Among the many, many things Antonin Scalia and I disagree about is the utility, versatility and, might I suggest, necessity, of the “F-word.” Truly, I would be hard pressed to find another word in the English language with the efficacy and flexibility of “fuck.”
On Tuesday the USSC ruled 5-4 that the FCC has the right to “clamp down” on “indecent” speech and Scalia wrote the majority opinion. Though the Court was wary of considering the implications of First Amendment rights – they are throwing that back down to a federal appeals court – they basically said that the FCC can impose heavy fines on any and all networks even if the word is used only once, in what FCC chairman Michael Copps (that name is, apparently, genuine) called “a big win for the FCC’s coffers America’s families.” That is fucked. I mean who the fuck does he think taught us how to swear anyhow? As Odessa Jackson mentions in her article, “language must be taught, words cannot be inherently wrong.”
The case [FCC v. Fox Television Stations (07-582)] stems from Bono’s 2003 Golden Globes acceptance speech when he said “…really, really fucking brilliant!” I mean, wow. Indecent. The problem here is, among other obvious things, that the First Amendment does not define or even mention obscenity. The subjectivity of the concept is at the root of the issue. Funny enough, I don’t want someone telling me what I can and cannot say the same way I do not someone telling me who/what God is the right God or what I can do with my person (or with whom!) In 1997 a survey conducted by broadcasting networks in the UK found that fuck came in third behind cunt and motherfucker in a ranking of severity. Come on! Third? Who even remembers third place? Do you remember who came in third in anything from last summer’s Olympics? Unless it was your kid, I am guessing… No.
Justice J.P. Stevens (you know him, the one who took all the shit about gaffing the oath of office at Obama’s inauguration) wrote the dissenting opinion and brings up some key points: First, he brings up the sports scenario wherein any person who has ever witnessed or participated in sport has most certainly heard or used the word fuck and it would be absurd to say that it’s utterance was referring to “sex or excrement.” Second, he ponders the stupidity of going after words with a “tenuous relationship” to sex when we must endure hours of commercials asking us if we suffer from erectile dysfunction… Lastly, and JPS doesn’t bring this up in his opinion, but I mean, geeze he is 89 fucking years old… so there goes the “You wouldn’t say it in front of your grandma” rule. [Humorous aside: A child upset its grandma by saying “fucking knickers.” The child’s mother said, “Don’t ever let me hear you say that in front of grandma again!” The child replied, “When grandma is here, should I say ‘fucking trousers’?”]
Clearly, language is evolutionary and it seems like that is an imperative understanding. I was chastised at my 20 year high school reunion last summer for having a filthy mouth. I was 37 years old and in the company of my peers. I don’t know what that means, except that maybe I have been hanging around English people too much. [A BBC survey of offensive words that should not be broadcast identified: cunt, motherfucker, nigger, Paki, and spastic. Women also noted that they didn’t like whore, slag and twat. Fuck did not even make the list.] I like to swear. I don’t really know why, but I do. Perhaps I like the juxtaposition of it with my mild mannered exterior *cough*cough*.
I have been working in high schools and with high school students since 1994. I joke all the time that my students will motherfuck a person up and down, but when we read historical literature or documents with the “N-word” they balk, blanch and stutter. Though I do still remember the first time I said fuck (with rage) in the locker room at half time of a basketball game causing my girls to gape. They did, however, go out in the second half and remedy the problem I was addressing and win the game. Considering the evolution of language in another context, until the recent success of Tropic Thunder, I was regularly harped on for using the term retarded as a descriptor. Now ‘full retard’ is out there all the time. I think we need to look at intent rather than word choice.
I am aware that, in addition to several member of the PHS Class of ’88, not everyone shares my point of view. One of my French friends, we’ll call her Frenchie, abhors the “F-word” and actually has made it a [very annoying] habit to count the number of times it appears in movies that we watch together. Though to her credit, it has been enlightening. It is a LOT. But really, that just gives more credence to the non-obscene nature of the word. In fact, I am going to suggest that she add another calculation to her movie watching tabulations and have her work out the percentage of times the word fuck is actually referring to something obscene. That would be a lot more interesting and might keep her quiet through some of the funny parts.
Still, I am not going to stop defending the f-word and all it’s glory. Jackson identifies two of the coolest things about the word fuck in her article: The paradox of fuck – that it is at once the most taboo AND most well known ‘obscenity’ in the English language. And of course, the versatility of the word. In English, fuck falls into nearly every category of general use:
– fraud: “I really got fucked”
– trouble: “I guess I’m really fucked now”
– dismay: “Oh, fuck it!”
– frustration: “Oh for fuck’s sake!”
– aggression: “Don’t fuck with me, buddy! I will fuck you up!”
– joy: “Fuck YEAH!!”
– difficulty: “This is fucking impossible!”
– inquiry: “What the fuck?”
– dissatisfaction: “You cannot be fucking serious.”
– incompetence: “What a fucktard!”
– dismissal: “Fuck off.”
– And of course, that pesky prurient perversion: “Fancy a fuck?”
It can be a noun: I don’t give a fuck. What a fuck.
It can be a verb: Fuck off. Go fuck yourself. She got fucked. They really fucked him.
It can be an adjective: That is fucked.
It can be an adverb: She complains too fucking much. You are fucking brilliant.
It can be a word root: Abso-fucking-lutely.
On top of all this, is the recently wildly successful website, which I have mentioned here already, fmylife.com. FML has become a standard “Awww maaaannnn!” anymore. And if you are ever having a really bad day, check out fmylife, fictitious or not, you are gonna laugh. The following FML post led to a huge spike on the Post Secret website, so don’t doubt the influence: Today, I read a PostSecret that said “I’m afraid my thighs will start to touch soon.” My thighs have always touched. I didn’t even know thighs weren’t supposed to touch. FML
So… fuck has versatility, mild shock value, it pisses off the PMRC and Antonin Scalia all the while containing a paradox? Umm… yeah, I am keeping it. If you don’t like it… don’t use it…
And if you wanna hear all this coming out of Fake Larry King’s mouth go here.
And if you want to hear the renown spiritual leader Osho further emphasize the above points, check out the video. But be fucking warned, he says the word fuck a lot.