Warning: I will not be censoring the “f-word” for the rest of this post. If you don’t want to read it like a hundred times, avert your attention away from this post.
I took Japanese in college. One term, got a D. I did not do all that well in college. It really wasn’t for me, but that’s another story.
Anyway, the professor was great. She was an older lady born and raised in Japan so there really was no better mentor. She was passionate about language as a whole and expressed a lot of interest in the complexities of English.
Our first set of lessons was just on word sounds. Sometimes tying connections between Japanese and English, but just mostly savoring different sounds and how they felt and were formed in the mouth.
I remember very clearly. The room was kinda dim. It was always dim because she used a projector for her lessons. But on that day, she looked around the room and asked if it was okay if she cursed a little. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would care, but it was a Catholic school. No one protested so she shouted:
We all kinda just looked amongst themselves. When she asked if she could curse, we weren’t exactly prepared for that.
She paused long enough for the sound to settle from the air and our own off-guard silence to fill the space.
“I love that word,” she finally followed up with.
This little old Japanese lady standing in front of a class of probably 20 young adults was beaming.
“It’s the perfect word, if you ask me. I know two languages very well and dabble in several others, but of all the words I know, fuck is my favorite.”
We were still all a bit confused.
“Think about it. Say it. Go ahead. Say fuck and pay attention to how it feels in your mouth. It feels good, doesn’t it?”
A flurry of hushed ‘fucks’ filled the room. Sure enough, there really was something satisfying about the word.
“Do you know why it’s so satisfying?” she continued.
We were all still a bit weirded out by the whole situation.
“It flows. From front to back. It fills your mouth. The soft ‘f’ to the hard ‘ck’. It opens and closes so perfectly. The F is like a good meal and the CK is like the perfect dessert. It’s a really nice word,” she sighed, “Too bad it doesn’t mean nice things.”
Of my entire college career, this interaction is one of the few that really stuck with me. In fact, when it comes to interactions with professors, its the only one. I love everything about it. I’ve always been a casual linguist. I love studying etymology and language even though I absolutely suck at learning languages in general.
I will never forget how passionate that woman was for a word so many find utterly derogatory and disgusting. And, I won’t lie, I feel the same. I really do adore the word and I do use it way too much.
Lately, I’ve been trying to curb my tendency to curse a lot, but I will never lose my appreciation for such a perfectly formed word. Maybe someday it’ll lose its derogatory meanings, but I wouldn’t hold my breath because it’s always meant the same thing from the day it entered the English lexicon to today. Which is actually kind of impressive considering how language tends to grow and evolve.
The word “fuck” entered anEnglish dictionary in 1598 in a collection of words called “A Worlde of Wordes” by John Florio. It was a loose derivative of “Latin futuere and Old German ficken/fucken meaning ‘to strike or penetrate’, which had the slang meaning to copulate” according to dictionary.com‘s entry on the word.
I grew up being taught the folk definition of “for unlawful carnal knowledge”. That was how my parents defined it to me. They probably knew the truth so I’m not entirely certain why this was better than just using the actual definition. Perhaps it spared my young mind from actively picturing sexual penetration? Hmm…
Anyway, even with the meaning it has, there really isn’t anything all that culturally wrong with the word ‘fuck’. When we blacklist words, we give them way too much power. ‘Fuck’ is just a fun word that deserves appreciation and perhaps the more we use it, the less it will be reviled. I’m not really encouraging everyone to go around screaming ‘fuck’ at the top of their lungs, but perhaps just take a moment to really experience the sensation of saying the word. Satisfying isn’t it?
P.S. I highly encourage people to take a look at the “Usage Alert” for ‘fuck’ on dictionary.com. It does a really good job of explaining the evolution and watering-down of the term. Rather than quote them again, may as well send you right to the source.
I know this is probably a bit of a contentious topic, but if you’re one of us who uses the word rather casually, tell me how it makes you feel after you yourself get a good feeling for it.