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 standing in solidarity against out-of-date conservative puritanical prudish authoritarian values.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.
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