Saturday, November 17, 2007

Language jail?

Before we get down to business: I bought a bottle of juice at the Wisconsin Union yesterday and while checking out, one of the kids working there said about his hair that his mom had "cut it with a clippers". Singular clippers, in the wild in Madison, Wisc.

But I'm writing now about another Madisonian: "Mr. Right", a fine columnist for our fine free weekly, the Isthmus. His latest column (here) is about the f-word. Specifically, he got a letter from a guy worried about being sent to "language jail" for using it at work. Wow, that's an image I don't think I'd thought of before. If you google it (using quotation marks to get only the exact phrase), you find very few uses of this.

More importantly, Mr. Right nails the answer here (as he often does on a wide range of topics, it seems like). Here's an excerpt:
Send you to Language Jail? F**k that! If the vice-president of the United States, one Richard B. Cheney, can use the F-word on the floor of the United States Senate, as he did in 2004 when Senator Patrick Leahy asked him about Halliburton's contracts in Iraq, then it's hard for me to imagine a place where you shouldn't use it, with the possible exception of church. For the fact is, the F-word, which long ruled as the King of All Cuss Words, the one that had your mom racing to the bathroom for a bar of soap, is on the decline. And by that I mean it gets used in mixed company so often these days that it's starting to lose its power. For instance, on "Deadwood," HBO's potty-mouthed Western, it gets used 1.48 times per minute.

And we know that because someone was fup-ucked enough to count the number of times, then post it on the web, complete with ten-minute breakdowns. But they needn't have bothered, because we're going to be hearing a lot more of the F-word in the coming years, each instance sapping its strength a little more, until all that's left is a word that means "darn" or "very," as in "Darn you!" or "That's very awesome!" Still, I have to hand it to the F-word, it's had a long, noble reign. …

… I don't know, we just seem to like to set aside certain words, endow them with special powers. They're "The Words That Shall Not Be Used." And I can't wait until we land on the next one so I can let it slip at staff meetings.
That's not just right, it's smart … although fup-ucked doesn't work for me. And oh yeah, I don't know if the count is real, but the Deadwood thing is out there: Click here.

Kudos, Mr. Right!


Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I was surprised to find 'freakin' (a euph for f*** when I was growing up) in the title of a kids book in a well-known large nationwide bookstore. I'll bet my kids will end up using it freely. Also freakin may be more common as the poster child of infixation.

Mr. Verb said...

Oh, that would surprise me a little, too, I think.

Wishydig said...

Mr Right says

And I can't wait until we land on the next one so I can let it slip at staff meetings.

Haven't we already landed on the next one? Isn't n_____ so bad that it shall not be spoken (or written when I'm feeling squeamish?) In a lot of staff meetings I'm sure f____ would cause no more squirming and gasping than n____ would.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, it's surely a *real* taboo, but it's the realness that makes it different (and the 'c-word' too): The f-word is an empty shell of an old taboo.

I'm figuring he's making that kind of distinction, and waiting for the next not-so-real taboo. Does that make sense?

Wishydig said...

Yeah...I think there is a distinction there.

Gall dang -- expletives are frickin interesting.