STANDING UP FOR THE F WORD

Those who know me best, know that the F word isn’t a part of my default vocabulary. I just don’t use it, nor do I see the need. That being said, let the record show that I hear it quite frequently and often see it when browsing social media.

There was a time when hearing it or seeing it would elicit a temporary reactionary jolt, a pinch of shock, if you will. Sadly, that time has passed. Even more sadly, it passed without a change of venue. Sadder still, in retrospect, I miss the shock value that the word once embodied and I hope you’ll hear me out on that part.

If you’ve read any of my books or followed my blogs, you are probably aware that I have a small list of words that I feel are overused and undervalued. One such word that I’ve stood up for in the past is: Amazing. Lack of respect and improper usage have repositioned the word as commonplace, a horrifying fate from which it truly needs to be rescued.

We’re served desert at a restaurant and someone at the table exclaims, “This cheesecake is amazing!” Another at the table, also enjoying the cheesecake, corroborates. This is an overuse and undervaluing of one of our few “Supreme Adjectives.” The cheesecake may be smooth, rich, creamy, even succulent to a degree, but amazing? That, it most assuredly is not.

In our haste to jump to the top rung of the Ladder of Descriptive Terms, we’ve trampled a host of terms suitable for the moment. What’s wrong with smooth, rich, or creamy? How about succulent, a reference to moist, rather than dry, or a luscious flavor, rather than bland? That’s a step up above the average cheesecake; certainly it could be worn as a worthy ribbon of honor. Delightful, savory, even mouthwatering are all suitable. If you wanted to impress those around you with your deep vocabulary, you could even reach for a term such as provocative and let the conversation flow from there.

You could also roll out, “This cheesecake is overpriced,” then field the questions that the comment evokes. At least you would then have the opportunity to show off your math wizard talents by breaking down the absurd price tag of $8.95 a slice on an 8 slice pie resulting in an overall price point of more than $70 for the whole.

Honestly, there’s nothing in the world wrong with declaring the cheesecake to be well-prepared and gratifying. A yummy cheesecake is certainly both, but it is never, ever amazing. Although, at $70 per pie, it should be several steps above tasty.

Horrify is another term on my list. I used it a few paragraphs ago and you most likely read right past it without the slightest questioning of whether or not my use of the term was fitting and proper. It was neither. It was an overuse and undervalue. Both horrifying and terrifying should be set aside for moments that bring us to our knees in paralyzed disbelief or fear; a place that most of us have thankfully never experienced, which means that most of us really shouldn’t be using either word as a descriptive term.

So, what of the F word? If it’s not a word that I even use, why am I even addressing the topic? Because it’s under unbridled assault by the n’er-do-wells who fling it about as if they just landed the magical blow against a piñata and want to share their candy inheritance with everyone who happens to be within candy flinging range. It’s overused, undervalued, and the proliferation is beyond the saturation point. The use of the word was so rampant in 2008 that U.S. Solicitor General, Gregory Garre, proclaimed during the Supreme Court launched hearings on Federal Communications Commission v. Fox,

It’s “one of the most graphic, explicit and vulgar words
in the English language,” If TV networks have their way,
Garre argued in his opening statement on behalf of the
FCC, it won’t be long before Americans hear
“Big Bird dropping the F-bomb on Sesame Street.”

Can you imagine the F word being used on Sesame Street? I can’t either, but 10 years ago that’s where we were with the proliferation of the term. FOX was fighting for the right to “let it slide” when it happened to “slip out” during live broadcasts, such as award ceremonies. Case in point on the table, front and center, was the usage by U2 front man, Bono, during his acceptance speech at the 2003 Golden Globes in which he reportedly exclaimed, “This is really, really (bleep)ing brilliant!”

A golden shelf monkey is not worthy the F word, nor should it be equated with “brilliant,” but that’s another blog. The point is, the date on the court case (heard in 2008, verdict reached in 2009) and the fact that the use of the word had become so commonplace that a court case, a Supreme Court case, was needed in the first place. That was nearly 10 years ago, boys and girls, and the disrespect for the value of the term has only continued to erode.

We could explore the origins of the term. (Let the record show that I did.) We could invest some time regarding the fact that it now has its own, surprisingly lengthy page on Wikipedia, complete with over 75 footnotes of source material. I could bring up a sizeable list of books that have been written and published on topic of swearing in general and this particular word specifically. I could point you toward a 2005 documentary film that included a clip from SpongeBob SquarePants which states that the word can be used as a “sentence enhancer.” The documentary also featured insight from Steven Bochco, Drew Carey, Ice-T, Alanis Morissette, Kevin Smith, and many more.

We could even venture into the award category and discover that the fine folks at Guinness World Records acknowledged Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film, The Wolf of Wall Street, as being the new record holder for foul language. It seems that someone took the time to count and found out that the  f-word expletive is used 506 times – that’s almost 3 times per minute or once every 20 seconds. But, none of that is why I am sipping coffee and punching out keystrokes at 5am on a Saturday morning. I don’t care about the etymology of the word, the court cases, or the many ways in which it has been used. And, I really don’t care about the absurd number of Facebook groups that have some derivative of the word in their group name. That’s just silly and ignorant… yes, ignorant! (especially if you think you love science to that level; you don’t!).

I’m writing because I want the shock value back. When I hear the word, or see the word, I want that momentary cold splash of being taken aback by what just happened. If it rolls past me without leaving some trace of residue, there’s a problem. I’m someone who doesn’t use the word, yet I’m so overwhelmed by its usage that it no longer has its stinging effect and that’s the purpose of the word. It should startle not only the one who hears it, but also the one who uttered it. It should wound. It should injure. It should leave behind it a lasting stain on both parties when it gets dropped.

I don’t want to have to work up the pretense sensation of having been violated because, “I don’t use such language.” I want to impulsively feel violated and deeply so. I’ve lost that and I want it back!

If overheard in a public place, it should incite a naturally reactive, hushed silence. It doesn’t. Instead, it’s carelessly rolled out on a regular basis and offered up to fill even the slightest gap of conversation. And, because that’s become the norm, it hardly gets noticed. This is shameful; this is wrong; it’s just wrong!

I’m calling for a restoration, an honoring, if you will. Our society has completely devalued the term by tossing it about randomly just for the sake of tossing it about. In most cases… no, in almost every single case, it is not a suitable nor a proper use of the word. You’ve cheapened it and diminished the power that it once wielded. Stop doing that!

In reality, it should only find use under the most extreme of circumstances; very few instances are worthy of it. The power of the word has been lost and society doesn’t have another go-to word that’s higher up the ladder. As such, it’s officially made my list of Words You Shouldn’t Hear Every Day.

Quick Links to Mark’s Books on Amazon:

PUSH
Mark D. Combs
Don’t Forget Your Cape
Mark D. Combs
HELLO… IS THIS ON?
Mark D. Combs

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