"Why do you treat me like a three-year old?"
Last night, Nadine had occasion to wonder if she swears too much in her posts. I think she's going to write about it, but her question prompted this response from me (slightly edited):
Well, I’m not in bed because I’m all hepped up on mint chocolate chip ice cream and want to watch the Amy Winehouse thing on Much later. Also, the insomnia is back.
But, to the topic at hand:
But, since you asked (and may be waiting with baited breath for it):
Because I know you (now) Nadine, reading your posts, well...it’s part and parcel of a chatty tone. A kind of storytelling. It’s an implied conversation with you, yourself, Nadine; not at all a conversation with generic writerly person who writes things that are neat to write about. And your cleaned-up professional writing is good, very good – but it’s not your voice. I, personally, like your voice. You cuss – it neither diminishes nor accentuates any of your other qualities. In fact, I might propose that it’s an empowering word for a woman writer to sling about comfortably.
And now begins my Ode to Proper Use of the Word Fuck:
I think of your swears as something used for colour, and for emphasis. While they’re likely not randomly placed, I imagine excising them would feel more unnatural than using more. They are merely, perhaps, called for during the course of following your muse.
And fuck is such an awesome word (and I love Kate’s word, fuckery) - but fuck? It’s got this great ancient etymology that makes it appropriate in today’s parlance, useful in so many instances. And really, frig just isn’t the same thing (scroll down on that link – I mean that literally). There is no other word in the world that takes the place of fuck. Fuck is uniquely suited to certain emphatic statements, and makes a splendid noun, verb or adjective, adverb – I could go on... Judiciously chosen and well-placed, it gives a sentence weight and intensity. Used gratuitously, it’s merely a verbal tic.
From that link (and um...I was familiar with it. It’s not like I looked it up just for this, you know) (because I love online etymology sites, and there are hours of fun to be found when you come across stuff like this - for the word nerd smackdowns in the comments are awesome indeed) there are these awesome references to how it appeared (or didn’t) in the works of some very respected (male) writers:In 1948, the publishers of "The Naked and the Dead" persuaded Norman Mailer to use the euphemism fug instead. When Mailer later was introduced to Dorothy Parker, she greeted him with, "So you're the man who can't spell 'fuck' " [The quip sometimes is attributed to Tallulah Bankhead]. Hemingway used muck in "For whom the Bell Tolls" (1940). The major breakthrough in publication was James Jones' "From Here to Eternity" (1950), with 50 fucks (down from 258 in the original manuscript).
(That made me laugh – you can sell it on the book jacket that way: Now with 90% Less Fuck!)
Now, I’ve also got to say – part of reading is “nexting”, which is where your brain automatically supplies the logical next word. It’s how anyone can do any reading with any speed at all. It happens so fast along those cuckoo brain synapses (think what would happen if you had to make all those word identifications and meaning deductions word by word!) that if certain cuss words are part of our vernacular, they hardly register in the brain’s rush to end the passage and understand the piece.
So, I go back to saying that while others might prefer a certain delicacy, the reality is that your subjects and your writing style often work in tandem, to challenge your audience to see who flinches. That’s what makes it powerful. Overuse of the f-word by anyone can certainly cause fatigue even in the most bitter and hardened leathery soul like mine, but in today’s society it’s unusual that there would be such modest sensibilities, moved enough to write. I would guess that your persistent use of the focative case (Ha – Shakespeare joke!) in YOUR OWN PERSONAL BLOG THAT YOU WRITE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO AND DON’T HAVE TO SO STFU....sorry...I lost it for a minute there – I’d guess that there’s such a small percentage of people who can’t get over it, that you can use that old chestnut “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke”.
Which brings me to the fun question and answer game everyone is playing. Okay, it's not a game and not everyone is doing it - but I do love a good question, as you can see from the above. Nadine has opened herself up, so...
We're going to try this with the comments open - first twenty questions get answers. If there is even one teensy bit of fuckery, it's all over and we go back to email only.
*It has been so long, I forgot how to put the comments back on. They're working now.