I decided not to go with the obvious, offensive and slightly misleading first title I thought of and couldn't come up with another

>> Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I love the word "fuck".

You might have noticed that if you're a regular reader. I use the word "fuck" quite a lot, in all of it's various forms and tenses. "Fuck this", "fuck that", "fuck that fucking fucker". Sometimes I'll use it with some sort of modifier, whether it's something fairly benign like the word "mother" or less-benign like "asshole". Sometimes I'll even simply make one whole sentence out of that one mere word. "Fuck."

There's lots and lots of speculation as to where this word comes from. Is it German, is it Latin? Was it used in some form in the Middle Ages or is it ancient or modern? I'm mentioning all of this rhetorically; I mean, you can debate this in the comments if you want and provide various links and arguments and references and whatnot--it's all interesting, and it's all a little beside the point, which is that "fuck" is possibly my favorite word, or seems like it is if you just go by usage.

I am fond of it, though. It's a noun, it's a verb, it's an adjective. It's everything except an adverb, though I guess you could make it into one, awkwardly. And it's such a wonderfully context-sensitive word, too: it can be angry or passionate or even loving. Tell your significant other you want to fuck and it can be an invitation into something fun and dirty, tell the driver who cut you off to fuck him-or-herself and it's clearly something different. It can refer to an act of love or an act of violence: "You should fuck him" almost certainly means something different if (a) the speaker is a young woman advising a girlfriend about how to help a relationship along or (b) if the speaker is a mafia consigliere speaking privately to the don about a dangerous rival, right? (Though it's alternately tragic and hysterical to imagine swapping the meanings between the settings: I'm sure "That's not what I meant!" means the same thing at the end of both versions.)

Yes, "fuck" is an amazing word.

But, you know, here's an interesting thing: although "fuck" is a word I use a lot and savor, I don't think I've ever used it in front of my grandmother. I have two grandmothers, but I'm thinking particularly of my paternal grandmother, who's a bit formal and not as salty as my maternal grandma can be. I don't think I've said "fuck" in front of either one of them, however. They're experienced women, you know, who I'm very sure have heard and read the word, and so I'm not worried about exposing them to something they've never been exposed to and having to explain it (without dwelling on it too much, let's observe that, having grandchildren, both my grandmothers have themselves, obviously, fucked at some point in their lives, and move along; thank you). I have no idea whether they'd be shocked or how shocked they would be if I did say it in front of them. It just doesn't seem like the kind of thing you say in front of your grandmother. Either one.

It's possible, of course, that one or both of them could be reading this right now. (Hi, Grandma! Hello Grandmother! Welcome to my blog! You probably won't like it! But I love you both!) In which case they've seen me drop, oh, I don't know, quite a lot of f-bombs in just a few paragraphs. But that's a little different, I have to admit: I'm not there in person, saying "fuck" a lot in front of them. I don't believe I could possibly read this aloud to either one; actually, I can't imagine being in the same room while either one read it to themselves.

It's just something it doesn't occur to you to do. I don't give it much thought when I'm around them. Do you know how hard it is to not say "fuck" in front of your grandparents? Well, turns out it isn't that difficult at all. Sure, I don't see my grandmothers as frequently as I ought to. Or call. I realize this makes me sort of a terrible grandson. Let's not go into that right now. That's not really what this is about, either. This is about not saying "fuck" around your grandmother, and how easy it is. I manage not saying "fuck" pretty much the entire time whenever I am around a grandmother, and I manage to do it without any real though at all. Even though I might say "fuck" in front of all sorts of people all sorts of other times, there's this easy filter that comes in and I don't find myself saying "fuck" or even thinking "fuck" at all while I'm in the room with them. And I've done this--this not saying "fuck" in front of a grandmother--pretty consistently, no, entirely consistently for forty years, which would seem like an accomplishment if it weren't so damn easy to do.

And I don't feel the least bit pressured or censored or repressed, either. I don't ever find myself sitting there at the dinner table or on the couch or wherever thinking, "Arrrgh, if only I could say 'fuck' right now! It isn't fair! I ought to be able to say anything I want! Damn her!" I can't even really get my head around thinking that, tell you the truth. Like I said, not saying "fuck" around your grandparents is really, really easy. I don't know if it would offend them or horrify them, or for all I know they'd find it refreshing that someone wasn't scared to drop a little f-bomb around them and they were just waiting to drop a few themselves. Well. Maybe I do know that last bit: I can imagine Grandma getting a little free but Grandmother, I have to say, the only thing that's harder to imagine than saying "fuck" in front of Grandmother is hearing her let one loose.

The reason I'm thinking about all this is I was reading Digby's blog and she did a post about this:

So, I mean, Glenn Beck is apparently a very sad panda because, I guess, he can't say the n-word whenever he wants, which he thinks is really unfair and all because people get mad at him. I think it's the n-word, it's kind of got to be the n-word, though maybe it's "blacks" and he rants a bit about how "African American" bothers him and maybe he wants to say "coloreds" for some reason even though that word isn't just offensive to a lot of people, it also suggests you were born in 1903 or something. Whatever, it just seems odd to me that Beck likes any of those words so much, or that I guess he finds it a challenge not-saying them in front of people who might be offended, which just seems a little bizarre to me. Seems to me that it'd be mostly pretty easy to go around not-saying things around certain people, or at least that's my experience when it comes to not saying "fuck" around grandparents. And it seems odd you'd then blame the folks in question--it's not Grandmother V's fault I don't say "fuck" in front of her, it's just something that doesn't seem like you'd say it in front of your grandmother, is all. Right?

