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What The Fuck?
October 10, 2007 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Why We Curse. An article by Steven Pinker, exploring the roots of modern "dirty words" and the psychohistory of how and why we use the expletives we use.

All on one page: What The F***?
posted by BeerFilter (72 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
[NOT FOUNDATIONIST]
posted by grouse at 3:51 PM on October 10, 2007


Because that goddamn shit makes us fucking feel good you dumb-ass cunt.

=D
posted by GavinR at 3:55 PM on October 10, 2007


This thread is now the first annual MetaFilter cursing competition.
posted by Mikey-San at 3:56 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I disagree with one of his assertions. If my friend asked me "How good was that album?" I would respond "Fucking," and he would understand me.

But, then, I fucking cuss all the goddamn time because it's fun as shit.
posted by PhatLobley at 3:58 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


How brilliant was that article? Fucking.
posted by found missing at 3:58 PM on October 10, 2007


I liked that article, which was fucking.
posted by mrnutty at 4:01 PM on October 10, 2007


I am currently fucking Steven Pinker's mother.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:02 PM on October 10, 2007


Fucking Buffalo fucking buffalo Buffalo fucking Buffalo fucking Buffalo.
posted by mullingitover at 4:04 PM on October 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


From the article:
The common denominator of taboo words is the act of forcing a disagreeable thought on someone.
Pinker is wrong: judging by my female friends, there is no disagreeable thought or image invoked when Bono says fucking.
posted by DaShiv at 4:06 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


DaShiv, perhaps you forget that it is Bono.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:08 PM on October 10, 2007


I would suspect there would be a disagreeable thought or image invoked when I say fucking.

For both men and women.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:11 PM on October 10, 2007


You would too if you had accidentally released an atomic bomb over Mars Bluff, SC.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:16 PM on October 10, 2007


MetaFilter: the gynecological-flagellative term for uxorial dominance.
posted by maudlin at 4:18 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


fold & twist your cock & stick it up your arse, StickyCarpet, you sisterfucking bastard spawn of corpse eating vultures! you're in the wrong thread.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:19 PM on October 10, 2007


This thread is now the first annual MetaFilter cursing competition.

Lick the infested slime out of my intestinal tract, you cum belching road whore.

(Fuck isn't a curse word, it's a wait state.)
posted by eriko at 4:19 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


this here godamn shitty ass thread is da fucking fuckingest of the mother fucking fuckingest best of the whole damn web.


father fuckers!
posted by strontiumdog at 4:31 PM on October 10, 2007


I apologise for my potty mouth.

@maudlin - I was thinking to myself as I read this that points are made so much better when you refrain from cursing.

Then Mr. Pinker went and wrote that and a few similar gems in that article and I decided that no, points ARE not made better when you refrain from cursing.

effin' A
posted by strontiumdog at 4:35 PM on October 10, 2007


fucking fuck!
posted by MythMaker at 4:37 PM on October 10, 2007


God's lids, I found that to be a ruddy informative read. This shows every sign of being a bloody good thread, by St. Loy!
posted by sy at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bollocks.
posted by pompomtom at 4:41 PM on October 10, 2007


"Fucking... What the fuck. Who the fuck fucked this fucking... How did you two fucking fucks... fuck!"

"Well, that certainly illustrates the diversity of the word."
posted by quin at 4:42 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Heck gosh-darned golly-gee-whillikers shoot rats drat!
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2007


As a person whose adjective of choice in times of stress or anger is "fucking," I thought this point in the article was interesting:

"With a true adjective like lazy, you can alternate between Drown the lazy cat and Drown the cat which is lazy. But Drown the fucking cat is certainly not interchangeable with Drown the cat which is fucking."

Of course, I would never drown a fucking cat or a cat which is fucking.
posted by amyms at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2007


Pinker's a cunt.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:53 PM on October 10, 2007


And yet, since the 1970s, many progressives have imposed linguistic taboos of their own, such as the stigma surrounding the N-word...

