The F-Word: A Reflection

Last night, my husband and I went out for dinner. We chose to dine outside by the water as the South Florida weather is especially beautiful at this time of year. Two well-lubricated couples seated at the table next to us were engaged in a loud, animated discussion peppered with the f-word. Forget that this was not the type of establishment where such language was appropriate or the fact that there were children present, the conversation was mind-numbingly boring. If I am to be forced to eavesdrop and doing so was unavoidable considering how loud they were, I would much prefer to hear something riveting or scandalous, rife with juicy adverbs and adjectives.

What has happened to our vocabulary? There are so many words, beautiful words, interesting words, words that paint a picture. The f-word is nothing more than a verb that’s been tortured into an adjective, an adverb, a noun, a pronoun, and lest we forget, most famously, an interjection.

The repetitive, monotonous, bizarrely random, and increasingly unceremonious use of the word has, at this point, diminished the shock value, so what’s the point of using it at all?

In fact, the more I hear it, the more I scratch my head. What’s the obsession? What’s the appeal? It’s not a pretty word like “mellifluous” or fun like “crapulous” and “vomitory.”

No matter how many times the f-word is carelessly abused in casual conversation, screamed at unsuspecting drivers or pedestrians, and used as a verbal weapon between lovers or parents and children, I find myself, rather than accepting it as commonplace, longing for more effective and eloquent vocabulary, something perhaps a bit more original.

Once considered only fit for the locker room, the f-word has invaded the English language, refusing, like some vulgar, uninvited squatter, to leave.

Routinely exchanged over lunch, in business communication, and on social media, the f-word has taken over our power of speech and the ability to express ourselves with some degree of intelligence.

Consider this.

When the urge to hurl an insult presents itself, at least choose a linguistically interesting or humorous response. To borrow a quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, try tossing off an impassioned, “Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!” If nothing else, you and your righteous indignation will be well served, you’ll stand a pretty good chance of rendering the offending person speechless, and given the, y-a-a-awn, tedious and predictable response sure to follow, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

 

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