It's also just so weird that he keeps talking about how you "can't" say those words he evidently likes so much, or wants to say, or thinks about. Sure, he can say them. This is one of those weird things that people--well, it's people on the right, really--this is one of those weird things people on the right don't seem to grok at all: of course you have the right to say whatever you want, you just don't have a right for people not to take offense. And if you don't like people being mad at you so you don't say such-and-such, well they're not the ones "censoring" you. I guess I probably could say "fuck" in front of my grandmothers, although I don't know why I'd want to: there's no mystical force condensing the word into a solid and turning it around in my mouth so the "k" gets caught in my teeth or anything, I don't have the "f" lodged in my throat so someone has to actually Heimlich the "fuck" out of me. I don't say "fuck" in front of either one of these elderly women because, y'know, I really don't want to, not because I can't. I haven't lost the fucking power of speech, man.

It's not just Beck; I don't understand anybody who gets worked up into a froth about this. What'd'ya mean "it isn't fair" that if you use a particular word someone might get mad at you? How does "fair" enter into it? Here's a word, it has connotations and denotations and some of those maybe offend someone in certain contexts or whatever--well, words have a way of doing that, because part of communicating is that a word is carrying all this baggage of information on the backs of consonants and inside of the loopy bits of the vowels (except for "i", which only has loopy bits if you're an adolescent girl); if you're worried about conveying data you didn't mean to include with the sentence, well, y'know, you really ought to be paying more attention to what you're saying, right? And that isn't an onerous burden or anything; words are tools, and picking the right tool for the job is part of basic tool use, it isn't onerous that you have to use a wrench to loosen a bolt instead of banging it with a hammer, don't be stupid.

"Well how come they get to say _______?" Well, I don't know, what are you, five? This is the length and breadth of your cognitive capacity? I don't know, maybe "they" (whoever "they" are) shouldn't be saying whatever-it-is; or maybe if "they're" saying it "they're" loading it with different baggage and conveying a different meaning; or maybe if it's so important to you, you should just go ahead and say it, and, hey, if people think you're an asshole, well, at least you got to say "fuck" in front of your grandmother, because it was really important to be able to do that. Or you could just put your big boy pants on and stop your fucking whining, that might work in any case.

It's just so stupid, it blows my mind.


Megan Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 9:16:00 AM EDT  

Just yesterday, I was thinking that I say "fuck" at work a LOT more than the other people at my quiet office. This is relevant because I am still the new person (I've only been with the department since November). I wondered if my excess fuckery was upsetting people.

But I've never wanted to say the N word. Not sure what the equivalent in the NWT would be, anyway. Probably something so regionally offensive, I don't want to suggest it.

sibusisodan,  Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:14:00 PM EDT  

Eric, your penultimate paragraph is the epitome of the nail-head conjunction running through this entire post. Ta muchly.

Jeri Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:29:00 PM EDT  

Poor Glenn.

I feel his pain! I grocery shop, talk to strangers, have long phone conversations with customer service people, and on and on, without ever once mentioning crude adjectives for fornication, penises, vaginas, breasts... why, the list of my favorite words is just diminished so that I find it almost impossible to communicate!

What a fucking twatdribble. (Sorry, Eric's grandmas)

Nathan Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 2:16:00 PM EDT  

No, I haven't missed the point, but I find myself obsessed with your challenge regarding fuck as an adverb.

Carol Elaine Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 2:28:00 PM EDT  

Saturday night I went to a stand-up/spoken word event. Our esteemed host, and he had this to say about people who are offended that they can't say the N word (paraphrased):

"We told blacks what they couldn't do for hundreds of years. We told them they couldn't drink out of certain water fountains, they couldn't sit at the front of a bus, they couldn't go into certain public buildings. The only thing they don't want us to do is say this one word."

Steve Buchheit Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 3:10:00 PM EDT  

Well, obviously it's "You can say whatever you want, and then the other people get to say what they want" that keeps throwing the conservative mind off the cliff. Dear Glenn, you can say whatever you want as fuckly as you want to. And then we all get to judge you on what you said. And then we also get to respond back. Same as if you didn't use those words.

So, Mr. Beck, please prove Mark Twain correct. Again.

(and Eric, you're welcome for the adverbial usage. Yeah, Nathan, I don't get why he couldn't see that. Maybe Eric had used up his quota of fuck for the day.)

Phiala Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 12:25:00 PM EDT  

You know I think you're awesome, but you're wrong.

"Fuck" is by no means your favorite word. Even in this essay about the word itself, it comes in only tied for tenth, with the useful word "or."

Your actual favorite word? "I," as is only appropriate for blog posts.

Top ten, by number of occurrences:
57 I
52 of
51 to
45 the
45 it
42 and
42 a
36 you
33 in
30 or
30 fuck

"fucking" appears three times, and "fucker" and "fucked" each once, but that doesn't bring "fuck" a whole lot higher on the chart.

Please try harder next time.

Eric Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 1:33:00 PM EDT  

Phiala, when you put it like that, motherfucking yours truly sounds like a fucking narcissist. :)

Jim Wright Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 1:43:00 PM EDT  

This entire post was summed up in the line "What? Are you five?" All the rest is just fucking window dressing.

Great post, Eric. It made my day.

Jim Wright Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 1:44:00 PM EDT  

Sorry, that should have been "made my fucking day, you fucker."

P.S. my fucking apologies to Grandma.

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