Of late....the news has just been full of interesting tidbits to blog about and today's blog is about a piece that was run on the local news last night. Do you say the F word? Quite honestly....it has snuck into my vocabulary over time and I am not very proud of it. I rarely say it but if I am very angry OR if I hurt myself unexpectedly....there is a fairly good chance that it might come flying from my lips. I really hate the word and what I hate worse is that mainstream America no longer even bats an eye as it is used as both a noun and a verb in a lot of everyday conversations.
The first time I ever was aware of the word was when I was about 8 years old. I had been drawing on our driveway with some white chalk-like rocks. I went in for lunch and when I came back out, someone had come along and written the F word in huge letters across the cement. I had no idea what the word meant and I went on with my chalk drawing. When my mother came out to find the word sprawled across her driveway.....she nearly had a heart attack. I still didn't know what the word meant....but I knew it couldn't be good as my mother read me the riot act over writing such a word as she frantically scrubbed the driveway before any neighbors saw it. It wasn't long before she realized that I really had no idea what the word meant and that I had not written it. Then I ask the question I am sure she dreaded...."What does it mean?" Back then, kids truly were innocent and even if she had gone into detail....I would still have been clueless, so she just said it was a bad word. In fact she said it was the worst word you could use next to gdamn. She told me never to use it. No big deal. It was simply not a word that I ever heard. At the time...I went to Catholic school and I never heard it there (the nuns would have done us in had such a word left our lips within their hearing) and my parents NEVER used that word. They both cussed from time to time.....but not that word.
It wasn't until I was in junior high that I first realized that the F word was obviously not as taboo to public school kids as it was to Catholic school kids. Of course middle school is where hormones run rampant and little boys like to show off their tough guy vocabularies. I was legitimately shocked the first time I heard someone my age use that word. I still had no idea what it meant but I knew it was bad. Not being able to find it in the dictionary (it was the 70's after all) I finally decided to try and get my mom to define this word for me. First of all....let me say that if I had known what a can of worms I was opening....I might have chosen just to stay ignorant of the meaning. When I asked Mom what it meant, immediately came the question, "Where did you hear that word?" Not being smart enough or quick enough to come up with anything other than the truth I said, "A kid at school said it." Next question of course was "What kid?" Again....I wasn't a quick thinker on my feet and when Mom gave me that look....the kids name came flying out. I was assured that the school would be getting a call the next day and the principal would be informed that this kid was using that word. Mom kept her promise. Poor Mom. What she didn't realize is not only was that kid using the word but so were a lot of the kids. I guess we were both a little naive back then. After the indignation part of our conversation...then came what for me was the embarrassing part. If Mom were to explain the meaning of the word....then she had to explain what sex was. That's right....we segued right into our first sex talk. I got so much more information than I bargained for that day. In short though....what I took away from the conversation was: sex is a wonderful, beautiful act that should be respected. The F word was a vulgar description of sex which completely disrespected the act making it cheap and dirty. It was a really good definition and one that has stayed with me to this day. I sincerely believe that my mother went to her grave not using that word even once in her life. And when it slipped from my lips in front of her in my twenties.....she almost put me in my grave. That was simply something people did not say in front of her.
As an adult....it did become much more mainstream. Men especially, seemed to use it quite often and then one of my close friends went through a period where she couldn't say ten words without using the F word as an adjective. At first it shocked me and I would tell her to stop. Then I heard it so often that I too began to say it. I hated hearing myself say it though. I never sounded cool or tough, I just sounded to me like a girl trying to sound cool or tough. I gave up the word mainly because I felt trashy when I said it.