As much as I love reading Pinker, I find his inability to spell the word nigger irritating, especially in light of the point he is making in this article and has made previously in his other books: the designation of certain words as tabboo in our culture is made despite their arbitrary and fundamentally meaningless nature with regard to morals. Is he afraid that if he discusses use of the word nigger without calling it "the n-word" or putting an asterisk in place of the i that he might be branded a racist?
posted by inoculatedcities at 4:57 PM on October 10, 2007


Is he afraid that if he discusses use of the word nigger without calling it "the n-word" or putting an asterisk in place of the i that he might be branded a racist?

Nah, he's just a cunt.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:01 PM on October 10, 2007


My mother, in fits of (what else?) anger, would resort to the following: "God damn, mother-fucking, cock-sucking, son-of-a-bitch!" If only she'd lived long enough to laugh at Cartman last week.
posted by t2urner at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2007


Well, inoculatedcities, if you read the whole fucking article you'd see that he does use the word nigger later on.
posted by D.C. at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2007


That was brilliant fucking!
posted by slogger at 5:04 PM on October 10, 2007


Pinker is not nearly as good or succinct as Edmund Leach on this topic. The first thing a human must learn is to distinguish me from not-me. This is very tricky for poop, pee, throwup and boogers; one moment it's me and then somehow the next moment it's not me. So the parent must be strident in teaching. No! No! No! That's poop! That stridency is the primal pain, memory of which makes these words taboo in every culture. The pleasure we take from violating the taboo is isomorphic to the infant's rage at its own helplessness versus the immense cruel world.

Fuck is only a slight twist on this. It is taboo to speak for other simple slightly different reasons. The taboo transgression pleasure is the same, though.

The time we had a post on Pinker and somebody commented on his makeup is one of Metafilter's all-time greatest hits.
posted by bukvich at 5:07 PM on October 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


OMFG this thread rulz!

I've always theorized that the vast majority of cursing is done out of a feeling of helplessness, despair, and/or anger.

And when I was a teenager, in search of a "safe" curse word, I somehow began using the word "crowfeathers."

And I always appreciated that Thomas Covenant, Ur-Lord & White Gold Wielder and Unbeliever, used the word "Hellfire" as his most common utterance.
posted by davidmsc at 5:07 PM on October 10, 2007


Sorry, D.C., I responded prematurely, while still reading the article because shit like that sticks in my craw.

Also fuck you too.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:08 PM on October 10, 2007


If you like your cursing moshed with literary invention & off-handed remarks The Last Acts of Saint Fuck You by Bern Porter & The Fuck Dirge by Malok will make your mother happy. Not.
posted by memexikon at 5:18 PM on October 10, 2007


Nah, he's just a cunt.

I'm pretty sure he isn't English.
posted by srboisvert at 5:21 PM on October 10, 2007


One of my favorite things to say is, “Motherfucking shitbag!”
posted by tepidmonkey at 5:23 PM on October 10, 2007


Um... I've got nothing.
posted by effwerd at 5:36 PM on October 10, 2007


I tend to sound fairly British and the accent gets more cut-glass the more angry I am. Never underestimate the power of an articulate dressing-down combined with a few well-placed (and timed) "you stupid fucking cunt" or variations thereof. There's something about the sudden vulgarity amid otherwise perfect enunciation that makes "fuck" that slightly more shocking.

And while we're all having a go, you can all fuck off and die you pathetic crew of sloppy horse cunts. I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire.

Tee hee....
posted by ninazer0 at 5:46 PM on October 10, 2007


I've always been amazed at how much more effecive a slight modification can make a curse - my grandpa uses "horseshit" (with the great South St. Louis "harse" pronunciation) instead of "bullshit" and it hits like a mule.

Also, calling someone a "bag of shit"has much more gravity than "shitbag".
posted by notsnot at 5:50 PM on October 10, 2007


I'm pretty sure he isn't English.

