Is it all right to have balls?


#1

Hi,
we are a germany and romania based company, no native english speakers, but using english quite a lot.

We want to grow a community and partner network around our FOSS product.
In other words, we want to win contributors.

We are aware that by behaving badly, we might repel contributurs.
Some time ago we gave ourself a code of conduct, a.k.a the coc.

Now, what we are wondering from time to time is whether some of our day-to-day attempts at humor, or phrases that we use could be problematic.
Or from a broader view, what’s generally OK and what isn’t.

Example 1
"having balls": is it ok to use that phrase to make a complement to someone (male/female)? Can it be used with both genders?
Is there a similar phrase which does not contain sex-specific parts?
E.g. in german you can use a phrase that translates to “having an ass in one’s pants”.

Example 2
Situation at the daily standup meeting

  • collegue A: “…blah…fuck…blah, blah…fucking…blah…”
  • moderator interjects jokingly: “hey, don’t make me slap you with the coc”

Example 3
This forum’s rule: “Don’t be a dick”

Example 4
Person enters a mixed-gender (chat-)room: “Hi guys”.

We don’t want to spend anyone’s time (least of all ours tbh) worrying over non-problems,
but if we could win one qualified constributor by cutting down a bit on what we sometimes perceive as funny, it would be totally worth it.

So it would be great to have your views on the general topic as well as on the particular real-life examples that I mentioned.

Thank you and best regards
Tobi


#2

Tobi,
I’m curious do you guys use English for conducting internal meetings or just for conversing with external clients?

Example 1
I wouldn’t be afraid of someone using the phrase "having the balls to do x"
It is a very casual phrase that is ideal for very casual conversations
You could say instead “having the guts to do x”

Example 2:
I might giggle at your moderator saying that
Your moderator might say can you watch your language, although that is telling people off, so might bring in bad vibes
(for some reason when British people apologise for saying swear/curse words they say “excuse my French”, I never understood why)

Example 3:
“Don’t be a dick” is in keeping with the forums theme and style here as being a rock n’ roll say what you feel casual culture
A more formal rendering would be something like “Think of other people”

Example 4:
I would be surprised if anyone was truly upset by “Hi guys”, (often people get angry on behalf of someone else), you could say instead: -

  • Hi peeps
  • Howdy
  • Wotcha

In the (rather politically confused) UK, this often called correctness, some of it can be thought provoking as in referring to a “Chairman” denotes a masculine role, although I think that words and phrases are an important part of culture (memes) and yes a lot of them have racist/sexist/godfearing origins.

It is also worth mentioning that in a text based conversation (like this) wit, irony, innuendo and in-jokes are often miss-understood, it is the price we pay for an international global conversation, people get confused easily and we all end up talking like Data from TNG.


#3

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my examples.
So it seems that nothing we did so far is shockingly inappropriate…at least when applied with a sufficiently close feedback loop. Still I’m not sure about the balls thing…i mean ok, afair G.I Jane herself said “suck my dick”…but still, i think if I was a female and someone would complement me on having balls… I would probably think “whaaat?”…

About debate around “correctnes” this recent case comes to my mind: http://in.reuters.com/article/germany-afd-nazi-idINKCN18D2AC

Generally I try to look for “at least a bit better than average” …for example, I liked it when the people at jenkins started calling jenkins nodes “agents” instead of “slaves”…it doesn’t fix the whole world, but it’s progress.

We are german, polish and romanian (note that i just odered them literally :slight_smile: ) people working together closely, and english is the only language we have in common…
When i write something to my german collegue in mattermost, I tend to write in english too, because that way I won’t have to repeat myself in case we later ask a non-german speaker to join in whatever we are doing at the time.
But when voice-talking just among people of our respective native language, we ofc use that language.

As to our customers, we write and talk with them in any language they want us to, as long as it’s english or german :slight_smile: .

