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August 18, 2011 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Would You Please Fucking Stop?: an article by Ursula K. Le Guin
posted by rollick (184 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meh about fucking and shit use. But "Lathe of Heaven" was fucking awesome shit!
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:17 AM on August 18, 2011


Perhaps she has forgotten that her own The Dispossessed begins, "There was a fucking wall. Shit."
posted by Wolfdog at 10:18 AM on August 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


shuck fit
posted by pianomover at 10:19 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]



I'm sorry.

posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:20 AM on August 18, 2011


She doesn't appear to be making a case for people to stop swearing, and in fact by the end has pointed out that "fuck" is actually still forceful and effective.
posted by Hoopo at 10:21 AM on August 18, 2011


Swearwords and shockwords used to mostly come out of religion.

Used to?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:21 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Come on you kids, get off Ursula's lucking fawn!
posted by chavenet at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2011 [16 favorites]


I could never really get into her work before, but that shit was fucking awesome!
posted by BurnChao at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2011


I swear quite like a sailor and while the idea that I could use more imaginative descriptors is intriguing, I still say "Fuck" when I need a good swear because “May your genitals be infested with the parasites of a thousand mud creatures!” or "May you grow like an onion with your head in the earth." are not nearly as accessible on a daily basis...
posted by Sophie1 at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ursula K. le Fucking Guin. Shit, man.
posted by scolbath at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is thisnwhere I get to vent about people who use frak in real life? I hope so. Own those swear words, people, own them! Or use feck instead, if fuck is too much.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


Mefi-made and supported: Fuck You You Fucking Fuck
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Frell you all.
posted by Aquaman at 10:24 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


The only thing crasser than people who swear too much are those people who feign offence at it. Rolleyes.
posted by dougrayrankin at 10:24 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


sometimes it's like being on a middle school playground, with no adults around.
posted by tomswift at 10:25 AM on August 18, 2011


Why is feck better than frak? "Feck you!" sounds...wrong.
posted by rtha at 10:25 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fuck it.
posted by joelf at 10:25 AM on August 18, 2011


Oddly enough, I'm disturbed by her casual use of the word 'feces '. Never liked the word, seems to close to festival, implying something grand, wonderful and fun.

Instead, there's just a steaming turd of stuff you has rejected and you have to sit around and wait for it to come out. It would be so better if we got rid of organic waste by shooting laser beams from our eyes. Or hands, I'm not picky.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:26 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wish English were a more flexible language so that it could have its own equivalent of mat. In Russian, we can carry on an entire conversation based on context and four dirty words alone. It's like word-jazz, full of stylistic flourishes and improvisation. In English, notsomuch.

Anyway, it may be because I grew up in Brooklyn, as the stereotype goes, but the word "fuck" hasn't been shocking since the fourth grade. What's shocking is the bizarre length people will go -- I swear the god the word "frak" is like nails on a chalkboard -- to avoid it, while still using it.
posted by griphus at 10:26 AM on August 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


I keep reading books and seeing movies where nobody can fucking say anything except fuck, unless they say shit.

This made me think the essay was going to be about people saying "shit" too much, and not saying "fuck" enough. I went through two paragraphs guided by the notion that this was all about shit-fuck imbalance!
posted by ignignokt at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer my excessive and gratuitous swearing to be decontextualized and absurd.

As for actual interjections, I find "Rachmaninoff" to be immensely satisfying.
posted by darksasami at 10:28 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


for shit sake
I've come to expect better from Ms Le Guin; non-standard usage at best!
posted by Abiezer at 10:28 AM on August 18, 2011


I prefer my excessive and gratuitous swearing to be decontextualized and absurd.

Me, too!
posted by ignignokt at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


To quote the estimable Mr. T, "Stop talkin' jibber-jabber, fool."

And presumably Ms. Ke Guin is a big fan of Capt. Haddock.
posted by GuyZero at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also: "f*ck", "sh*t", "c*nt" and so on. Why even bother? What are you doing? Who are you protecting? You know what you mean and we know what you mean. It's like spelling out words you don't want a kid to hear except the kid is a literate adult and standing a foot away: about as confounded by "eff you see kay" as preserved by "f*ck."
posted by griphus at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


Man, why do we have to see fuck on the front page all the time? I'm going to take this to MeTA. Oh, wait...
posted by Dasein at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2011


I'm disturbed by her casual use of the word 'feces '. Never liked the word, seems to close to festival, implying something grand, wonderful and fun.

It's fecesticle!
posted by BurnChao at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2011


Sounds like she just read Preacher or any Ennis comic for that matter.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:31 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I swear quite like a sailor.

My mother swears like a pirate with Tourette's syndrome.

Swearwords and shockwords used to mostly come out of religion.

The Spanish do it the best.

!Me cago en los veinticuatro cojones de los apostoles de Jesus!

posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: all about shit-fuck imbalance
posted by chavenet at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is thisnwhere I get to vent about people who use frak in real life?

Absolutely not. The only thing lamer than someone complaining about people saying "fuck" is someone complaining about people not saying "fuck."

Asking people to swear the way you want them to swear completely misses the point of swearing.
posted by straight at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember when swearing, though tame by modern standards, was quite varied and often highly characteristic. There were people who swore as an art form – performing a dazzling juncture of the inordinate and the unexpected.

I've wondered about this, myself. You know how sometimes you'll be reading a book and a character is described as letting loose a stream of creative profanity that causes the crusty old Colonel to blanch? Those moments always make me stop and wonder what other swearwords there are besides fuck, motherfucker, shit, etc. When I hear people swear voluminously, it's always like that scene in The Wire, fuckity fuck fuck fuuuuuuuck....., nothing creative and impressive.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hurry the fuck up, please. It's fucking time.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is feck better than frak? "Feck you!" sounds...wrong.

Because it is an excellent Irish swear word, given to us to use when fuck is just a tad too much. :)

(Aquaman, I'd forgotten frell. *shakes fist impotently at it belatedly*)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:33 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck! I screwed up my HTML tags.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:33 AM on August 18, 2011



I've wondered about this, myself. You know how sometimes you'll be reading a book and a character is described as letting loose a stream of creative profanity that causes the crusty old Colonel to blanch? Those moments always make me stop and wonder what other swearwords there are besides fuck, motherfucker, shit, etc. When I hear people swear voluminously, it's always like that scene in The Wire, fuckity fuck fuck fuuuuuuuck....., nothing creative and impressive.


You've never watched Deadwood, have you?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:36 AM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh just SHUT THE FRONT DOOR
posted by johnnybeggs at 10:36 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's shocking is the bizarre length people will go -- I swear the god the word "frak" is like nails on a chalkboard -- to avoid it, while still using it.

Do you have something against Battlestar Galactica fans? :(
posted by melissam at 10:36 AM on August 18, 2011


MetaTalk?
posted by Uncle Ira at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2011


It’s really hard to make the word fuck sound pleasant or kindly...

Kind...sound kind. It's a fucking adjective.
Like you would feel hot or cold or bad or shitty--not hotly or coldly or badly or shittily.
OK. I feel betterly now.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


She left out the Mark Twain story!

As we appear to be voting, I cast with Ms LeGuin. All this f-wordery, it's tiresome and linquistically lazy. Rather like sarcasm as compared to wit. Makes it harder to express genuine anger as opposed to ordinary annoyance.