When my husband and I got together....the only real fault he had was that he used the F word in every sentence. He had always been a bit of an edgy kind of guy so the word was a huge part of his vocabulary. The military didn't help it much. In fact....it probably just deepened the use. I would call him on it time and again and lucky for both of us.....he never let it slip around my mother. However, everywhere else....that word flew. After Z was born, I asked him to watch it in front of him and he did try but still....ever so often that word made its appearance and I would cringe. I warned him that one day that word would come back to bite him....and it did. We had a living room full of company and our precious 2 year old was doing what he loved to do best. He was talking a mile a minute, dancing and trying to soak up as much attention from those present as possible. He was actually really funny, but Tim didn't want to let Z think that he could act like that every time we had people over. He told Z to sit down so the adults could talk. Z ignored him and continued to entertain. Tim was not a dad you ignored so he then told Z in a very strict tone to go to his room. Yep! Wait for it! Wait for it! "I'm not going to my F'n room," was the strongly irritated 2 year old response he got...hands on hips included. Tim went red all over. I didn't know whether it was from embarrassment that his toddler had just dropped the F bomb in front of all of his friends....or whether he was about to ensure that Z would never see his 3rd birthday. Luckily for everyone it was the whole embarrassment thing. Z did go to his room and he never used that word again.....and Tim learned a very valuable lesson about listening to me. Tim almost completely broke himself of using that word in our house and he even started calling others on it. Leave it to Z to accomplish what I couldn't!
I noticed as my kids got older....that the F word was used more often by both kids and adults and men and women. It seemed to have hit mainstream conversation and we had all gotten so desensitized to it that it barely raised an eyebrow. My adult son says it, but seldom does he say it around me. Z I don't think says it....at least not in front of me. As I said.....I have said it, but aside from not liking myself much when I do say it, it has always been my fear that if David ever did start talking.....that might be his first word.
Today the F word is in our music, in our movies and it is on our tv.....although so far, the networks still bleep it out. It is used daily and by everyone from celebrities to the Vice President of the United States. Truly I don't believe that most use it with the vulgar intent that once caused people to shutter, but bottom line is.....the meaning of the word has not changed. It still means the same thing as it meant when my mother defined it for me when I was in junior high. At the most it is a vulgar, degrading and demeaning word for the act of sex. At the very least it is a vulgar word that shows a poor vocabulary, poor manners and a lack of education if that word is used at least once in every sentence and takes the place of adjectives, nouns and verbs. Apparently some are just too lazy to expand their vocabulary to include other words.
All is not lost though. There are still those out there that see the F word for what it is. Last summer I was with a bunch of friends who were my age and we were just talking. One guy in particular had said the F word several times. It was nothing new. He had always talked like that and then we started talking about our kids. Apparently one of his daughters who is an adult, used the word and he hated it. He took her aside and told her that he knew he had set a bad example....but there was just something so vulgar about a girl that used that word. He went on to tell her that if that word continued to be a part of her vocabulary that it could really affect how people in the professional world viewed her as well as anyone who might be left in polite society. I had to admit that I was a little shocked listening to him tell us about this. He of course was right. There are still those people who will be offended by that word (as well they should be) and if the word is said in front of the wrong person....it could give them the wrong impression about who you are as a person. I know I certainly wouldn't want someone to hear me say the F word and assume that I was always that crass and vulgar.
I was talking about all of this a while back with another friend who admitted that the word was pretty tacky, but sometimes the word just had to be said. Sometimes no other word would get the point across quite as well as the F word. I thought about this. It is true. The times I have been pushed to the point of using that word in anger, irritation or frustration.....people did pop to attention pretty quickly. Was it because I was a woman half a century old using the word? Was it because I was really angry and any word I had used in that tone would have had the same effect? OR was it the combination of the two along with the word? Did that word in that particular tone at my age cause them to realize that I was dead serious and that lines had been crossed? I just don't know.
The bottom line is.....I am sure that at some point that word will rear it's ugly head in my conversation again. However.....I am making a major effort to avoid it. I also know that the F word is not going anywhere. It's even in the dictionary now! That doesn't mean we have to sit idly by and accept it though. There is nothing wrong with asking someone not to use the word in front of you, turning off a movie that can't get through one sentence of dialogue without it or refusing to listen to music that is laced with it. I don't think the F word should be part of mainstream conversation and I don't think we should just sit back and let it overtake us. I think we should be shocked when a 2 year old says it, when a pretty young girl says it, when an 80 year old man says it or even when an angry 50 year old woman says it. If taken at its true definition....it is a shocking, vulgar and really degrading word. No matter who you are....the F word never makes you look any cooler, smarter, prettier or classier by using it. In fact, in most cases....it does just the opposite. For the most part....we are an educated country but you surely couldn't tell it.....when we open our mouths and speak!