When you look up a word in a dictionary, you may see a qualification for that word, such as “slang”, “vulgar”, “archaic”, “colloquial”, and so forth. These labels are meant as a guide to proper usage; if what you wish to express requires a certain crudity (or even downright obscenity), then perhaps you’ll use that word, choosing it precisely because it is considered to be crude, obscene, vulgar. Webster’s Third International Dictionary, Unabridged made an attempt to eliminate these labels, because they felt that the labels were considered judgmental rather than descriptive. In so doing, Webster’s attempted to make all words free from judgment, in which case “The F Word” would no longer have any purpose in the English-speaking world. In order to save the sacred F-bomb, let’s talk about it for a bit.
I try to keep this blog office-safe, and as such, I’ll not reproduce that word which has the exalted status of being the single most abominated word in the English language. Instead, let’s make up something to replace it. How about “flurg”? At the moment, that collection of letters has no purpose (other, perhaps, than a sound effect for a Don Martin comic). We all know how one would use that other word, and if you don’t, then flurg you in the first place. And if Webster’s has its say, they can flurg off in a flurging flurgboat, because to remove that label means that it is part of everyday flurging speech, without the flurgiest impact, since taking the flurging flurg-label from the flurgworthy word removes its “judgment” and thus one may be a flurgwad motherflurger without offending anyone at all, you filthy flurger.
Now that I’ve provided you with a Bizzaro form of an Eddie Murphy impression, I’d like for you to notice something in particular: Your giggles. You probably experienced what the famed Grouch Marx once called “nervous titters, of which my secretary has two.” [excerpted from a letter to Dick Cavett, reprinted in his autobiography (1974)] You know what word we were replacing with “flurg,” and more importantly, you know the purpose of that word and its usage. It is most often used as an expletive (perhaps ironically, as a form of epithet known as an “ejaculation” or “ejaculatory cry”), or as an obscenity for its own sake. There are many ways to describe the act which the word is supposed to describe, but using the word degrades the act, and unless one means to imply either worthlessness (“he’d throw a flurg into me,” adapted from Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne) or violence and rape (“Flurg you!”), the term isn’t used. As George Carlin observed about the word itself, “it sounds like combat” when used as nearly every word in a sentence.
Without the label of “obscene” (or even “particularly obscene”), then the little flurger has no impact. The F Word’s job will be rendered useless, because it is as ordinary as “fork”, “finger”, and “frock”. If that becomes the case, there would be singularly less delight in saying, “The priest’s frock made it hard for him to finger his fork.” It’s a perfectly legitimate sentence, but it lacks purpose, unless we’re tailors trying to correct the clergyman’s difficulty.
The labels are necessary precisely for their descriptive nature. While it might be easier for modern readers to understand a man’s being a “cuckold” (described as “dated” in one dictionary) rather than a “wittol” (“archaic”), most might prefer we cut to the chase and say that the man’s wife is flurging around on him. The first form is proper; the second, more academic; the third, crude and socially unacceptable. Such labels separate literate and responsible members of society from the anti-intellectual dregs who are incapable of expressing empathy for others, much less being able to do so with any degree of erudition.
Those who know me will not be shocked by such a sweeping statement. I am one of those “over-educated snobs” who modern linguists mock for being “too rigid” in trying to preserve the “old language” rather than accept that “English is a living, growing language which must evolve by eliminating the old words and embracing the new.” Flurg the flurging flurg out of that idiocy. Removing labels and making all “words” equal is only the first step in the “dumbing-down” of the English sub-dialect known as American… which is already becoming stupider by the day. Randomly creating non-words (e.g., “enthuse”, “flexitarian”, “versing”) is part of what makes America one of the stupidest countries on the planet, and acknowledging them as “growth” makes just about as much sense as putting someone who doesn’t have enough intelligence to use proper English into a position of social, economic, corporate, or political power.
Talk about being flurged…