(And I am certainly a big fan of Captain Haddock, (though he too had moments when stars, exclamation points, lightning bolts were the only way to express his outrage.).)
posted by IndigoJones at 10:38 AM on August 18, 2011


I mean they don’t seem to have any adjective to describe fucking except fucking even when they’re fucking fucking.

You know, she's got a point. People just don't bother to master language these days, to learn all the ins and outs.
posted by gurple at 10:38 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Bill Cosby said the same thing to Eddie Murphy back in the 1980s
posted by Flood at 10:39 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finally, an opportunity to link to my favorite Muse song
posted by majonesing at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2011


I agree with LeGuin. Not only that, in my experience there is a direct correlation between the number of expletives a person delivers in a conversation and that person's general level of hostility towards the world at large.

More people are using expletives because more people are angry. It's a vicious circle; they're angry about something, but they can't quite figure out what it is they're angry about, so they just defecate all over language. They shit their way through life, using language as as kind of intellectual suppository, and wiping themselves with the self-prepossessed satisfaction that they have somehow elevated themselves by loading up the world with verbal defecation. Like an infant, playing with its own fecal matter. The problem is that so many people get stuck there, never really getting "potty-trained", so to speak. Maybe we need verbal diapers?

I use expletives on occasion, not all the time, and am very careful about when I use them; that way, they have more impact. One thing I've noticed lately is lots of little kids from ages 5-6 using extreme language. It's a direct reflection of the lame talents that use language like that, non-stop, in their music - or the really big fools making movies these days - you know, the 15-24-year-old movie entertainment scene, with its diarrhea of early summer movies.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can see where she's coming from, but I'm beginning to think it's a generational thing. I'll use profanity in private (especially when wrestling balky machinery), and around close friends but I don't spew it in public.

I'd never start cursing at someone in public or a thread, unless I wanted to make an enemy. The response to this thread so far, and to my ill-advised comment on the Wire/despair mashup earlier today suggests that many see profanity as a marker of mild emphasis, at most.

But I'm over 40. Perhaps I'll have to develop some more unique expressions now that the old ones have lost their power.
posted by bitmage at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2011


I once wrote a song about this exact subject and had a bunch of mefites flip off their pets ...

Oh, somebody has already linked to it.

Fuck.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2011


The only thing lamer than someone complaining about people saying "fuck" is someone complaining about people not saying "fuck."

Oh, I'm totally okay with it being a silly complaint. Though I do maintain that the -ck ending combined with fu- start is part of what gives fuck its thrilling, delightful, magnificent and fitting for all cursing occassions sound. The r in frack just softens it too much, and frell has no potentcy in the ending at all.

And what makes fuck so great is that it's so short. Perfect for those brief moments when you don't want to go on a long vengeance filled rant filled with imprecations against animal, vegetable, and mineral deliver and prophecies of graves that will be danced upon and families that will be blotted out forever by the power of your wrath.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2011


The only thing crasser than people who swear too much are those people who feign offence at it. Rolleyes.

You cannot possibly have read the (fucking) article; if you had, you would know that it is filled to the brim with profanity, by which she is obviously not offended. She objects, instead, to the fact that profanity is being used, in some cases, to cover up writers' lack of creativity and command of the language.
posted by IjonTichy at 10:42 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Aw, shit, man, I thought you was a fucking moose.

I thought you were a fucking moose. Right?

I tried substitution: I thought you were my friend. vs: I though you was my friend.

It sounds like to me that "were" is right, but it's Ursula K. Le Guin.
posted by BurnChao at 10:42 AM on August 18, 2011


louis ck : "don't make me say your shitty thing, just way the shitty thing you want to say"
posted by radiosilents at 10:42 AM on August 18, 2011


I'm disturbed by her casual use of the word 'feces '. Never liked the word, seems to close to festival

I don't get it. Are you pronouncing it "fess-es"? "Feast-ival"?

I love the exchange between the little girls in Donnie Darko:

Emily Bates: Mom said the school is closed today because it's flooded, and there's feces everywhere!
Susie Bates: What are feces?
Emily Bates: Baby mice.
posted by Hoopo at 10:43 AM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is the constant use of "shit" and "fuck" lazy writing or a reflection of reality? If, as Le Guin suggests in the article, we essentially only have two swear words, why would writers make up a bunch of new ones unless they're writing about a world that is so detactched from our own as to make new swear words seem plausible?
posted by asnider at 10:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a direct reflection of the lame talents that use language like that, non-stop, in their music

yes we know, you don't like hip hop.
posted by Hoopo at 10:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Russian, we can carry on an entire conversation based on context and four dirty words alone. It's like word-jazz, full of stylistic flourishes and improvisation. In English, notsomuch.

In Baltimore, four words is just three extra words.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:46 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


It sounds like to me that "were" is right, but it's Ursula K. Le Guin.

Were is correct. I believe she was trying to write in "hillbilly" voice. Because, hunters are all a bunch of ignorant goons, don't you know?
posted by asnider at 10:46 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing I've noticed lately is lots of little kids from ages 5-6 using extreme language. It's a direct reflection of the lame talents that use language like that, non-stop, in their music - or the really big fools making movies these days - you know, the 15-24-year-old movie entertainment scene, with its diarrhea of early summer movies.

Unless you have a really broad definition of "lately," this really isn't a new thing. Every kid in my neighborhood, when I was younger, swore like a sailor when adults weren't around. It's not movies and it's not music, it's because you're not supposed to swear and that makes it irresistible to a mind which gets very few chances to set the terms of their interaction with the world.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I started teaching I stopped cussing altogether, because teachers can be let go for no reason whatsoever during their first two years of teaching. All the principal has to say is that the teacher "wasn't a good fit," and teaching at a conservative school made me think that cussing could make me "not fit."

As it turns out, though, I hear an adult cuss in front of a child at least once a week, no exaggeration, and everyone just seems to ignore it. (This is is in a very fiscally conservative area, not really socially, so YMMV)

It's interesting to see a 7-year-old just pretend not to hear an adult say "Fuck" when, if they heard another child say it, they would flip right out and tell.

Hearing children talk about cuss words is funny, because when they're around 6 they have no idea what they mean, just that someone told them not to say the word. Some of them have no problem saying "Johnny said 'fuck'" when they tell on Johnny, and others call it the F word, and others won't tell at all because they're afraid of any association with the word at all.

I never bust a kid for swearing in any way, I just ask them not to say the word at school, but other teachers will send them to the office right away... and they don't understand at all when I ask them why they overreact. "You can't let them get away with that!" is the usual line. Really, though, I've never had a chronic cussing problem, they always stop when I ask them, maybe because they realize that I don't actually care.

We're so bizarre about that crap in the US.

I still don't cuss, though, I just got out of the habit.
posted by Huck500 at 10:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought you were a fucking moose. Right?

Sometimes people who begin a sentence with "Aw, shit, man" do not pay as much attention to verb tenses as you do.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing I've noticed lately is lots of little kids from ages 5-6 using extreme language.

If I ever have kids, they are getting their mouth washed the hell out with soap if I ever even think I heard a "rad" or "tubular" or "gnarly" or, god forbid, "bodacious."

It's a direct reflection of the lame talents that use language like that, non-stop, in their music - or the really big fools making movies these days - you know, the 15-24-year-old movie entertainment scene, with its diarrhea of early summer movies.

