I am following a graduate mathematics course. While in class, I noticed that my classmates notes almost sliding off her inclined desk, and I whispered to her that gravity was a bitch. I think I saw the lecturer, a woman, react to this but I am not sure. I am now worried that our lecturer thinks I called her a bitch. I have the utmost respect for her and I'd hate for her to think otherwise. How can this be fixed?

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    Ouch! I very rarely use swearwords, for exactly that reason. Perhaps she'll overlook it if you behave polite, non-confrontatively, and neutral-nice to her, and with good and constructive participation in class so that she may understand she wasn't the target. Don't grovel. If you distinctly notice a difference in behaviour, you may come clear to her, but some things are better solved implicitly. I am not sure it is good advice, though, some misunderstandings are difficult to resolve. – Captain Emacs Jan 8 '17 at 8:47
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    Swearing is important for at least a few social and neurological reasons. It can even be used as endearment. Maybe you can explain this to her (possibly preceded by an explanation how you weren't, in fact, demeaning your colleague)? – 101010111100 Jan 8 '17 at 12:00
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    @101010111100 Swearing is relinquishing control. Many things would be comfortable and important doing, and people nonetheless refrain doing (so I hope) in company or else the burden to bear this is on others. Unless you are in an obviously and unambiguously friendly context, swearing always puts the cost of understanding on others. I once had to do with a colleague with very outspoken opinions who also was using swearwords a lot. You never knew whether they were swearing at you, at your argument, at their own argument or just in general. Very unpleasant. – Captain Emacs Jan 8 '17 at 17:58

I'd say, forget about it (easier said than done, I know). Most likely, this is a non-issue.

  • I talked to her today and she didn't give any indication of being insulted- thank goodness. – msx Jan 11 '17 at 20:16

I think the best course of action is to explain what happened and apologize to the instructor. After that it is up to her if she is willing to accept your explanation and apology. Natural you should avoid repeating this attempt at joking in a classroom setting and save it for more informal environments.

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    Apologize for what, exactly? – 101010111100 Jan 8 '17 at 12:02
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    For swearing in class, for speaking during the lecture, for giving her the impression that they were gossiping in class. There are many reasons to apologize in this case, but the main one is that it is a good way to humbly seek to redress any misunderstanding with someone, no matter if there was no intentional harm. – Jennifer Rae Pierce Jan 8 '17 at 14:39
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    None of these warrants an apology, they are not inherently wrong. Qui s'excuse, s'accuse, and all that. You can show some regret if you want, but anything more would be a lie. – 101010111100 Jan 8 '17 at 20:21
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    +1: People are so sensitive about stroking their own egos that they forget that other people have egos, too - frankly, I found that a swift apology to clarify a misunderstanding can go a long way to avoid rancour and ill will that otherwise will drag on for months. It's more often than not the right decision. – Captain Emacs Jan 8 '17 at 22:54

It's generally not wise to use the word "bitch" around women. If you're certain that she noticed and was likely offended, you should apologize for being too...colloquial. It's generally not wise to use any questionable terms in mixed groups.

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