February 10, 2024 Blog / editing / social media / writing 0 Comment

I’m not going to use this word in this post because, in my humble opinion, the word has lost its power and its meaning, so why would I want to litter my language with weak, overused, vulgar, slang swear words? I wouldn’t and I don’t. I have come to believe the widespread use of this rather gross word is a sign of the degradation of language and the slow but sure decline of societal norms that we see playing out in the media, on our streets, and in our governmental and local organizations and even in some crime-ridden neighborhoods.

What do societal norms of language do for us? I see them as guardrails. These guardrails contain the lewd, the pornographic, the degenerate, and the “turns my stomach” words that used to be reserved for when we are totally out of control with anger or hatred. Now, the F-word, once a taboo and never ever used in front of our mothers, is used as a common adjective, sometimes preceding every other word in a sentence! And our mothers just have to get used to it, and maybe start using it themselves to show how cool they are.

Set aside the idea that the more a “shocking” word is used, the less shocking it becomes. Even the famous “shock jock,” Howard Stern, doesn’t really shock anyone anymore. It makes me wonder: how low do we go from here to get this kind of power we need in our language?  I can’t answer that, but I’m sure it won’t be pretty. Or maybe those influencers in the media and alternative media may come to realize that there are other more powerful words, that are not pornographic, that currently exist in the English language that they haven’t yet explored as weapons of persuasion.

I once asked a friend if she used the F-word. To my surprise, she said, “Yes, I do.” I asked if she knew what it meant. You guessed it, her answer was “No, I don’t.” She then asked me, “What does it mean?” explaining that she just used it when she was angry at someone or with something that happened, like: “What the F?”

When I told her the meaning of the F-word was “to fornicate or have sex,” she was surprised. The most common use of the F-word is against an enemy or a hated idea. Did the person using this word really want to engage in sex with their enemy? I think not.  Oh but wait, the meaning of the word has evolved to mean “to ruin or damage” a person or thing, or to violate them.  Oh, so you want to ruin, rape, or violate someone? That’s nice. (In the good ole days, your mother would have washed your mouth out with soap.)

NOT CENSORSHIP

Please don’t look upon this rant of mine as a call to censorship.  It’s not. I truly believe in free speech and the right of every person to speak and write what they please, on every platform, even if they make an ass out of themselves with the words they use to communicate.  I defend their right to do so. But the reader also has the right to stop reading and to perhaps negatively judge the credibility of the writer by the language they use to characterize the facts or stories they want to convey to the reader for the humble purpose of making a point.

Let’s look at an example: If you want to convince someone that our government is fake and corrupt, you may want to use the F-Word in your social media posts about our government, as so many shouted when the phrase “Let’s go Brandon,” became popular for its disguise of the F-word. People even plaster this now popular phrase on bumper stickers – on their cars parked in the lot at church. My pastor knew what it meant and chastised us for this practice, and I’m glad he did. We all know what this phrase means, so why did the media “talking head” hide it in her broadcast? Well, because it used to be a language taboo. The F-Word used to be like alcohol in the 1920s, illegal during Prohibition, or marijuana in the 50s and 60s. One whispered it or used it only among trusted friends who also used it, mainly for shock effect and as a sign of rebellion. Now alcohol, pot, and the F-word have gone mainstream. For the betterment of society? I think: Nah.

Well, for those who are enjoying the power of the F-Word in their daily speech and writing, here’s my message to you:

When I see usually credible people using this word in their writing, I figure they’ve finally run out of words. For a writer, this is a pretty devastating occurrence! Or, I figure they are too lazy or too limited to find a truly meaningful and equally powerful word, so they resort to shock words instead. So why would I want to follow someone who is lazy? Can you accept the fact that the F-word is so over-used now that it may have lost its power? Maybe you don’t see this. Maybe it still makes you feel powerful. For me, you lose credibility as an influencer and as a serious writer. I urge these writers to check the Thesaurus for better and more powerful adjectives: “repulsive,” “gruesome,” “loathsome,” “scandalous,” “vile.” And for powerful verbs, try: “decimate,” “crush,” “annihilate,” etc. Okay, so these words are not as shocking and may not flow in a declarative sentence as well as the F-word does, but in the context of trying to convey a negative, I think there are better words than that which originally meant to have sex with someone, don’t you think?

My last thought on this is a comment about the evolution of the meaning of the F-word. It’s rather startling and disheartening that a word that was previously meant to describe the sex act, which is a holy act of reproduction and unity between couples, has been denigrated and used as a vulgar slang word to convey anger and hatred. That’s downright pornographic to me. Pornography downgrades sex too. The intended meaning of anger and hatred tells me the original definition of the word was meant to convey rape rather than any kind of consensual sex. Screwtape is a crafty devil! Think on that a bit will you?

As one who loves to write, I don’t want to be censored by my government or any media company.  But I self-censor for effectiveness. My writing expresses who I am and yes, I get angry.  But I don’t get angry enough to want to wish rape or total destruction or violence on anyone, so I don’t use words that communicate such extremes. I try to be more descriptive and precise. I think it goes to my credibility. Self-censorship is simply editing my work to be the most impactful, inspiring and influential as possible while remaining fearless. I don’t know if I accomplished that here. I hope so.