Little kids are cussin' up a storm? Why the culprit must be the devil the media! Damn those movies and records forcing small children to purchase them!
posted by griphus at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh just SHUT THE FRONT DOOR

One of my friends has an 11 or so year old son, he heard this phrase somewhere and finds it beyond funny. A part of me just wants to explain to him what it means, swears and all. I know, i know, not my kid, but it's only a word.

I liked her article, seems to be more pointing out that by overuse those words have lost their 'punch'. I know people who use "and shit" and "fuck" as almost "um" and "ah". Me, i tend to swear as emphasis and to show that i'm really mad at something, not as "smurf", which "fuck" has almost become.
posted by usagizero at 10:49 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


But seriously, my only objection has to do with the very public use of profanity. Many years ago, at the gym, there was a big blowhard venting about his law school courses. He was using "fuck" in every sentence....very very loudly. It really pissed me off. It went on and on. He wouldn't stop...a real chatty Kathy. So I discreetly informed the folks at the front desk and they observed him for about 1 minute and then politely asked him to shut up or leave.

I am also frequently shocked to hear students use extreme profanity within ear shot of faculty, in the halls, etc. So I guess I find this overall lack of "class" disappointing. That being said, when I'm alone or among my closest friends, and it seems like the right thing to do, I let the expletives fly.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:53 AM on August 18, 2011


There's actually precedent for the word. English is a Germanic language and in German there are emphasis words like 'doch" (sounds a little like 'fuck' ) that have no strictly defined meaning other than "hey I really mean what I am saying here so pay attention!" which is how most of us use "fuck"

So I think what is going on is a shared long standing cultural semantic that we've been using for many hundreds of years. If you disassociate the literal meaning of the word from it's intended usage as an odd part of speech used only to add emphasis to the surrounding words then I thing you not only end up with a more accurate understanding f the usage but also are able to avoid writing articles that are likely to get you hugely mocked on the internet.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Belgium, man. Belgium.

On the same note, I've always found "zarking farkwads" to have a refreshingly energetic feel as it rolls off the tongue and after spending five years of my professional life sitting across from a Mormon (who, under extreme duress, would sometimes utter "Oh my word!!!") it became a handy replacement for other, earthier, phrases.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


This fucking Englishman named Gilbert Gaunt, which he later changed to Gilbert "Fuck You" Gant (a concession probably to fucking Yankee phonetics), having come to Baltimore all the way from fucking Bristol in 1837 on a fucking sailing vessel, soon let the profits of a public house which he had purchased roll all the fucking way down his improvident fucking gullet. He fucked off westward into Pennsyl-fuckin'-vania, eking out a dangerous fucking living by matching fucking fighting cocks against the champions of country barnyards, and often escaping after a night spent in a fucking village jail, with his champion dead on the fucking field of battle, without the clink of a fucking coin in his pocket, and sometimes with the print of a farmer's big fucking knuckles on his reckless fucking face. But he always escaped, that canny fuckknuckle, and coming at length among the Dutch at harvest time he was so fucking touched by the plenty of their land that he cast out his fucking anchors there. Within a year he married a rugged young widow with a tidy fucking farm who like all the other Dutch had been just fucking charmed by his air of travel, and his grandiose fucking speech, particularly when he did Hamlet in the manner of the great Edmund fuckin' Kean. Every one said he should have been an actor.
-from What the Fuck You Looking At, Angel?, by fucking Thomas Wolfe, you may have heard of him
posted by Your Disapproving Father at 10:56 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


At the risk of being a rubber stamp commenter ("RTFA, nerds!"), how many of you made it through to the end?

A lot of commenters in this thread are saying that Le Guin is a crank who doesn't want to hear cuss words. Kids, get off her lawn, and all of that.

But if you read the essay - not just got to the end, but, like, also grasp her meaning which granted isn't really laid out in the most straightforward terms - her point is not that curses are bad. But that overuse reduces their force, and their force is important. Hell, she has a paragraph about how much she uses and loves the word "Shit."

Also Ursula K Le Guin can do no wrong.
posted by entropone at 10:56 AM on August 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


Sometimes people who begin a sentence with "Aw, shit, man" do not pay as much attention to verb tenses as you do.

Aw, shit, man, you were right.

I believe she was trying to write in "hillbilly" voice.

I get it now. Thanks. But now I've said it so many times in my head they both sound right.
posted by BurnChao at 10:57 AM on August 18, 2011


(I find the whole "why can't you be creative with your cursing like they were in the good old days/on television" thing extremely horrible. I would rather hear many hundreds of regular curse words than have to listen to one of those people who thinks they're clever by saying things like "I think 'fuck' is so boring; I would much rather call people 'degenerate sons of diseased octopi who are covered in dung'" or other pretentiousness. Fake "old-timey" swearing is one of those things - like playing classical music really loudly with the windows open in response to the youth - that....oh god, I'm not sure what it is, but it's annoying. )
posted by Frowner at 10:57 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I blame David Fucking Mamet.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:58 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also: "f*ck", "sh*t", "c*nt" and so on. Why even bother? What are you doing?

Trying to evade my company's email profanity filters.
posted by monospace at 10:58 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course it is possible to overuse the word I suppose despite how much meaning that one single syllable can convey.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:58 AM on August 18, 2011


I blame Amanda Fucking Palmer.
posted by monospace at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think LeGuin has some serious confirmation bias going here. We use many different words as expletives and intensifiers, there are simply fewer acceptable-but-still-taboo words. Soldiers and sailors still speak in stigmatized ways, only now they're using words that describe race, gender, sexual preference, and developmental disability. She doesn't like those words (neither do I) and so she assumes they don't exist? Or don't count as expletives?
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is feck better than frak? "Feck you!" sounds...wrong.

Oh man, I love "frak". You can dig deep and extend that "r" for depth of feeling. Hogan did this to great effect more than once on BSG, and was probably the most able user of the word; everyone else just made it sound like a weak obscenity stand-in.
posted by curious nu at 11:02 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps she has forgotten that her own The Dispossessed begins, "There was a fucking wall. Shit."

There actually is a Le Guin story that makes liberal use of the word "fuckery," which in that context means a building dedicated to fucking.

Captain Haddock

AKA the only reason why anyone knows the word "bashi-bazouk."
posted by theodolite at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


now they're using words that describe race, gender, sexual preference, and developmental disability

Those are certainly not new. When I was growing up "fucking retard" was a very common way to insult a peer. I don't recall using the word "gay" as a pejorative however. That seems to be a relatively more modern thing. Overall, I find words like "retard" or "gay" as a pejorative far more troubling that "fuck" or "shit".
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:04 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for actual interjections, I find "Rachmaninoff" to be immensely satisfying.

When Sean Penn was on Inside The Actors Studio, he said his favorite curse word was something he read someone say in a novel by Saroyan - "Why, you...you dentist!!!"

While I don't see anything wrong with the words themselves, I do agree that if they get over-used it can be a bad thing. The word "fuck" is kind of like garlic, in a way. I tend to use it sparingly. (Although, my niece is about three and my nephew's only a month old, so I've been thinking I should start training myself now to use something more "child-friendly" just in case. I'm thinking "monkey butt.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think LeGuin has some serious confirmation bias going here. We use many different words as expletives and intensifiers, there are simply fewer acceptable-but-still-taboo words. Soldiers and sailors still speak in stigmatized ways, only now they're using words that describe race, gender, sexual preference, and developmental disability. She doesn't like those words (neither do I) and so she assumes they don't exist? Or don't count as expletives?