I'm pretty sure he's a cunt anyway. He had some good points, most of which had been made a million times before, in amongst the wads of verborrhea, but he also said nonsense like:

To take just one example, why do people use the ungrammatical Fuck you?

If it's part of standard English, which it is, it's by definition not "ungrammatical." He means it's hard to analyze by his fucking grammatical theory, to which I say: fuck your fucking theory, you fuck!

I recently had the pleasure of working on a book of international curses and insults, and one of the things I took most pride in was getting these two classics into the American English section:

Come on, long-eared motherfucker, it's gonna be you and me!

and

The jury has found you guilty of being a red-neck, white-bread, chicken-shit motherfucker!


Now that's some serious fucking cussin'.

*bets self that many more MeFites recognize Dr. Dre than "The Signifying Monkey"*

*wins*

posted by languagehat at 5:51 PM on October 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love the word fuck in all its glorious and manifold variation. But I am inordinately fond of creative cursing in general.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:53 PM on October 10, 2007


That noise you all are hearing? That deep rumbling sound? That's Isaac Asimov spinning at supersonic speeds in his grave.
posted by pjern at 6:28 PM on October 10, 2007


And when I was a teenager, in search of a "safe" curse word, I somehow began using the word "crowfeathers."

Battlestar Galatica to the rescue. "Frak!" "Feldercarb!"
posted by eriko at 6:53 PM on October 10, 2007


the gynecological-flagellative term for uxorial dominance.

Jesus fucking Christ, what kind of otiose cocksucker uses such orotund prolix?
posted by Tube at 7:00 PM on October 10, 2007


Sometwat fucking related.
posted by IronLizard at 7:17 PM on October 10, 2007


I find his inability to spell the word nigger irritating

As irritating as your inability to read the whole fucking article?
posted by signal at 7:43 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's fucking interesting. That's fucking interesting, man.
posted by Shohn at 7:45 PM on October 10, 2007


Fucking Buffalo fucking buffalo Buffalo fucking Buffalo fucking Buffalo.

Fucking buffalo from fucking Buffalo...
Fucking Buffalo-fucking buffalo...
Fucking Buffalo fucking confuse Buffalo...

I'm sorry chap. I don't understand your banter.

Perhaps you're a fuckhead.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:51 PM on October 10, 2007


Melonfarmers!
posted by zeraus at 8:11 PM on October 10, 2007


Do you like pancakes? (NSFCSW)
posted by maudlin at 8:40 PM on October 10, 2007


eriko : Battlestar Galatica to the rescue. "Frak!" "Feldercarb!"

And Farscape gave us 'frell', 'dren', and 'mivonks'. While Firefly provided us with 'rutting' (well, it repopularized it, at least) as well as several other wonderful Mandarin expressions.
posted by quin at 9:07 PM on October 10, 2007


What, this many comments and no bucket of cocks?
posted by marble at 9:16 PM on October 10, 2007


The Bucket of Cocks Chef's Special comes free with every order thread, marble.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:25 PM on October 10, 2007


Fuck. The fucking fucker is fucking fucked. Fuck!
posted by DreamerFi at 10:53 PM on October 10, 2007


I personally think Steve Pinker is a puke bucket. He's a wanker that can't write well and that hardly has any original ideas but instead collects the spew from those he considers his superiors and just regurgitates it with a popularizing sheen.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:03 PM on October 10, 2007


Schoolmates leaving their hexadecimal calculators unattended might return to a nine-digit number on the display: fece5face.

