That Word, That Ugly, Awful, Stupid Word
And leave it to Roy Kent to make me almost say it.
If you’ve been devouring ‘Ted Lasso’, as I have, you know the character Roy Kent, the lovable brute, can’t get a sentence out without peppering it with one or more ‘f-words’. Without that one word he would be rendered speechless. And it’s hilarious.
I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it’s true: It’s effing hilarious. (That’s as close as I’m ever going to get. Don’t even…)
So I thought I’d haul out a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. Then maybe you’ll understand what a gigantic leap this is for me. I’m pretty sure this new attitude isn’t permanent, but as long as Roy Kent is around I’ll have to live with it. Not unhappily.
There’s That Word Again
Can you just give it a rest already?
(First published at Medium/Indelible Ink on April 8, 2019.)
Hard as this might be for you to believe, I’ve gone my entire life without knowingly saying the word fuck. (There were those times I was under anesthesia, so…) In fact, if this is the kind of thing you like to gloat about, you should feel honored. I’m pretty sure this marks the first time I’ve put it in writing. And lucky you — you were there.
Incredible as it seems, over the years I’ve built an entire vocabulary and I completely forgot to include that word.
Well, no, I didn’t forget.
The truth is, I’m as proud of never using that word as others are of using it. I see whole articles devoted to the defense of that one single word, as if it has magical powers, as if, as words go, it’s so golden I will need to be punished for even suggesting it’s not the best word ever in the whole entire world.
When it comes to words, there are no other words to replace it. Not fook, not feck, not fack, not, for God’s sake, fudge.
It’s ubiquitous. It’s invincible. It’s OMFG delicious.
It’s used so often, so carelessly, it should have lost its punch long ago. Its insane over-use should by rights have absolutely killed its popularity, but instead the word assaults my eyes and ears hundreds of times a day. No exaggeration. HUNDREDS. Sometimes multiple times in the same sentence.
I get it that it’s generational and I’m in that out-of-it generation, but show me another word that has such a cult following it needs its own defense. Just one. Even now, as I write this, I’m preparing for the backlash. And you’re already rehearsing the perfect comeback — using that word, of course. I know the drill. There are some things that are sacrosanct and that word is right up there at the tippy top.
I had hopes that insane overuse would at last cause it to die off, putting it in cliché hell, where all banal anachronisms must eventually go. But, no. It’s out there in prose, in poetry, in song, in rap, in movies, in plays, in graffiti, on tee shirts, in small children’s mouths…
It’s out there in the air and everywhere. It’s here to stay. I know that. But I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to be polite about it. God knows, it’s in a class where “polite” has no place. It laughs at polite. Laughing at polite is its main reason for being. I’m guessing. I have no idea. It should have lost its shock value billions and billions of utterances ago.
It’s not that I’m a puritan about cuss words. I’m a big fan of a whole lot of them, especially when I hit my shins or crunch my bumper or wake up with bed head on a day when I really need to look human.
If it helps, I like the way shit feels and sounds. But even then, saying it didn’t come easy. It took me a long time to get it right. So long my grandkids didn’t hear it from me until they had jobs.
But bless their dark little hearts, they think it’s cool that they have to remember not to say that other word in front of me. They warn their friends. Their friends go, “Huh?”
They don’t get it, but I’m cool in their eyes.
So there’s that, at least.