Thursday, June 01, 2006

This I Believe: Bad Words

“There is a question I want to ask you. It’s really embarrassing.”

My mind immediately went to sex.

Not that I’m so desperate and hormonal. Mr. Coffee, Mr. Clean, and the guy on the Quaker Oats box can vouch for my remarkable composure of late. Qi and I weren’t watching anything sexy, either - just a “Top Chef” marathon on Bravo. (Yes, Sigmund, you can whisper about carrots and cucumbers and whipped cream, but at least “Top Chef” lays off the hot tubs and “fantasy suites.”)

Sex made sense as our topic du jour because of Qi’s planned pregnancy, the execution of which may hinge on her summer in China. Her plane was due to leave on Friday. T minus three months and counting...

How to: Hit His Hot Spots; Make Him Melt; Sizzle in the Sheets; Fire Up a Fabulous, Frisky Fiesta. I paged through my mental file of Cosmo alliterations, but nothing translated to standard English, let alone Chinese.

“What I want to know is...how bad a word is fuck?”

Is that all? Well, shit.

I mean, drat.

If you want to know the truth, “drat” is generally my expletive of choice. I’m exceptionally sensitive to scolding, and I haven’t yet recovered from the time my mother chastised me for saying “crap.” I was about eleven. “I’m so disappointed,” Mom sighed. She might as well have called the Gestapo.

But also, I don’t believe in placing value judgments on words. You don’t see the mathematicians singling out numbers. “It’s okay to add 5 to 5, but if you square it, you’re going to hell.” Phooey to that.

“Well...it’s up there on the list of Bad Words. I wouldn’t say it in front of my parents.”

Is that true? Isn’t that a perk of adulthood: license to toss out “flipping,” and “fricking,” and “freaking,” and just go totally effing real with Mom and Dad? Some of our professors use the F word. Which is, I assume, why Qi asked.

On screen, a bleached-blonde twentysomething threw shallots in a pan of hot oil, splashing his hands. “Oh, *bleep*!!”

“What I mean is, it’s worse than ‘damn’ and ‘shit.’”

I didn’t add: “and infinitely more satisfying.” Such punch, with the hard “f” and “ck” sandwiching the guttural “u.” So versatile, too. Obviously, I’m not the first person to notice -- was it Chekhov who employed variations of F for a page of single-word dialogue? In I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe refers to “fuck patois.” You look so f-cking great. Fan-f-cking-tastic! We shouldn’t stand here another f-cking minute. F-ck it -- let’s go to the f-cking club and get f-cked up!”

I respect overkill. I think we’ll agree that the F word, like any word, has diminishing returns. Let’s give credit, though: what other Bad Words retain flavor past adolescence? Without its taboo status, the S word isn’t worth crap. (Sorry, Mom.) Don’t even start with “hell” and “biznitch.” “Top Chef” doesn’t bother censoring them. Fuck is the Extra sugar-free gum of swear words. It lasts an extra effing long time.

Now I’m going to wash my mouth out with soap.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jesseanna said...

I know, it's brief and not particularly timely. Being in Boston gives me performance anxiety. I'm going to read W's Rolling Stone now.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You Americans have cheapened our cheapest word.

3:56 PM  
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