As my wife and I were loading our groceries into the car boot, (trunk for my US friends), a young mother was trying to get an uncooperative pre-schooler strapped into his car seat. Frustrated, a string of expletives flowed from her mouth, including liberal use of the ‘F word’. I remarked to my wife that in a couple of years that child will be sitting in a classroom, bewildered at why the teacher is taking him to task over him using that word, a word that he frequently hears his parents using at home. There is no doubt about it, from a child’s perspective, adults are hypocrites when it comes to using the ‘F word’!
When I was in Grade 3, the absolutely most offensive word that we children knew; the word that we would only hurl at someone who had seriously offended us, was … ‘you’re a BUM’! Wide-eyed kids would cup their hands over their mouths and giggle. Others would plug their ears with their fingers. More often than not, some dibber-dobber would rush off to report your disgusting outpouring of filth to the nearest teacher! That was how it was at school on the outskirts of Melbourne in Australia in the early 1960s. It was a very different world to now. (I am not saying it was better; it was just different.)
Of course, the ‘F word’ was around then, but we children had never heard it. I have no doubt that it flowed freely in conversation among the diggers gathered around the bar at the local RSL. I also doubt that any wharfie dropping something on his foot would have cried out, “Oh, goodness me!” As a kid in those times though, I didn’t even become aware of the ‘F word’ until I began high school.
Even then its use was infrequent and we only said it around our best mates. We would never say it within the hearing of any adult and certainly not in front of a girl. In the 1960s sexism was rampant, but use of the ‘F word’ was strictly curtailed and we would look around carefully to see who was nearby before uttering it. Now though, it feels like the ‘F word’ is a constant companion. It has become our linguistic wild card that can be used in any sentence. Indeed, many seem incapable of communicating without flooding their speech with it.
Today, the ubiquitous ‘F word’ is used with little purpose and in almost ANY situation. Consider some examples:
“I’m f’ing mad as f’ing hell!” (For when you are angry!)
“The f’ing thing doesn’t f’ing work!” (For when you are frustrated!)
“I missed you so f’ing much!” (For those tender romantic reunions.)
“Because I f’ing said so that’s why!” (For when you need to provide concrete evidence to validate your contention – ‘f’ing’ is evidence apparently.)
“Well ‘f’ me dead!” (For when you are pleasantly surprised.)
“I’m f’d!” (For when you feel a little nap would be nice.)
“Well ‘f’ you!” (For when you disagree with someone’s viewpoint.)
“I’m ‘f’ing starving!” (For when you feel like a family outing with the kids to McDonald’s.)
“’F’ off!” (For when you feel you need some ‘me’ time.)
“You ‘f’ing ripper!” (For when you feel rather pleased about something.)
“F … f … f!” (For when you hit your thumb with a hammer.)
“F … f … f … f … f! Oh, f’ing f!” (For when you forgot it was your wedding anniversary, didn’t get your wife a present and the shops are now closed.)
I could give many more examples. You know I could. So could you.
The “F word” contributes virtually nothing to our communications, other than to add emphasis to the word that follows it perhaps, yet it seems that everywhere the air is thick with it. It’s the only word I know that has such an astonishing diversity of applications. It’s the only word I know that is rarely used in the context of its actual dictionary meaning yet, if anyone dares to use it in that context, they are likely to be sacked by their employer, charged with sexual harassment, removed from Office or receive a slap in the face! No teacher will tolerate a student using it in class.
Personally, I am finding its constant overuse tiresome. So, if you know anyone who mindlessly floods their everyday conversation with it, then perhaps you could ask them if they think that speech minus the ‘F word’ is possible? Perhaps they don’t even realise how much they use it? Perhaps it will make them question if it really enriches their speech or not? If they say to you that they don’t care, or if their response incorporates the ‘F word’, then they shouldn’t mind you saying to them … you’re a BUM!
Picture Source: http://funpictures.co.uk/