Monday, October 19, 2009

Keep the F-word Vulgar

I'm starting a "Save the F-Word" Campaign.

And I'm asking each of you to do your part. Please, keep the f-word vulgar - as in indecent, obscene, lewd. Or at least let it remain something crude, coarse, and unrefined.

How? By not allowing another connotation of vulgarity to dominate its defining characteristic. That is, don't let it become current, popular, common...or even worse, banal. That's right, I'm asking you to refrain from using the f-word in order to save it.

Why? Because the effin f-word is used so effin often as an effin descriptor that it's effin lost its effin significance. Is that effin clear enough for you!? Plus, that kind of writing is boring.

And yes, I'm specifically appealing to writers here, but potty mouths can zip it as well. Either way, f-word saturation has reached critical levels and threatens to undermine its essential value.

Oh yes, the f-word is valuable. It's shocking. It's subversive. It's controversial. Or it used to be. Sadly, it's starting to lose its punch. Witness Catcher in the Rye. It used to be banned from our school libraries, now high schoolers find the book...dull.

Mark my words, that's what will happen to you and your stories. Sure, right now it's trendy. The f-bomb is everywhere! Vive la liberté! People think it cool, hip, expressive to pepper their blogs, creative writing assignments, literary journals, and popular novels with the f-word. It's realist, modern, and postmodern (all three at once!) standing in solidarity against out-of-date conservative puritanical prudish authoritarian values.

I get it. So you have to spread your wings. Fine.

But if after reading this you're still committed to the liberal use of the word, better fly now because that window is closing. One day - soon! - it will simply be a mark of sloppy writing, like, you know, omg, slang gone wild. Then you'll have squandered a perfectly good obscenity. We may even be too late. "F**k you" doesn't even start a bar fight anymore.

Still, there is hope. There is yet time to pull back from the brink. I implore you to save the f-word for those rare and special occasions when its appearance in the text is surprising, effective, and actually says something important. You'll know when to use it. Treat it like painite in your bag of vocabulary gems.

In the mean time, what are some alternatives? Well, of course, frack/frak is a scifi favorite and can be used quite creatively. Friggin' works. Effin, too. Fudge has lost its flavor, imo. But fiddle might be worth bringing back. The point is, give these a try and save the f-word - and vulgarities in general - for really important literary jobs.

Please, before it's too late. Join me in my campaign to keep the f-word vulgar.


  1. :D Yep, it s getting banal. Sooo overused.

  2. In my opinion there is no need for using the F-word in writing at all. The so-called shock value of the word can be achieved with more creative writing. Using the F-bomb, especially in young adult writing, is lazy writing, IMO. Many great writers achieve all the shock and suspense they need without using it.

  3. I'm with you! No more flippin' f-words!

  4. Nice post!

    I'll admit I'm guilty of using the f-bomb when I feel the text requires it. Love it or hate it, the word is part of popular culture's lexicon and to ignore it could make your dialogue/narration lose authenticity, IMO.

    That said, I agree it is used way too much in certain types of fiction. I don't feel it adds anything to the text of most third person narrations and should really only be used inside dialogue/1st person narration for authenticity purposes.


  5. I'll never forget when Macaulay Culken used the word in the movie "The Good Son."

    It was actually chilling.

  6. Loved your article.

    I keep asking bookstores,libraries and review sites to ask for a profanity meter on all rating movies and etc. I will not knowingly buy any book with foul language and I take each one back for a full refund and buy something from one of the many talented authors that I know.


Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)