The fact that she's writing an essay about two particular words doesn't make it confirmation bias.
posted by entropone at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2011


"Oddly enough, I'm disturbed by her casual use of the word 'feces '."

When I was about six or seven I was playing Scrabble with my uncle and my parents, and I tried to use the word "fece". Mom said "Honey, the word is feces", and I replied "But this means just one."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


As my dad is fond of saying: "I know all those words, I just refuse to use them."

Also, did anyone else read that essay in Andy Rooney's voice?
posted by Floydd at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2011


this web site ( http://blog.bookviewcafe.com/2011/03/09/would-you-please-fucking-stop/ ) has been blocked because it has been determined to be a security threat to your computer or the corporate network. This web site has been associated with malware/spyware.

WTF, Ursula?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:08 AM on August 18, 2011


The word "fuck" is kind of like garlic, in a way. I tend to use it sparingly

Garlic: I put that shit on everything.
posted by Hoopo at 11:11 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


It’s really hard to make the word fuck sound pleasant or kindly...

Kind...sound kind. It's a fucking adjective.


Kindly is an adjective as well, and, according to Merriam-Webster, has been used as such since before the 12th century CE. Just so you're aware.
posted by darksasami at 11:11 AM on August 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


I've wondered about this, myself. You know how sometimes you'll be reading a book and a character is described as letting loose a stream of creative profanity that causes the crusty old Colonel to blanch? Those moments always make me stop and wonder what other swearwords there are besides fuck, motherfucker, shit, etc. When I hear people swear voluminously, it's always like that scene in The Wire, fuckity fuck fuck fuuuuuuuck....., nothing creative and impressive.

Ahh, see I just imagine, "Slippin' rippin' dang fang rotten zarg barg-a-ding-dong!" The only nonsense profanity that ever made me laugh out loud. (Gods bless Bill Watterson.)
posted by Navelgazer at 11:12 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The fact that she's writing an essay about two particular words doesn't make it confirmation bias.

No, but this line suggests confirmation bias:

"It seems weird to me that only two words are now used as cusswords"
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:13 AM on August 18, 2011


I tend to find overuse of garlic more offensive than overuse of naughty words. At least bad words are over with once they're said. Garlic you keep smelling and tasting for hours.
posted by darksasami at 11:14 AM on August 18, 2011


Clearly she's not doing it correctly. See, what you do is you take some shit, put it up on the wall, check it out for a while. You take that shit up off of the wall, put it down on the floor in a glass bowl. You take some fuck, put it up on the wall where the shit used to be. You take that fuck up off of the wall, put it down on the floor with the shit in a glass bowl. Now, you've got a fuck-shit stack. It's a stack of fuck-shit on top of itself. Delightful!
posted by signalnine at 11:16 AM on August 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Like you would feel hot or cold or bad or shitty--not hotly or coldly or badly or shittily.

But "kindly" is an adjective.
posted by RogerB at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Although, my niece is about three and my nephew's only a month old, so I've been thinking I should start training myself now to use something more "child-friendly" just in case.

One of my favorite conversations I've had with my nephew (he was four at the time, and we were visiting far-flung extended family--it was the first time he'd met most of them):

Nephew: Hey, Vibrissa, you know what my dad told me on the plane?
Vibrissa: What'd your dad tell you?
N: He told me we're going to visit some family and we need to put some of my words away.
V: Oh, yeah?
N: Yeah. He said I can't say shit or fuck or dammit or asshole or goddammit or fucking or...

at which point I think my brother noticed and (laughing) told Nephew that I probably understood and he didn't really need to list all the words.
posted by Vibrissa at 11:19 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


- her point is not that curses are bad. But that overuse reduces their force, and their force is important.

That's part of it, but I think the main point was that you can say so much more when you don't use them. Not that you are just diluting the force of the cuss words, but that you are diluting the meaning of your statement.

I could describe a video game I like be saying "that was fucking awesome" or "that's some cool shit" But what do I mean? That the story is interesting, the characters are deep, the gameplay is exciting, the level design is creative, the features are fresh and not recycled, concept is new, etc... So when I say "this shit is fucking cool", so much more could've been conveyed but I threw it all away.
posted by BurnChao at 11:19 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


As far as kids using it schools goes, I've always tried to avoid saying it in front of "grown-ups". My parents didn't say those words in front of me, and I'd be in trouble if I used them around my folks, so I just avoided it. It's a handy skill, anyway, to be able to turn different vocabularies on and off.

Two examples from high school, though:

I had this one class of six people (one section had 28, mine had six - a weird scheduling fluke) and we were sitting very quietly in a semi-circle taking a test. It was right at the end of the day, we were all kind of mellow, just writing our essays or whatever. Our teacher sat facing us and grading papers, and it was, except for the pencil-to-paper scratching, absolutely silent. And then, from out of nowhere, my classmate Melissa screams - screams! - "FUCK!" And we all look at her. And our teacher looks at her. And he smiles and shakes his head and goes back to grading papers. And we finished our essays.

Another time, I was walking down the hall, probably a sophomore, and a teacher was walking about two paces behind me. These two girls, who I assumed to be seniors, passed by both of us and we overheard this part of their conversation:

Girl 1: Oh my god, that's so crazy. So what are you going to do tonight?
Girl 2: Well, tonight we're gonna fuck, and hopefully Tim will finally hit the G-spot.

And they walked away, and the teacher, who I hadn't ever had, caught up with me and asked, "Do you people just not give a fuck?"
posted by papayaninja at 11:22 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


at which point I think my brother noticed and (laughing) told Nephew that I probably understood and he didn't really need to list all the words.

I had a conversation with seven year old Niece once that went like this:

T: "We're going to watch a movie that has a bunch of words you're not supposed to know in it."
N: "That's okay, I'll cover my ears whenever I hear one."

She got them 100%, which is pretty good for someone who didn't know those words.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:23 AM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


What the fuck? That shit was in a fucking essay I wrote in Freshman Comp.

Cocksucker gave me a 'B' too.
posted by Fezboy! at 11:23 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


(It was awkward, was the point of that last story...)
posted by papayaninja at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2011


SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE.
posted by pianomover at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2011


I love The Lathe of Heaven and The Left Hand of Darkness. With all due respect, though, words change. "Nice" used to mean "idiotic." "Colored" used to be polite. "Rad" used to be, well, rad.

In the same way, "fuck" will one day connote something other than male sexual aggression. It's totally a generational thing—to me, it connotes a genderless selfishness and intensity now. Maybe even it'll be commonplace and clinical, as in Ira Levin's novel This Perfect Day. I'm sure something will take its place.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:25 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obscenity is the crutch of the inarticulate.
posted by leapfrog at 11:26 AM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


"What do you say to a cup, Father?"

"FECK OFF, CUP!" (around 8:17)

I have to keep my swearing under control at work, so I've taken to using "Oh, crums!" as an all-purpose phrase.
posted by corvus agitator at 11:27 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Get off my fucking lawn you fucking fucks.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2011


I was hoping that many respondents would, in a hilarious manner, curse in response to this column, because that would have been completely unexpected.

The word has huge overtones of dominance, of abuse, of contempt, of hatred.