Even on a very local scale, written conversations can be risky…and in particular an innocently looking :wink: …I have seen some of those that yelled “fuck off” at the top of their lungs.
And sometimes I need to do my breathing and “assume good intent” exercise and wait for my blood pressure to sink, because someone wanted put some relief to a controversionsial discussion with a :wink: and in the absence of a facial expression my limbic system got it wrong. This literally happened with my collegue next door, a few times over the years.


#4




Yeah, I can’t do this without being a dick. Y’know, basic self respect and all that taking priority over 'playing nice". Meh, I tried. Also, just in case there’s anyone reading who doesn’t know any Germans, please do know they’re not a nation of passive aggressive boors :slight_smile:


#5

There’s a whole Wikipedia article on the subject.


#6

That’s right. E.g. myself, I’m not passive.

And I personally know a guy who is not a boor.
(EDIT: no, it’s not Uwe Boll)


#7

Or just switch to Ferengi talk. :smile:


#8

Hi, i don’t know anything about developing FOSS software or building a community but I can provide feedback on how native English speakers react to certain scenarios.

Everything is subjective. what’s appropriate when talking informally to a friend might be quite wrong in a business meeting, but even then, depending on who’s present and whats being discussed, it still might be ok to use quite informal language.

clearly the use of “having balls” originates from the male body part but it is widely used as a general term for being brave. if your going to use less formal language then yes, you can use it with both genders. This is fine.
An interesting alternative is the word “cajones”, This seems to have come into use through North American TV as our English speaking cousins over there picked this up from their Spanish speaking neighbours. Cajones means testicles in Spanish.
“you sure got some cajones!”.
If you really didn’t feel comfortable using balls because of the gender implications then you could always refer to bravery of fortitude by asking if they have “the stomach (or guts) for it.”

in my opinion this is a little more risky. you have to know someone quite well to make a joke about striking them with a penis. myself, if someone interjected with this i’d find it outrageously funny, but for me that’d be because it’s quite close to the line on what’s acceptable.that’s kinda why i’d find it funny.
definitely one to save for people you know and have spoken to many times before.

very succinct. i wouldn’t expect this from the website where i go to moan about my gas bill as explaining it like this is something you’d do in a more social, recreational environment. I think it’s ok to say this here because people come to hang out and relax.

“Hi guys” is absolutely fine, 100% of the time. Your definitely worrying about a non-problem here.

In general, except for the odd asshole, most people would not mind how you say something and are unlikely to be offended IF it’s obvious that what your saying is meant playfully and not meant in a serious way.


#9

Thanks a lot for the feedback

Yeah…I kind of suspected as much…
OT: it can get worse

OK, same as @nshiell wrote…great to know.

Yes…but I guess there can also be problems if there is a “power gap” (lacking a better word) between the person who makes the joke and the person supposed to laugh about it…
…but the coc joke is wearing down anyways…


#10

Other thing:
is it OK to call a close collegue/friend a sissy, or is that sexist?
I mean, personally he’s fine with it, but generally…is sissy a sexist denomination for a douche?
Btw: is douche sexist? Afaik it’s originally a cleaning device for female parts…


#11

Hey buddy, you’re in Europe, right?

Here: Enter this idea in the contest for the echo, siri, etc. app because basically it’s yours and you’re fleshing it out right now:

An app drawing from a repository of, and thus ‘versed’ in, the same concepts as most social agency/human resources professionals (intersectionality, empathy, baiting for mobbing and other forms of covert aggression, logical fallacies, cross curltural communications, gaslighting and other manipulation tactics, etc. etc. etc.) that would monitor communications within a given environment (both speech and text) and offer better ways of communicating core concepts when it detects something amiss.

Yeah, it would be a huuuuge effort (simple keyword recognition isn’t going to cut it) and it would definitely be a stress test of where AI is, but it may be possible now. It would definitely require a massive community effort (of course coders but also and contributors from organizations like geekfeminism.org, empowermentors, etc.) yet at the same time I could see it getting funded rather easily or the finished product/subscription being of high value in the corporate world.

