to a session dealing with FMLA)
- “The music filled with profanity that was played in the general session room was inappropriate for a professional conference.” (referring to a rousing sports-themed song regularly played at stadium venues)
- “Cursing is not appropriate.”
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it made me wonder – HOW do these overly sensitive HR pros deal with the day-to-day issues that arise in any workplace? Have they never dealt with a sexual harassment complaint where they’ve had to ask questions about intimacies and genitals and sexual activities? Have they refused to enter into an interactive discussion with an employee with a disability because the talk about body-parts made them squeamish? Has an employee never cursed at them? Has not a single foul word ever been uttered by the Sales Manager, CEO or other leader when winning – or losing – a big customer?
I’m not saying people shouldn’t live their lives according to their personal morals, beliefs and standards. It’s a wise and good thing to set standards for behavior for yourself and your children. But get a grip on reality when you’re interacting in the real world.
Let’s face it, even the HR Managers at the most righteous, god-fearing organizations have had to deal with sex, cursing and rock-n-roll.