I agree with this statement. Its use as a universal adverb or transitional adjective is tiresome and sounds trashy to my elderly (45) ears. Dropping the f-bomb is the linguistic equivalent of wearing sweatpants all day, a sign that you've just given up.
posted by mecran01 at 11:30 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Obscenity can be used as a crutch, certainly, but that's not all that it is. I would compare it more to a hammer than a crutch: heavy, potentially damaging, and capable of being used crudely in a number of situations for which there are much better tools available if only you make the effort to dig them out of the toolbox and use them, but absolutely necessary when it's the right tool for the job. Like when you hit your thumb with a fuck.
posted by darksasami at 11:31 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh just SHUT THE FRONT DOOR

Flip you, melon farmer!
posted by asterix at 11:33 AM on August 18, 2011


Obscenity is the crutch of the inarticulate.

Condescension is the crutch of the smug
posted by Hoopo at 11:34 AM on August 18, 2011 [21 favorites]


Crutches are the crutches of the lame.
posted by GuyZero at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


Hackneyed maxims are the wheelchairs of the unoriginal.
posted by RogerB at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


Fuck Lyndon Johnson and wash the dishes. (self-post-link)
posted by notsnot at 11:42 AM on August 18, 2011


Hackneyed maxim madlibs are the rollerskates of these last 4 comments
posted by Hoopo at 11:43 AM on August 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oddly enough, I'm disturbed by her casual use of the word 'feces '.

I have always found that the actual term for something elicits a much more offended response from people than the more commonly used slang.

See for yourself; call someone a 'dick', now try calling them a 'penis'. Same thing with 'asshole' and 'anus',

I think it comes from the fact that the common vulgarities have come to take on their own meanings, dick doesn't really mean penis, it means jerk, or something similar. Same with asshole. But re-characterize it by using the specific body part, and it forces the listeners brain to identify more specifically what you mean.

Also, it's fun. Next time, try calling someone a fornicator, and watch the irritation mount.
posted by quin at 11:43 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wheelchairs are the smug of the lazy motherfuckers.
posted by gompa at 11:43 AM on August 18, 2011


As long as you don't call it "The F Bomb", I'm fine.

Though I've always loved Roman Moronie's way of cussing in the movie Johnny Dangerously.
posted by luckynerd at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2011


BurnChao There may be a whole bunch of potentiality 'lost' but you're assuming that whoever says the phrase has a desire to communicate more deeply but doesn't. If the goal is merely to indicate the quality of the game what's the problem? Why do we have to worry about shades of nuance lost that wouldn't have been used in the first place? Presumably you can dig deeper into why the game is fucking awesome with the rest of the conversation yes?
posted by Carillon at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh crap! They're fracking up the water supply!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of all the ways to pollute, it's interesting that the one that gets the most attention these days is the one that sounds like a sci-fi swearword.

And Frak is semi-awesome. It's certainly better than SHAZBAT.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:56 AM on August 18, 2011


UKL is filthy. Who knew?
posted by Skygazer at 11:56 AM on August 18, 2011


I knew a guy who refused to watch the Wire because he felt there was too much swearing. Real fucking story.

"Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!" I responded.

Of course Ursula, it would seem to me, would be perfectly fine with the cussing on The Wire.
posted by juiceCake at 11:57 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bastages!
posted by mmrtnt at 11:59 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


UKL is filthy. Who knew?

LRA WNSLW.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:00 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hearing children talk about cuss words is funny, because when they're around 6 they have no idea what they mean, just that someone told them not to say the word. Some of them have no problem saying "Johnny said 'fuck'" when they tell on Johnny, and others call it the F word, and others won't tell at all because they're afraid of any association with the word at all.

It's always about little "Johnny", huh? Fuck you man, eat shit and die.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Two things:

1) "Shut the front door" is awesome and I love it when people use it.

2) Sarah Vowell said in an old WTF podcast that I just listened to last night that, for a time, she tried to avoid using all forms of 'fuck' in her writing because it felt like it was getting lazy, and in doing so, she found that, while it was possible to avoid most 'fuck' usages, there was no word or phrase that really captured accurately the phrase "fucked up" except it.

She said she started deciding to use 'geopolitical' instead and I almost accidentally walked into traffic because I was so distracted by my love.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:04 PM on August 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


> I went through two paragraphs guided by the notion that this was all about shit-fuck imbalance!

Mr. President, we must not allow a shit-fuck imbalance!
posted by mmrtnt at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I repost my reposte.
posted by hexatron at 12:09 PM on August 18, 2011


Old Biddy: Bess, why can't you get the President to stop using the word "manure"?
Mrs. Truman: Dear, you don't know how long it took me to get him to USE that word...
posted by Billiken at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


> in German there are emphasis words like 'doch"

D'oh!
posted by mmrtnt at 12:21 PM on August 18, 2011


Is this topical? I think this might be topical.
posted by cheap paper at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would be so better if we got rid of organic waste by shooting laser beams from our eyes. Or hands, I'm not picky.

That would be doubly awesome because, since bodily elimination curses tend to always be around in one form or another, we'd start inventing curse words like "zap," and "blast" would gain a harder edge.
posted by JHarris at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2011


I'm kind of partial to some swearing written by Stanislav Lem's celebrated translator, Michael Kandel. I'm not sure if it originated in Polish and has special cultural meaning, or whether it's just an innovation in translation, but there's a whole paragraph of invective that ends in the remarkably memorable epithet, "corpse-licking scumberbutt."

I have no idea what that means. That has always puzzled me, a literary mystery right up there with Lem's unanswered riddle, "What is the difference between antimatter and an antimacassar?"
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:31 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cause fuck is the worst word that you can say!
posted by New England Cultist at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2011


My current favorite euphemism was inspired by the guy who sells eggs at the farmer's market. He was wearing a T-shirt that showed a chicken talking, aghast, to another chicken without feathers. The caption said "Dude, you're plucked". So now my cuss du jour is "pluck you".
posted by Quietgal at 1:04 PM on August 18, 2011


So now my cuss du jour is "pluck you".

je te plumerai!
posted by Hoopo at 1:14 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is this topical? I think this might be topical.

I think you mean this
posted by briank at 1:15 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


> the word "fuckery," which in that context means a building dedicated to fucking.

(covers face with hat when emerging from shrubbery)
posted by jfuller at 1:27 PM on August 18, 2011


Re: creative swearing... my dad is a genius at this. Among my favorites are "commie dog rat bastard;" "swift death to X trash" where X could be any given group of people he has a problem with at the moment; "syphilitic whores!" (that's an exclamation, not an insult, as in you bang your knee and say "Ow! syphilitic whores!"). But the very worst, the one he saves for when he's genuinely furious at someone, is simply... "die and be damned." Oh man. It is SO MUCH BETTER than 'damn you.' Try it sometime. Screw your face up in rage and don't shout it, exactly. Sort of spit/growl it. IT IS DEVASTATING.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:36 PM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


I walked near a playground the other day. There were some 7-8 year olds getting baby-sat there and from what I could overhear, "fuck" and "bitch" are practically the only words they know.
posted by telstar at 1:43 PM on August 18, 2011


Criticizing overuse of a few basic swears IRL conversation? Sure.

Criticizing overuse of a few basic swears in fiction, while simultaneously conceding such use in everyday life? Puzzling and self-defeating, unless authenticity is some kind of trait to be avoided (which it is, for some writers).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:49 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I swear the god the word "frak" is like nails on a chalkboard

I can't think of a better reason to use it than that.
posted by straight at 2:05 PM on August 18, 2011


Oh just SHUT THE FRONT DOOR

Flip you, melon farmer!


