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Love, Hate and The F Word

September 14, 2013

I remember the first time I saw “The F Word,” written in chalk on the brick wall at Vine St. School in Bangor, Maine when I was in 4th grade.  “What does that mean?” I asked out loud to no one in particular.  A school bully a grade ahead of me stopped to bloviate about issues not yet on my radar screen – about an act between older boys and girls – like his teenage sister.

Since then, the word has grown in popularity and acceptance in just about every corner of America – except perhaps the church.  For a word that once served as a vulgar description for copulation – or as Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory” might say, “to engage in coitus,” it has become the last word at our disposal through which humans strongly express their anger, contempt or disgust.  Is it possible that a word that once represented love, although in an obscene way, has become a stronger negative expression than hate?

From → Communication

  1. Excellent insights. And, I think I’ve witnessed what happens when the “F” word becomes so commonly used.

    Your article reminds me of my visit to a county abroad in 2000. As I was meandering the populated streets of this famous town, I was questioning my hearing. Every 3rd word was the “F” word, but said with no more intensity or emphasis than any other uttered word. As I continued to collect more conversations in my head, my conclusion was becoming more and more evident. That the “F” word to this town was an empty space-filler in a sentence. The following scenario is imprinted on my mind as if it happened yesterday, and confirmed this was unfortunately the truth.

    I was leaving a large retail store, and at the same time a dad was holding his 3 year olds’ hand while talking to his wife, in just a matter of fact tone. I honestly don’t remember any of the words except the “F” word – the whole sentence was as perfunctory as saying, “Looks like it will rain today.” Neither the wife nor the child found the “F” word to be worthy of any particular notice. I wanted to grab the dad’s arm and ask him did he realize what he just said in front of his wife and child. But, I realized, regardless of my well-meaning intent, my intrusion into their lives would not be welcomed… after all, to them it was just another sentence of communication, that happened to have the empty “F” word included.

    When a “shocking” word is used to continually describe disgust or dismay, I think the word itself is denied it’s own meaning and assists it’s owner in becoming numb to situations of life that use to alarm. It’s mere utterance seemed to be a way for them to fight back at darkness and despair that was looming in their lives.

    Well… Rich… Your article is profoundly thought provoking. Thank you.

  2. I really don’t understand it. I recently saw the movie “End of Watch,” which I really liked. I could not believe the amount of f-words in it though. It was crazy, I couldn’t believe it. I was offended and I’m 29 and use the word myself. It’s become a “go to” word used as an adjective, adverb, verb. It almost seems like these days people don’t have Scott Martz vocabularies and just stick it in as filler.

  3. MIchael Bennett permalink

    It isn’t about any particular word choice but it is definitely about the perception around it. Words will always evolve through time. It will be up to humanity to decide what words to use and what they actually mean. Not my choice and not your choice. It is a collective investment. It is not up to one individual to decide the true “meaning” of a word. It is up to all of us to define what those words should mean

  4. Marilyn Thies permalink

    Great blog! Great comments!

    My sheltered childhood never allowed that word to enter my lexicon. In my teens, I saw it written and looked it up in the dictionary. It wasn’t there. That was when dictionaries censored language. In my current (senior) state, I lament the 180º swing from total censorship to the new normal: words are cheap, even words that can provoke violence. When I first heard the word uttered, my teenage son was yelling at my mother and me for finding him where he wasn’t supposed to be. She was less shocked than I. To me it marked the end of civil behavior. That was in the 70’s. Rarely since then have I seen civility attain its once-esteemed place in public or private life. Miss Manners, where have you gone? Where did the slippery slope begin? History affirms that the cheapening of language and of culture coincide. As moral boundaries vanish, so do limits of
    acceptable language. Words can be emphatic markers. Have we slipped too far to care?

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