The “F” Word.

Yes, that “F” word.

Watching TV the other night, I started thinking about the fact that the majority of television programs don’t allow the use of the word.  And do you miss it?  No. You still know when a character is angry or frustrated.  You can still tell that something bad has happened and someone is upset. But the lack of the word doesn’t make the conversations sound any less realistic, as far as I can tell.  Or maybe we’ve just become used to a Pollyanna version of life?

While literature can span the gamut of clean speech to text riddled with swearing, once again, it isn’t needed. So why do we hear it used so often in everyday life? (Okay, I’ll admit, I  probably go a few days without hearing anyone utter the word, but you get the point.) Why do we develop these types of words in our language and what purpose do they really serve?  Are they just words that undereducated people use? Hardly.  So, why do they even exist?

The F-Word has been around since the 15th century, in a variety of versions. The taboo nature of the words make them powerful, but it doesn’t explain why people use them in everyday conversation, especially when a strong moment isn’t needed. However, linguists believe people use them when speaking to one another (especially friends) to give some intensity to their conversation.  We get the point when someone says ” That was a great concert.”   But, it has no emotion.  Pop in the “f” word, and it becomes description that gives more emphasis to the sentence. If someone is willing to cross acceptable social boundaries to use the word, their idea must be important, right?

But then, how do they get around not using it on TV?  We’ll probably hear it pop up as time goes on (it seems that TV becomes more “realistic” all the time), but for now, they’ve proven we don’t need it. And there are many substitute words that work just as well.

Do you think the F-word would just phase itself out of our world if we didn’t use it?  Or would we just come up with something else instead? Does it matter?  Is it an important word, or just a word that needn’t be discussed?  I haven’t decided yet. 


2 thoughts on “The “F” Word.

  1. Because I know I could write four pages on the ‘F’ word, I’ll try to be very brief. I live just three blocks from the university library where I work, in an inner city urban neighborhood with more than its share of foot and vehicular traffic, From inside my home and from on my porch, I hear the ‘f’ word almost every day.

    Many times the tone and level of voice relay frustration or anger. Very often, though, the ‘f’ word, as I hear it used, is simply an adjective that replaces hundreds of more specifically descriptive words for beauty, feelings, attitude, etc.

    Years ago I experienced a person’s using the ‘f’ word on the job. I was seriously considering writing a book on how many ways she could use the word in one sentence. Because I didn’t use the word, she noticed, commented on it, apologized, and ceased.

    The ‘f’ word-using people who cross through my neighborhood seem totally oblivious to what anyone else hears or what they might think. When I’ve been nearby I’ve respectfully asked if they could be more careful/quiet in their talking’; I’ve had positive responses.

    Is the use of the ‘f’ word, for some people, simply to make a comment ‘pop’ with more feeling? I think so. Does using it in every sentence give more ‘pop;? I don’t think so. When does ‘pop’ become laziness in literacy? Does it depend on the social group using it? At what point does it become less offensive?

    I would like to see it phase out, but I think it’ll simply become more accepted and eventually lose its ‘pop’.


    • That’s a good way to look at it…that eventually, it’ll lose its effectiveness. I’m sure people will move on to another offensive word, however.

      Thanks for your ideas on this!

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