SNAFU & FUBAR

WARNING:  THIS POST WILL BE DISCUSSING A WORD THAT IS CONSIDERED RUDE AND OBSCENE. IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED, PLEASE STOP READING. 

I promise the next post will be my normal family friendly fare.

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I’m just finished reading a book by a well-respected urban fantasy author who used FUCK for consensual sex, the threat or act of non-consensual sex, and expletives. While the story was interesting, it was difficult to differentiate between the intended meanings and that took me out of the story.

So, let’s look at the origins of the word FUCK.

In his book FUCK: An Irreverent History Of The F-Word, Rufus Lodge explores the history and use of FUCK.

‘Fuck’ (of ‘fucke’ or ‘fuk’ or ‘fukk’ – the same people who thought the Earth was flat weren’t very good at spelling, either) was definitely a part of our language before 1598…

Lodge also goes on to say:

It is true that F.U.C.K. is an abbreviation for the phrase For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, but it is not true that this abbreviation is the source of the word ‘fuck’. Neither, for that matter, is another phrase that spells out the same unseemly word: Fornication Under Consent of the King.’

 Melissa Mohr says in her Huffington Post article, ‘A F*cking Short History of the F-word:

Fuck isn’t an Anglo-Saxon word either. Some of today’s swearwords did indeed originate in Old English, including shit, arse, turd, and the British bollocks. The f-word is of Germanic origin, related to Dutch, German, and Swedish words for “to strike” and “to move back and forth.

Even the military uses FUCK in its acronyms. A couple of commonly used acronyms are:

  • SNAFU – situation normal: all fucked up
  • FUBAR – fucked up beyond all recognition/repair/reason

FUCK has become a multi-situational word that spans a huge range of application. It can mean the following:

  • sexual acts
  • expressions of anger
  • exclamations of pain
  • situations or plans that have been irrevocably messed up
  • sarcasm
  • and more

swearwords

The Bully Pulpit’s blog interview of Steven Pinker, ‘What Are Cuss Words and Why Do We Use Them?‘, he says:

…as with any other aspect of language use, it’d be common sense and common courtesy to anticipate how the language will affect your audience, depending on whether it’s male or female, younger or older, in a formal setting or more casual setting. And whether it’s used with a straight face or ironically, swearing can be more or less offensive, and any careful speaker ought to anticipate these effects.

In today’s world, FUCK has become semi-acceptable in many situations. It’s part of our vernacular – I get that.

What bothered me about this book I was reading was the overuse of FUCK as a noun and a verb when there were plenty of available options that could convey the tone and meaning the author was looking for. It began to alienate me as a reader.

Do I use swearing in my writing? Absolutely, but I use it sparingly and in situation. I’ve found if you use too much, the carefully chosen words begin to lose their impact on the audience.

I can’t stop people (or myself) from swearing. But, I can be aware of the intended audience of the projects I write. The last thing I want to do is alienate my readership.

(I think I’ll go wash my brain out with soap now.)

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6 comments

  • Leila, I agree with everything you said here. I also think sometimes it’s only necessary as it fits the character. Not everyone swears all day long (or at least not out loud!)

    • Kellie, I agree. Having a potty mouth clergyman wouldn’t fly (unless they had a secret life). A street rat may know no other way to speak. It’s all about context and individual. I will say both the books I mentioned in the post are very educational. Definitely expands my vocabulary and word usage. 🙂

  • I had a healthy dirty mouth when I was a teenager. Cussing made me think I was grown and cool. Now as a well seaoned adult profanity hurt my ears when over used. I do write curses in my writing but like you sparingly. In my current novel I don’t think I wrote the “F” bomb at all. I don’t need to use profanity I have a healthy vocabulary. Though sometimes I can’t think of the words I want to use.

    • I agree, there are other words to use. I will say that my reading in the entomology of swearing is fascinating.

  • hello leila its dennis the vizsla dog hay hmm intresting my littel bloo frenemy prodooser smurf seems to yooze the wurd smurf a lot ware he mite insted yooze this wurd it must be a kultcheral thing!!! ok bye

    • Hi Dennis, just remember there are many other words than the one I mentioned. 😉

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