Note: I am often caught off-guard when my teenage grandchildren are within earshot. Their language is pretty radical compared to when I was their age. Back then we’d never say half the words they use freely. They are totally uninhibited knowing I may be in the next room hearing every word–including the “special” ones. It reminded me of a posting I wrote two years ago. I went back to read it and decided it’s worth repeating. So, here it is with a few minor rewrites, not that any of you give a……
I am such a fence-sitter when it comes to language…specifically, the changing use of language. I speak out of both sides of my mouth because I simply cannot make up my mind. What am I so confused about? Well, if you must know the truth, it’s all about the F-bomb! Stay with me on this; God knows where I’m going.
I am now among the “older generation.” We are usually the staid traditionalist of our society. By nature, we abhor the younger generation and what it’s doing to our culture and our country. It is hard for us to accept change, especially change that we find offensive. Enter the “F-bomb.”
I literally remember the first time I heard the word “f**k.” (See, I am even reluctant to print it out…although I think my blog host, WordPress, rather have it coded). Anyway, I was maybe 10-11 years old. I was sitting on my bike watching some older boys play basketball in a schoolyard. Several of the boys kept saying this word, “f**ken.” I had never heard the word before and I had absolutely no idea what it meant, except I assumed it was some kind of word that was cool to say. It wasn’t long—same day, in fact—that I learned the word definitely had meaning regardless of whether or not I knew how to use it in a sentence.
When I got home later, I was going up the stairs when my father reminded me that I had to take the trash out. “Oh f**ken!” says I, almost proud that it didn’t take long for me to insert the new-found word into my vocabulary. Well, let me tell you, it’s didn’t take nearly as long for my father to jump out of his seat and tear after me. He arrived at my room the same time I did. Shortly thereafter his belt arrived on my butt. It was one of the few times I ever remember my father letting me have it. It took some time before I learned the meaning of f**k, but trust me, it would be many years before anyone would ever hear me say the word again.
To me, words are words. They are mere sounds that our mouths make. Why should the utterance of one collection of letters have any more impact or evoke any more emotional response than any other? Culture arbitrarily selects what words are offensive. What if the word “chop” were an offensive word? You know, “ah, chop it!” or “take this chopin’ job and shove it!” or the ever-popular “chop you!” Chop is just another collection of four letters with its own sound. Yet it does not demand the attention that the four letters, “f**k” do. Why haven’t I written “chop” as “c**p.” It all boils down to definition and usage, whatever they are on any given day and with any given generation, I suppose.
Language is an ever-evolving element of our culture. What is incorrect today may eventually weave itself into acceptability over a period of time. Double negatives are a good point. If you were to hear someone say, “I don’t know nothin’ about that,” you would know exactly what the person meant, even though the actual construction of the words means the opposite. Language is flexible even if we who use it aren’t. It’s tossed around any which way with little regard to tradition or rule. Sort of reminds me of the recently popular phrase, “it is what it is!”
So why do I still sense a subtle shiver or quiver when I hear the f-bomb expressed so freely today? What the f**k’s up with that? I know, I’m a senior and I was raised to regard this word with a certain sanctity. It was not to be used in public and certainly not around women. But today, even women have no hesitation to drop the f-bomb in public.
The word has evolved into common acceptance among the younger generation. What is interesting is that it carries little reference to its true meaning dealing with sex. Instead, because it still has some semblance of public taboo, it serves as a mechanism that brings attention and emphasis to whatever thought is being expressed. Or, as the old song goes, it ain’t what you say, it’s what how you say it!
And too I’ve observed, there is an apparent age prerequisite to adding the f-bomb to your arsenal. Most tweens, at least while in a public environment, favor the more discrete term “friggin'” as a suitable substitute.
So here I sit on the fence. Should I find it offensive and uncouth that the f-bomb is so recklessly and wantonly expressed within earshot of wherever I am. Or, should I simply treat it as a sound for which people have adopted a new and common use…and maybe that’s okay. Why am I fighting it? I mean, what the chop do I know?