You should, that mission one thing looks pretty sweet :slight_smile:


#12

I think that’s an awesome idea!
Because the thing is: let’s assume that i’m confident it’s fine to call my collegue a whiny little bitch under certain circumstances.
But what e.g. if his (male/female) collegues are in the room…will they find it funny too? Will they just shrug and roll their eyes or will they be offended or hurt? Let’s assume that my collegue and I are senior…will our collegues be silently afraid to be called the same thing one day in front of everyone and be shamed?

A social behavior coach to teach me this would certainly be great…and it could in fact not only factor in experts’ views but literally interview people from time to time…

Like I said, IMHO a great idea…I don’t know the other ideas but honestly I think it beats the crap out of them :slight_smile:. Maybe currenty it’s only competetive disadvantage might be on “concreteness”.

So, I’ll submit this idea and invite everybody to fork it at this point and do a better version of the same (shouldn’t be too hard, there are tons of open questions). Maybe I’ll also add one or two details to my own submission ;-).
The deadline is next monday (June 26th).


#13

Well, it is your idea. You’ve been demonstrating the need for it this entire thread, I just observed and reported it.

“A social behavior coach to teach me this would certainly be great…and it could in fact not only factor in experts’ views but literally interview people from time to time…”

There’s the subscription/service model right there :wink: I do think the input of experts is needed though (i.e. your example:

“But what e.g. if his (male/female) collegues are in the room…will they find it funny too? Will they just shrug and roll their eyes or will they be offended or hurt”

Touches on the concepts of a weaponized cultural lexicon, chilling effects and the resulting dictated behaviours (learned helplessness) and of course power dynamics. I’m not an expert though. I just know what I know from existing as a brown person with ovaries. There are people far more educated on the matter than I. The good news is there are many initiatives / communities that are composed of contributors working for social change that are organised much in the same manner as FOSS ones are. Reaching out should not be a problem :slight_smile: I’m also an unapologetic shit disturber to those on the other end of the intersectionality spectrum. What was it Joplin said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose” ?

Speaking of which:

The project will require massive cross community effort and is most likely to elicit the wrath of brogrammers who like things exactly the way they are in some work environments. I got the feeling when listening to the show that perhaps part of the purpose of the contest was to give Stuart ideas to work on (‘you’re about to make this, so where do you want to put it?’).

So the question is:
He’s got the bacon, but does he have the huevos? :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley:

Tee hee, have fun and good luck :smiley:


#14

I work in a company with people from around two dozen countries and cultures. My own team has people from 5-6 different countries (depending on whether you include their current country or birth country).

In a group setting I would never use any of those. I very rarely swear anyway and in some cultures doing so is more offensive than others. It is better to just avoid it. If you swear in front of Monty W for example he will say “if you say something like that I will imagine you doing it and I don’t want that image in my head”, you have lost the point you are trying to put across at that point.

Likewise in a multi-cultural setting you have to try to not be easily offended because some things which are normal in some cultures can be seen as offensive as others. Not everyone will realise that straight away. I try to figure these out myself as I hope that it will make me a better communicator in my job.

Now, example 1 is a rubbish example anyway, to quote a comedian on the subject:

A friend said to me, “Hey you need to grow a pair. Grow a pair, Bro.” It’s when someone calls you weak, but they associate it with a lack of testicles. Which is weird, because testicles are the most sensitive things in the world. If you suddenly just grew a pair, you’d be a lot more vulnerable. If you want to be tough, you should lose a pair. If you want to be real tough, you should grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.

I have used example 4 in a mixed-gender setting before but only because I know the people in it very well, the women in that place use that as a mixed collective term and don’t mind me using it. But even then it was rare for me to do so.


#15

I feel those of us who comfortable with English, and I assume that is everyone on this site - even though for many it may not be your first language, knows what we mean by this.

Perhaps there are better words we could use here but while it can be seen as a reference to male genitalia I don’t feel it’s the sense it which it’s meant. We are just saying show respect and you deserve to receive it in return.

That does not mean we can’t disagree and where we do these are some of the best topics we have.


Please respect our code of conduct which is simple: don't be a dick.