I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!
posted by corvus agitator at 2:05 PM on August 18, 2011


Carillon: But we aren't talking about nuance, but the whole meaning. I'll give you an example that happens to me all the time. Someone tells me "my computer is broke." Okay, how? "It doesn't work." Okay, how "It's not working." But WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!? "Oh, it doesn't read discs / has a crack on the screen / doesn't turn on / mouse jumps around / has no sound / shuts off randomly / internet is slow / keys are broken off / a web page is down / picture is distorted / no internet at all / it caught on fire / it says my password is wrong when I know it isn't / it freezes / it doesn't have a program that I thought it should (or the program doesn't have a feature I thought it should) / the battery dies fast / there's wires poking out of the cord / I don't know how to set it up or use a feature / it scratches my CDs / a website says I'm banned I know I can't be banned / I have nothing on the screen / my little sister put something inside it and i can't take it out..." it can take 5 minutes or longer just to find out what the problem is. This ain't nuance; it is the entire point of the conversation.

Similarly, last night I listened to someone tell me why he likes Mortal Kombat more then Street Fighter. Five minutes of "Mortal Kombat is fucking sweet" until he finally describes Street Fighter as cartoony. There was more information conveyed in that one word than in the rest of the whole conversation. This isn't nuance, it was the whole point of the conversation.
posted by BurnChao at 2:07 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Emily Bates: Mom said the school is closed today because it's flooded, and there's feces everywhere!
Susie Bates: What are feces?
Emily Bates: Baby mice.


You forgot the best part of that exchange, the end where Susie goes "Awwwww!" at how cute the school must be now.

Also, how exactly does one suck a fuck?
posted by FatherDagon at 2:24 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh just SHUT THE FRONT DOOR

Flip you, melon farmer!

I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!


You see what happens, Larry? You see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?
posted by FatherDagon at 2:27 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Those fucking fuckers fucked.

I think its great a sentance can be primarily based on one word.
That is all carry on.
posted by handbanana at 2:30 PM on August 18, 2011


Let Reggie Watts deal with this.
posted by progosk at 2:37 PM on August 18, 2011


A good author only has a character overuse profanity as an indicator of his/her baseness or shallowness.
A bad author has a character overuse profanity as an indicator of his/her awsomeness.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:57 PM on August 18, 2011


My mother swears like a pirate with Tourette's syndrome

I say! Goodness! Drat! Confound it!

Like that, you mean?

What's weird about swearing is it often uses a different part of the brain than ordinary speech, as witness the number of otherwise severely aphasic stroke victims who can still swear fluently.

There was even an AskMe from someone who who was upset his father couldn't sat anything without swearing after a stroke, but I never got around to answering it and trying to reassure him.

There's also that ultra-strange connection with the sacred, both as things it's forbidden to say and in actual swearing/obscenity.
posted by jamjam at 3:06 PM on August 18, 2011


I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!
posted by corvus agitator at 5:05 PM on August 18 [+] [!]


You guys sound like a real bunch of Pallies.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:31 PM on August 18, 2011


I blame Amanda Fucking Palmer.

Me too. And not just for this, either. For everything.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:54 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does this count as creative use of "fuck"?
posted by eviemath at 3:56 PM on August 18, 2011


Also, how exactly does one suck a fuck?

Most motherfuckers don't give a damn.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:04 PM on August 18, 2011


Rather than making you look cool, hip or transgressive, saying 'fuck' all the time tells the world you're an uncouth idiot. If you're ok with that, then fine but don't start complaining if people draw conclusions about you from your constant, pointless swearing.
posted by joannemullen at 4:09 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saying fuck a lot is not as much of a mark of idiocy, except among the prejudiced.

Saying idiotic things, however, is.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:13 PM on August 18, 2011


Rather than making you look cool, hip or transgressive, saying 'fuck' all the time tells the world you're an uncouth idiot.

Uncouth, I'll grant you, but c'mon, lots of smart bitches say 'fuck'!
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:18 PM on August 18, 2011


Rather than making you look cool, hip or transgressive, saying 'fuck' all the time tells the world you're an uncouth idiot.

So, people draw incorrect conclusions due to bad parsing of irrelevant data, and I'm supposed to accept their stupidity because there's more of them? That does sound like social conservatism in a nutshell.
posted by Errant at 4:26 PM on August 18, 2011


Years ago, a friend of mine, having concluded there was no swear word that starts with 'q', coined the following: Quackmuthafuckindickbitchasscuntdick.
I have had occasion to use it, but like a chainsaw, it's really not the tool for every job.

Recently, I stubbed my toe, and although there was no one around to offend, the word which jumped unbidden from my mouth was, "Crotch!"
I think it's pretty effective, actually. Call someone a crotch; they won't like it.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:43 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Fuck this fucking shit
posted by bruzie at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This essay is surprisingly delightful to read and marvelously well written. It obviously at least half exists as a celebration of the thing it's apparently criticizing, which lends it a kind of playful thoughtfulness. I have no sweary words to throw in Le Guin's general direction.
posted by byanyothername at 4:51 PM on August 18, 2011


I believe this clip may be relevant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:53 PM on August 18, 2011


You organic organs!
posted by curious nu at 4:54 PM on August 18, 2011


Having a kid is one way to increase one's cursing creativity. Only now do I understand why my dad always sounded like Yosemite Sam when frustrated, and find myself saying things like "goldang", "dagnabbit", and "mothergrabber" when the kid's around.

This may not work as well outside of the South.
posted by emjaybee at 5:03 PM on August 18, 2011


"Do you have something against Battlestar Galactica fans? :("

Felgercarb!
posted by MikeMc at 5:15 PM on August 18, 2011


je te plumerai!

Nom de Dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta mère!
posted by homunculus at 5:19 PM on August 18, 2011


Wow. Talk about burying the lead. Why is the (second to) last paragraph the most important part? Has this woman (or this editor) never learned a thing about journalism? It was a miracle I made it to the end of this rant to find this:

"When the guy in the Porsche shouts Fuck you, asshole! he isn’t inviting you to an evening at his flat. When people say Oh shit, we’re fucked! they don’t mean they’re having a consensual good time. The word has huge overtones of dominance, of abuse, of contempt, of hatred."

If I were an English teacher, I'd give this essay a big fat F. I don't care how much I love Ursula. The conversation we need to be having is about what our language and metaphor choices are saying, not about the frequency and distribution of our words.
posted by bilabial at 5:29 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of this blog entry: Stuff Parisians like: the word "putain."

Parisians love to use their little putain crutch. It is impossible to have a five-minute conversation with a Parisian without hearing the crutch resonate. That is true except if you are a Parisian yourself. Parisians have developed an unusual ability: that of not hearing the sound of the crutch anymore. When pronounced in a sentence by him or by any other person, the word is completely inaudible to the Parisian.
posted by dnash at 5:34 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


A girl at my high school blushed when somebody swore. She wasn't a prude, and it wasn't a blasphemy thing - just the four-letter classics - and she didn't say anything or judge anybody; she just blushed. I pointed this out to a friend, who said he'd noticed the same thing, and that it made him 'want to fuck the shit out of her'. This made me quite sad.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:46 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I went through a short period of not swearing. Then I started watching the Sopranos. Now I live alone. In Australia, where even the word I can't say on the Blue is a term of affection. I should probably stop saying 'fuck' every fucking sentence, and I get fucking showed out for it by my fucking family, but I don't really fucking care. I'm generally kinda prudish and reactionary, but somehow constant swearing doesn't tip that.


