In further response to the title of this blog, I just received this thoughtful submission from writingandnotwriting all about the word ‘fuck’:
It is odd the ways in which we become deeply unsettled or even offended by a single word like “Fuck.” It is a word for something we all do. And for something that caused our existence. It is a word that is in the dictionary! THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY. And it has a lush history dating back to the 15th century. Furthermore, this collection of phonemes arranged in this way is not unique to our language alone:
“Probably cognate with Dutch fokken to mock (15th cent.), to strike (1591), to fool, gull (1623), to beget children (1637), to have sexual intercourse with (1657), to grow, cultivate (1772), Norwegian regional fukka to copulate, Swedish regional fokka to copulate (compare Swedish regional fock penis)” [OED].
So what is it that perturbs us about this word? Is it the sexual connotations? The way in which it used in anger? Or simply that it is so censored in (at least American) society (see: M.I.A. flipping the middle finger at the Super Bowl controversy).
We have to pay to hear ‘Fuck’ from our TVs (see: HBO, Showtime, etc. programming) and if an anchor or an actor says it on live television they will be fined and probably fired. Yet, in England, many of the shows broadcasted on the BBC will feature language including “Fuck” and even “Cunt” with little shock value (“cunt” can even become a positive term if used with positive qualifier. See: Glue by Irvine Welsh, p.266, “Billy can be a funny cunt, a great guy…” [Example taken from the bibliography on the wiki for “cunt”]). The only example that come to mind of “cunt” appearing in non-premium American cable television are: 1.) How I Met Your Mother - “How Lily Stole Christmas”: Ted (Josh Radnor) calls Lily (Alyson Hannigan) it for leaving Marshall (Jason Segel)…but they replace it to “grinch” which remains narratively functional as he is telling to story to his children. 2.) 30 Rock: “The C Word”: a minor character calls Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) it, though it is never uttered and might not have even been actual said. (For more on “Cunt” there is a full hour BBC documentary called “The C Word”).
Now, think about the phrase that even the most proper of us have used: “FUCK YOU!” Here is what author/critic William H. Gass has to say on this term:
“When we swear we say we let off steam by throwing our words at someone or something. ‘Fuck You,’ I mutter to the backside of the traffic cop, though I am innocent of any such intention.” This example “allows us to separate what is meant from what is said, and what is said from what is implied, and what is implied from what is revealed.” [On Being Blue]
We do not get offended by words, but by ideas. There are much worse ideas than sex and much worse words to go along with them. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be offended by things, but that you should question your feelings to understand their roots.
To conclude: here’s a clip from Louis C.K.’s stand-up “Chewed Up” on the use and connotations of “cunt,” the phrase: “The N Word,” and “nigger”:
Very interesting, thank you for submitting :) Indeed as an Irish girl, everyone in my lovely family frequently swears (religious little old grannies included) and all the best Irish and English films, tv shows, writers, actors and comedians regularly swear like drunken old sailors (Black Books, Peep Show, Misfits, Skins, Shameless etc) So personally, ‘fuck’ doesn’t make me bat an eyelash! x