Good times, good times.
posted by kurumi at 11:11 PM on October 10, 2007


A likely suspect within the limbic system is the amygdala

Fucking amygdalas.
posted by dhartung at 2:27 AM on October 11, 2007


Posting my links here, at jessamyn's request from my unwitting double:

The word "fuck" became the subject of congressional debate in 2003, after NBC broadcast the Golden Globe Awards. Bono exclaimed, "This is really, really, fucking brilliant" on the air. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided somewhat surprisingly not to sanction the network for failing to bleep out the word. Explaining its decision, the FCC noted that its (and George Carlin's ) guidelines define "indecency" as "material that describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities" and Bono had used fucking as "an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation." Cultural conservatives were outraged. California Representative Doug Ose tried to close the loophole in the FCC's regulations with the filthiest piece of legislation ever considered by Congress. Had it passed, the Clean Airwaves Act would have forbade from broadcast:
    the words "shit", "piss", "fuck", "cunt", "asshole", and the phrases "cock sucker", "mother fucker", and "ass hole", compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).

posted by psmealey at 7:21 AM on October 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


psmealey, you been fuckin' robbed of (teeny-tiny mefi-specific) juice. Your excellent post should have stayed up, too.

I seriously don't know what the fuck is going on with moderation here anymore.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:27 AM on October 11, 2007


I have emailed the admins and asked for deletion.

Fuck that noise. Yeah, OK, noble of you, yes.

But fuck that noise, seriously.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:35 AM on October 11, 2007


I picked a bad time to show my mom metafilter.....
posted by samsara at 7:50 AM on October 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Some people have been puzzled about why cunt should be taboo. It is not just an unprintable word for the vagina but the most offensive epithet for a woman in America. One might have thought that, in the male-dominated world of swearing, the vagina would be revered, not reviled. After all, it's been said that no sooner does a boy come out of it than he spends the rest of his life trying to get back in. This becomes less mysterious if one imagines the connotations in an age before tampons, toilet paper, regular bathing, and antifungal drugs.

It's a good thing modern science has completely eliminated any male feelings of strangeness about vaginas.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:50 AM on October 11, 2007


Your excellent post should have stayed up

Thanks. It was going to be my 100th FPP, too... looks like the confetti and balloons will have to wait another day.

It was a fair nuking, though. Even as my double was inadvertent, it sets a bad precedent to keep it up when the principal link was identical to one in a previous post. This thread definitely has funnier comments, though.
posted by psmealey at 8:33 AM on October 11, 2007


Personally, I like combining the religious with the secular to really up the obscenity level. Jesus Hmotherfucking Christ ass-raping Buddha (in a love shack).
posted by Hactar at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2007


When I started to make this post, I tried to think of some more links and content to add to it, but after drawing a blank for several minutes, I said to myself, "It's gonna end up as a cuss-fest regardless, and the article's fairly long and has a lot of cool info. Fuck it." *post*

Hats off to psmealey for finding some great material! Good luck on your 100th. :)
posted by BeerFilter at 11:38 AM on October 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I once had a week long project at work to come up with a definitive list of curse words, sound-alikes, spelt-alikes, foreign language cursing, etc etc.
That as a fun fucking project.
posted by nomisxid at 2:27 PM on October 11, 2007


Cough it up, nomisxid. :D
posted by BeerFilter at 8:49 PM on October 11, 2007


It's gonna end up as a cuss-fest regardless

That it did. Filthy as a bubbling shit-kettle.
posted by Anything at 2:19 AM on October 12, 2007


Doo doo caa caa!
posted by doctorschlock at 7:34 AM on October 12, 2007


WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
MATT?
posted by lohmannn at 9:21 AM on October 12, 2007


My dad was an artist. His studio was in the basement of whatever house we lived in. When he did something he didn't like, he would wash his brushes in a bucket. It made quite a noise, clangy, clanky, clang! And as he did that he would yell, "God damn son-of-a-bitch!"

That is my favorite curse of all time. God damn son-of-a-bitch!!! Say it with me!
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 9:34 PM on October 13, 2007


My favourite curse when I was in high school was shit-cunt. Asking someone why they are such a shit-cunt is surely a classic.
posted by mycapaciousbottega at 3:47 PM on October 14, 2007


i've always preferred 'cunt-turd'.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:48 PM on October 14, 2007


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