I love Ursula K Le Guin, but I'm not sure what prompted this fucking rant.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:38 PM on August 18, 2011


Oh crap! They're fracking up the water supply!

There are serious anti-fracking protests here. Its pretty hilarious, in a way.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:40 PM on August 18, 2011


Rather than making you one look cool, hip or transgressive, saying 'fuck' all the time tells the world me you're an uncouth idiot. If you're ok with that, then fine but don't start complaining if people draw conclusions about you from your constant, pointless swearing.
posted by joannemullen


Claiming to speak on behalf of the entire world is nonsense. Not everyone is a totally self righteous, judgmental hate tank.
posted by phoque at 7:36 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I don't let an f-bomb drop every now and again, how will my baby know when I really want it to fucking go to sleep? (the video re-hosted, and on Ebaum if the YouTube video disappears)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 PM on August 18, 2011


Kids aren't supposed to stick forks in electric sockets either, but they don't start doing it like mad just because there's no adults around.

People can obviously use the words they wish to use, but IMHO the unique thing about swearing is that it often (that's a key word) denotes power - and so kids love to swear because it's one of the very few ways they can appropriate power (in their own minds, anyways) at a time in their life when they're relatively power-less.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:18 PM on August 18, 2011


Metafilter: lots of smart bitches say 'fuck'!

and

AskMetafilter: Also, how exactly does one suck a fuck?

Would it be unethical to use this article with my 10th graders on the first day of school? Because I really, really want to.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:54 PM on August 18, 2011


Actual conservation


Mom: You cuss too much

Me: No I fucking don't
posted by The Whelk at 11:58 PM on August 18, 2011


*DISTURBING CONTENT AHEAD*
I think it's really interesting to listen to pilots on planes that are about to crash. The flight recorder (black box) keeps these last-minutes alive, and the Internet lets us hear them. For example, the flight that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski ends with the pilots saying "F*cking hell!" and "F*ckkkkkkkkkkkk....." (transcript). And as Vladivostokavia Airlines, Flight 352 crashed the pilot said "That’s all guys! Fuck!". Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518 ends with stuff like
CAM 2: Aldino, shit we’re at 318.
CAM 1: What the fuck do you want? Turn to the right?
.

Although I don't recommend that you try this, I've listened to a number of these recordings, and I can tell you that normal rules of polite speech break down when you're in a plane about to smash into the ground. Fuck. Shit. God. Fucking Shit. Motherfucking God Fucking Shit.... that sort of thing is pretty common.

I can't think of a better way to say that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:37 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


where even the word I can't say on the Blue is a term of affection.

You guys call each other Little Green Footballs down there?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:47 AM on August 19, 2011


People can obviously use the words they wish to use, but IMHO the unique thing about swearing is that it often (that's a key word) denotes power - and so kids love to swear because it's one of the very few ways they can appropriate power (in their own minds, anyways) at a time in their life when they're relatively power-less.

There were a couple of kids who lived down the street from my dad who I played with when I visited him over the summer. David was about my age, and his sister Donna was a few years older. They weren't allowed to swear. I wasn't allowed to swear either, but my understanding of that rule meant that I didn't swear where my dad or stepmother (or other adults) could hear me. I stubbed my toe or something once when David and Donna and I were playing, and I swore (my swearing was innocuous at the time - I probably said "Damnit!"), and David thought this was the most awesome thing ever. After that, he used to ask me to swear "for" him - so if he fell off his bike or stubbed his toe or whatever, he'd go "Can you?" and I'd go "Oh hell!" or "Damn!" or maybe even "Shit!"
posted by rtha at 6:18 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've wondered about this, myself. You know how sometimes you'll be reading a book and a character is described as letting loose a stream of creative profanity that causes the crusty old Colonel to blanch? Those moments always make me stop and wonder what other swearwords there are besides fuck, motherfucker, shit, etc. When I hear people swear voluminously, it's always like that scene in The Wire, fuckity fuck fuck fuuuuuuuck....., nothing creative and impressive.

It's the bottom of the thread, so I have to assume I'll be forgiven for posting this: the most creative swearing I've seen lately. The clip doesn't do the episode justice - netflix should have the full version. (Spoiler - this one is SFW)
posted by ElGuapo at 6:51 AM on August 19, 2011


Mister Moofoo: "Recently, I stubbed my toe, and although there was no one around to offend, the word which jumped unbidden from my mouth was, "Crotch!"
I think it's pretty effective, actually. Call someone a crotch; they won't like it
"

Considering my last name looks like a bad misspelling of "crotch" without the "t", I got called that a lot in high school. So, yes, I wouldn't like it. However my response is to grab said crotch at the tosser of that insult.
posted by notsnot at 6:54 AM on August 19, 2011


RE: twoleftfeet:
Although I don't recommend that you try this, I've listened to a number of these recordings, and I can tell you that normal rules of polite speech break down when you're in a plane about to smash into the ground.
Not always. I'm a bit of an industrial disaster junkie, and the last-moment air transcripts that stand out for me are often of pilots of remarkable stoicism.

For example, the in-air collision that lead to the deaths of all aboard Boeing 737 Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907, the last recorded moments of the pilots onboard:
The Legacy came streaking at the Boeing about 30 feet to the left of the fuselage and 2 feet lower. The displacement was infinitesimal on the scale of the sky, and a measure of impressive navigational precision. The Legacy’s winglet acted like a vertically held knife, slicing through the Boeing’s left wing about halfway out and severing the wing’s internal spar. The outboard section of the wing whipped upward, stripping skin as it went, then separated entirely, spiraling over the fuselage and demolishing much of the Boeing’s tail. In the Boeing’s cockpit the sequence sounded like a car crash. Instantly the Boeing twisted out of control, corkscrewing violently to the left and pitching straight down into a rotating vertical dive. The cockpit filled with alarms—an urgent klaxon and a robotic voice insistently warning, Bank angle! Bank angle! Bank angle!, as if the crew might need the advice. Back in the cabin the passengers screamed and shouted.

The pilots reacted as one might expect, fighting desperately to regain control. They probably did not know what had gone wrong. They certainly never mentioned it. What is unusual is that they also did not swear. Ten seconds into the dive, one of them did cry “Aye!,” but the other urged him to stay calm. “Calma!” he said, and seconds later he said it again. If pilots must die in an airplane, all would choose to finish so well. Of course these two knew they were gone, but they did what they could, even extending the landing gear to slow the dive. The gesture was hopeless.
Also what stands out is the Concorde crash of flight Air France Flight 4590, where the pilots not only don't swear but never, ever give up attempting to regain control:
As the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) transcript recorded it, the last intelligible words of the crew were (translated into English):

Co-pilot: "Le Bourget, Le Bourget, Le Bourget."
Pilot: "Too late (unclear)."
Control tower: "Fire service leader, correction, the Concorde is returning to runway zero nine in the opposite direction."
Pilot: "No time, no (unclear)."
Co-pilot: "Negative, we're trying Le Bourget" (four switching sounds).
Co-pilot: "No (unclear)."
In both instances what fascinates me is what must have going through the pilots minds. In the case of the Concorde pilot, the plane was still on the ground but had just passed V1 speed when the loose metal tore apart the fuel line, so they were forced to take off, staying aloft for around a minute and a half before ploughing into a hotel.

