Friday, January 28, 2011

Foreigner Friday: The F-Word

I am going to make a very generalized statement:  Americans use a lot of profanity. Especially a certain four letter word that starts with ‘F’. I’m not saying that people in other countries cuss less- the Irish, British and Australians are quite capable in that area- but the Americans seem to be the masters. Germans really do not use profanity that often. If something bad happens, they usually will let out a “Scheisse!” (shit) for you, but that’s really as bad as it gets.
Please bear in mind that I am married to a man who has been in the Army for over 18 years. Before I moved to the States I actually believed that every American used the F-word about twenty times per sentence like my husband and his soldiers did. I was glad to find out that this was not the case. But an occasional “fuck” escapes almost every mouth in America every once in a while.
I actually don’t mind that at all. I’m quite fond of the word myself and have gotten accustomed to using it frequently- something I have to reverse now that I have children. So why do Americans not just embrace it and use it without shame? I’m not quite sure. Really, all you’re trying to say when you use this word as an expletive is that something is not going your way at all and you are displeased. It loses its original sexual meaning completely. (For those of you who would enjoy a good laugh, check out what Mirriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary tells foreigners trying to learn English about the use of this wonderful word[1])
And so, my wonderful friend the F-word is replaced by “frigging”, in hopes of cleaning up the language. I have heard teenagers and adults use it in place of the evil word, which is of course silly, since we all know what they really want to say. I’m sure you will be pleased to know that this word is not just an innocent replacement for “fuck”. The verb “to frig” actually means to masturbate or to copulate. I wonder how many of you will continue to use it now…
Of course, the F-word is not the only bad word people use. There’s so much more profanity out there, I don’t even want to attempt making a list for you. Let’s just say that I occasionally use other forms of frowned-upon language when something goes wrong for me. My daughter was running around our yard a few weeks ago and stepped in dog poop. I was very angry, but I kept my mouth in check, only an “Oh no!!!” escaped my lips. However, my baby was a little more outspoken, screaming: “God damn it! God damn it!”, about ten times. It made the situation hilarious for me, but I believe my husband and I have been watching our words a lot more closely since then. Such an incident has not been repeated, thankfully.
The confusing part about all the cussing is that even though almost everyone does it, nobody wants to acknowledge this fact and there is a lot of censorship in this country. Which is, of course, completely ridiculous if you take a moment to think about it. When you’re watching a show on TV and someone says: “Mother-bleeeep-“, I am certain that we all know exactly what that person was saying. Who are we fooling? Do you think our children won’t know these words because they’re bleeped out on television and in music? We all know that that is utopian. Our children are going to take just as much pleasure using foul language as we did. They will probably know the F-word by the time they are in elementary school.
So I say to you, my dear readers, fuck it! Cuss away and enjoy the fierceness of the F-word and all its friends. After all, as Jack Kerouac put it: “…, fuck being a dirty word that comes out clean.”

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