Sex Column: Expletive Etiquette
A history of the Swiss Army Knife of curses
It was the word that some heard, some more than others, in those first formative years.
The word that, if repeated, would likely be replaced with a bar of Irish Spring to wash that filth away.
When you finally worked up the gumption to start throwing it into your regular vocab you suddenly had this false sense of maturity laced with delicious rebellion — the stuff of teenaged angst.
Some use it like they’ve got a trucker handle. Others whisper it under their breath like Sister Dorothy might still be listening.
Fuck is the one word that can express both rage and love, perhaps in a single statement, “Fuck me you fucker.”
The various uses of the word fuck are seemingly boundless, and although it is that baddest of the bad words — so much so it earned its very own letter: the “F-word” — it seems to pervade all aspects of conversation.
Warning: the following paragraphs may offend some readers, but what did you really expect?
I realize I won’t really be able to explain the anomaly that is fuck better than those luminaries like Monty Python or Lenny Bruce. So I would like to quote an excerpt from the late and great Mr. George Carlin’s track, “The History and Many Uses of the Word Fuck:”
“…In English, fuck falls into many grammatical categories.
As a transitive verb, for instance.
John fuck-ed Shirley.
As an intransitive verb, Shirley fucks.
It’s meaning’s not always sexual;
it can be used as an adjective, such as
John’s doing all the fuck-ing work.
As part of an adverb,
Shirley talks too fuck-ing much.
As an adverb enhancing an adjective,
Shirley is fuck-ing beautiful.
As a noun, I don’t give a fuck.
As part of a word abso-fucking-lutely,
And, as almost every word in the sentence,fuck the fuck-ing fuck-ers…”
The word itself is Germanic in origin, being derived from “frieken,” which means, “to strike.” This of course solves the mystery of Britney Spears’ first hit, “[Hit me] …Baby One More Time.” One of the misnomers that is often associated with everyone’s favourite curse is that it’s an acronym originating in the Middle Ages.
The story goes that once upon a time during the Black Death townships were attempting to control the population and thereby the spread of the infection.
Non-contaminated areas were few and far between and this prompted a decree to go out over the land that couples wishing to make babies had first to obtain royal permission, usually from the lord whom they toiled for.
Well, as if that wasn’t humiliating enough, when the lucky couple got their permission they would then head home to see how many ways they could do it in the missionary position, but first they would post a sign in their window that said, “fornication under consent of the king,” or F.U.C.K.
I would imagine all those who were sick and forbidden to get medieval on each other’s asses must have thought, “Well, fuck them.”
The first printed appearance of the word was in a Scottish poem in 1503 — leave it to the people who affectionately say to each other “he’s a good cunt” to throw the F-word into a poem of all things.
In Britain they use chuffing as a euphemism for the word, “She’s bloody hot, too bad her mum is chuffing mad.” This is probably comparable to the North American variations, “Barry is effing bonkers when he eats red candy,” or “I gotta take her to the friggen Bridal Fair.”
Hunter S. Thompson coined yet another incarnation of the carnal word in his 1956 novel, Proud Highway, “The filthy whore in the laundry said we can go out to the ‘campo’ (country) and fuckee-fuckee.” T. E. Lawrence, who brought you the respected classic Lawrence of Arabia, wrote this little ditty, “‘Look at me, look me in the face, you short-arsed little fuck-pig,’ he is yelling again,” in his 1955 novel, Mint.
Nicholas Baker’s 1994 novel The Fermata features the lovely line which exemplifies another F-word, “Fill my fucking fanny!’ Sylvie shouted, looking in Marian’s eyes and then down at her toy-filled fuckholes.”
There is also something to be said for frequency and pitch.
I use the F-bomb fairly frequently and it has occurred that I may be abusing the power of fuck. This is especially apparent, a fellow editor points out, when you are stuck in a bathroom with someone who uses the word twice in every sentence and whose pitch increases slightly with every use. “And, I was like fuck, it’s so fucking fucked up!”
I will leave you with one last mental image that will hopefully encourage everyone to harness the power of fuck and use it responsibly.
In running some errands recently I came upon a man crossing the street with an older lady whose presence later confused me, his mum? His balding head was crowned with a greasy mullet, often called “the skullet,” and he was sporting army fatigues with a stained white T-shirt exposed. The Hitler-type-moustache that he sported distracted me at first from the potty-mouth parade of various f-words that spewed from his angry, distorted face.
I suddenly realized that the use of the F-word is a privilege that we earn as we grow older and if our mothers allow us to use it indiscriminately we could end up taking fashion tips from Hitler being generally repellent to everyone, but our mothers.