Hmm. Carry on, sorry for the derail.
posted by asymptotic at 9:23 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Through the shades of twilight they could hear the pieces being loaded; the matches all lighted, like the eyes of tigers at night, formed a circle round their heads; all the lintstocks of the English batteries approached the cannons, and then, with emotion, holding the supreme moment suspended above these men, an English general, Colville according to some, Maitland according to others, shouted to them, "Surrender, brave Frenchmen!" Cambronne replied, "Merde!"

If any French reader object to having his susceptibilities offended, one would have to refrain from repeating in his presence what is perhaps the finest reply that a Frenchman ever made. This would enjoin us from consigning something sublime to History.

At our own risk and peril, let us violate this injunction.

Now, then, among those giants there was one Titan,--Cambronne.

To make that reply and then perish, what could be grander? For being willing to die is the same as to die; and it was not this man's fault if he survived after he was shot.

The winner of the battle of Waterloo was not Napoleon, who was put to flight; nor Wellington, giving way at four o'clock, in despair at five; nor Blucher, who took no part in the engagement. The winner of Waterloo was Cambronne.

To thunder forth such a reply at the lightning-flash that kills you is to conquer!

Thus to answer the Catastrophe, thus to speak to Fate, to give this pedestal to the future lion, to hurl such a challenge to the midnight rainstorm, to the treacherous wall of Hougomont, to the sunken road of Ohain, to Grouchy's delay, to Blucher's arrival, to be Irony itself in the tomb, to act so as to stand upright though fallen, to drown in two syllables the European coalition, to offer kings privies which the Caesars once knew, to make the lowest of words the most lofty by entwining with it the glory of France, insolently to end Waterloo with Mardigras, to finish Leonidas with Rabellais, to set the crown on this victory by a word impossible to speak, to lose the field and preserve history, to have the laugh on your side after such a carnage,--this is immense!

It was an insult such as a thunder-cloud might hurl! It reaches the grandeur of AEschylus!

Cambronne's reply produces the effect of a violent break. 'Tis like the breaking of a heart under a weight of scorn. 'Tis the overflow of agony bursting forth. Who conquered? Wellington? No! Had it not been for Blucher, he was lost. Was it Blucher? No! If Wellington had not begun, Blucher could not have finished.
This Cambronne, this man spending his last hour, this unknown soldier, this infinitesimal of war, realizes that here is a falsehood, a falsehood in a catastrophe, and so doubly agonizing; and at the moment when his rage is bursting forth because of it, he is offered this mockery,--life! How could he restrain himself? Yonder are all the kings of Europe, the general's flushed with victory, the Jupiter's darting thunderbolts; they have a hundred thousand victorious soldiers, and back of the hundred thousand a million; their cannon stand with yawning mouths, the match is lighted; they grind down under their heels the Imperial guards, and the grand army; they have just crushed Napoleon, and only Cambronne remains,-- only this earthworm is left to protest. He will protest. Then he seeks for the appropriate word as one seeks for a sword. His mouth froths, and the froth is the word.
In face of this mean and mighty victory, in face of this victory which counts none victorious, this desperate soldier stands erect. He grants its overwhelming immensity, but he establishes its triviality; and he does more than spit upon it. Borne down by numbers, by superior force, by brute matter, he finds in his soul an expression: "Excrement!" We repeat it,-- to use that word, to do thus, to invent such an expression, is to be the conqueror!

The spirit of mighty days at that portentous moment made its descent on that unknown man. Cambronne invents the word for Waterloo as Rouget invents the "Marseillaise," under the visitation of a breath from on high. An emanation from the divine whirlwind leaps forth and comes sweeping over these men, and they shake, and one of them sings the song supreme, and the other utters the frightful cry.

This challenge of titanic scorn Cambronne hurls not only at Europe in the name of the Empire,--that would be a trifle: he hurls it at the past in the name of the Revolution. It is heard, and Cambronne is recognized as possessed by the ancient spirit of the Titans. Danton seems to be speaking! Kleber seems to be bellowing!

At that word from Cambronne, the English voice responded, "Fire!" The batteries flamed, the hill trembled, from all those brazen mouths belched a last terrible gush of grape-shot; a vast volume of smoke, vaguely white in the light of the rising moon, rolled out, and when the smoke dispersed, there was no longer anything there. That formidable remnant had been annihilated; the Guard was dead. The four walls of the living redoubt lay prone, and hardly was there discernible, here and there, even a quiver in the bodies; it was thus that the French legions, greater than the Roman legions, expired on Mont-Saint-Jean, on the soil watered with rain and blood, amid the gloomy grain, on the spot where nowadays Joseph, who drives the post-wagon from Nivelles, passes whistling, and cheerfully whipping up his horse at four o'clock in the morning.
posted by Soliloquy at 12:00 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I sneeze, I used to say "shit!"...seemed like an easy way to get one in there. Now, I say "apostrope!" Try it.
posted by eggtooth at 2:43 PM on August 19, 2011


"And what makes fuck so great is that it's so short." Yes...the last word said by 9 of 10 Challenger crew people.
posted by eggtooth at 2:58 PM on August 19, 2011


Using fuck in derivatives is also good...like "Absolucking Footly!"
posted by eggtooth at 3:10 PM on August 19, 2011


Twice now, I have been driving a car and gotten into a situation where I thought I might be about to die. Both times, I loudly said "SHIT BALLS" - which is not only strange because I don't swear at all as a rule, but because it's such a stupid, gross choice of words.

The first time it happened, I was sort of bewildered and amused, but the second time I was saddened and embarrassed, as I supposed now there was a fair chance "SHIT BALLS" would/will in fact wind up being my last words.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:30 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


To paraphrase, and perhaps mangle, my favourite letter from VIZ:
A lot of people say that people who swear a lot have a small vocabulary, but that's wrong. I'm a lexicographer, which means I have a huge vocabulary, and I swear all the fucking time.
 — which really was written by a lexicographer, Lorna at Collins Dictionaries. Looked after the thesaurus database, and knew it by heart. Swore like a fucking trooper, but only at precisely the right time. Some of the dictionary bods were twee and contrived swearers ("Spanish Reflexive Verb Ending!" was a common one), but most were direct.

So basically, you swearing haters can fuck right off.
posted by scruss at 5:47 AM on August 20, 2011


In Russian, we can carry on an entire conversation based on context and four dirty words alone.

I'm pretty sure I saw that happen on Deadwood, a lot.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 AM on August 20, 2011


In Russian, we can carry on an entire conversation based on context and four dirty words alone.

Dude. In America we do that all the time with just one.
posted by straight at 10:52 AM on August 22, 2011


An emanation from the divine whirlwind leaps forth and comes sweeping over these men, and they shake, and one of them sings the song supreme, and the other utters the frightful cry.

Holy fuck.

Where did you find this beautifully overcooked shitstorm of melodrama?

Merde, is right! It is a triumph of the highest order of merde!! It is merde fashioned in the vulcan forge of the most ennobled trustiest merde!! Merde written by a God for the Gods aloft in merde like ambrosia popping jewel like upon the drums in the ears stuffed to over-filling a supreme ejaculate of Napoleonic French wankery.

Whoa.
posted by Skygazer at 3:22 PM on August 22, 2011


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