Just an innocent four-letter word, fuck has gradually worked itself out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Like tattoos, saying fuck was once reserved for those daring enough to show a toughness or an edginess to make a point. No more. Fuck has marched right into conformity.
It’s a word that has lasted generations and gotten so much use, as a verb, adverb, adjective, noun and everything in between. A quote I remember from a mechanic who could not loosen a bolt on a car engine demonstrates a portion of the word’s flexibility: “I couldn’t get the fuckin fuck to fuck.” Of course, we all know fuck means all those things and so much more.
The prompt to write this post was during an exercise routine recently in a calisthenics area of Lumpini Park in Bangkok when a small gaggle of young girls stopped to play on the monkey bars. One, all but ten years old, was wearing a tee shirt with fuck printed all over the front; fuck it, fuck you, fuck this…,fuck all. When I asked if I could take a photo of the shirt they giggled as none of them understood english. She had no clue about her ‘fucking’ shirt.
Then yesterday as I was looking for a new book to read, I floated through iBook’s bestseller list and came across Hard F*ck. Sure, the publisher won’t print that one extra letter because the book would then be relegated to a speciality (erotic) genre.
We say “the F word”, use an asterisk in place of a letter, and we hide it in acronyms in mainstream print like, SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up) and WTF (What The Fuck). We love using fuck, especially behind a comfortable smoke screen. STFU.
Words are just a jumble of consonants and vowels that we’ve constructed images around. The letters that make up fuck don’t do physical damage to our senses, but we’ve been conditioned to use the pronunciation of them behind closed doors. As parents, we don’t want our children to say fuck (or get tattoos), at least until they’ve reached the age of reason. We can say fuck in front of them, but we don’t want our little fuckers to say fuck. It sounds too grown up. Oh yes, it’s a grown up word.
The word has so many flexible uses and most of us know most of them. We use fuck no matter what form of speech it takes: “Fuck you” or “fuck them” makes little grammatical sense, but we all know the expression is meant to convey warm, sweet feelings to the person(s) it’s hurled to.
We use it for impact and to add clear emphasis: If someone asks you to do something that you find outrageous, you might say “no way,” or “hell no,” or “fuck no,” or “no fuckin way.”
As a form of astonishment we might let out a long drawn out fuuuuuck to ourselves upon seeing or hearing incredible news. (I catch myself once in a while using that same drawn out form if, for example, food or coffee finds its way to the clean shirt I’m wearing.)
Documenting all of its uses would make this post much too long. Point is, fuck seems to have eased itself out of the curse-word category and become a more accepted evocative expression. But we should be careful. Overused, like “like,” and fuck becomes tedious and boring. It’s a word best used sparingly, like a pungent spice.
The Indian sage and guru Osho sums up the “magical” word nicely in this video. For those who know him, Osho is a deeply spiritual teacher, not a comedian, but he nevertheless knows the power of fucking humor.
While there are certainly more creative ways for the car mechanic to describe his inability to loosen the engine bolt, it would be hard to argue that fuck does not add color to our vernacular. So who knows, maybe keeping fuck in its profanity box contributes to its colorfulness. But then how profane is it if 10-year old girls are shouting the word on tee shirts?
Maybe because it needs to be shouted out. Perhaps voicing a solid fuck once in a while is healthy for the soul. So you go girls, help spread the zestful expression. And thanks for meandering into the exercise area, because now I want one of those fuckin tee shirts.