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I realize this will sound like a peep of a single sparrow in a tree full of them. But sometimes a single peep can find a moment of silence that lets it be heard. So, here goes.
I am tired of the F-word. It seems to be everywhere. In every grammatical form and usage. It makes other language-litter, e.g., “like…,” “ya know…,” “see…,” “I mean…,” and their ilk almost tolerable, and other expletives almost welcome. I realize that “Words don’t mean; people do,” and that the F-word helps to let off steam when things go wrong. But when the word permeates one’s vocabulary, or a movie or a novel, it becomes a battering ram, gauging the intelligence of those using it as faux muscle, It also becomes boring and practically meaningless.
Years ago my son, then 7 or so, told me he just learned the worst word in the whole world. “You did?” I replied. “What is it?” He told me; then I asked him if he knew what it meant. He said he didn’t but that it was “really BAD!” I told him it was a “junk” word some people use when they are angry, that there were much better words that they might use instead. He’s almost 40 now, and I can’t remember ever hearing him use it.
A friend of mine, a priest, had the habit of using “Jesus Christ!” as an expletive. He was advised that it did not sit well with some of his parishioners, that “the Boss” was likely offended. He quickly learned to catch himself and say, “cheeez ‘n bread!” instead, which became a kind of trademark for him.
“Fudge” for some has become a similar solution, prompting smiles instead of grimaces, as “cheeeze ‘n bread” did for my priest-friend. But what about using “Fudge it!” “What the fudge!” “You fudgin’ wimp!” “Somebody fudged up big time!” as well? Another f-word, true, but not the F-word. Of course there is not much hope that novelists and script writers will go for the suggestion, but such a change could make a huge difference in any person’s vocabulary.
One’s everyday language is a kind of clothing that can reflect facets of character and breeding. Though there’s always a need for expletives (life, after all, can be difficult), outbursts need not demean one’s sense of self or foul the air of good conversation. The F-word can rarely be “weighed with weights of gold,” to be sure, but its leaden presence in one’s everyday vocabulary can be poisonous.
I will be surprised if I am the only one who thinks so.