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Book Pimping – The “F” Word by Jesse Sheidlower

2012/01/16

So, I got this book the other night for my Kindle Fire, and I am totally in love. It’s so much more than just another humor piece. It’s truly a treatise on the use of language itself. The fact that the foreword is written by Lewis Black certainly did not hurt its curb appeal for me.

I’m going to give you a couple examples of this book’s brilliance now, and you can decide for yourselves if it’s worth your time.

From the foreword:

Fuck, I believe, is one of the few words in the English language with true medicinal qualities. It clears our heads of the cobwebs that our bosses, our politicians, and our pundits seem to spin with their tired words and useless clichés. I am certainly no doctor, but I believe that judicious use of the word in times of extreme stress or irritation can work wonders for your colon, blood pressure, and central nervous system. It even works as an antidepressant. The word is so efficient, it’s like a miracle drug. One quick guttural expulsion is all you need (or sometimes two or three is things are really bad).

If this power isn’t enough to make fuck the language’s best word ever, remember there is no other word that is so spectacularly utilitarian. Fuck can work as a noun, a verb, an adverb, an adjective. And for many of us-and you New Yorkers know who you are-fuck isn’t even a word, it’s a comma.

From the section titled “Fuck in Print”

The earliest known publication of fuck in the United States appears to be in a legal case, in a fascinating decision. The case, heard in the Supreme Court of Missouri in 1846, concerned a man who had been accused of having sex with a man, and who successfully sued for slander. The verdict was appealed, and in its rejection of the appeal, the court wrote:

The slanderous charge was carnal knowledge of a man, and the word “fuck” was used to convey the imputation. After the verdict for the plaintiff, a motion made in arrest of judgment, for the reason that the word used to convey the slander, was unknown to the English language, and was not understood by those whom it was spoken… The motion was overruled, and Edgar appealed.

Because the modesty of our lexicographers restrains them from publishing obscene words, or from giving the obscene signification to words that may be used without conveying any obscenity, it does not follow that they are not English words, and not understood by those who hear them; or that chaste words may not be applied so as to be understood in an obscene sense by every one who hears them.

In other words, fuck was well known and understood, so the fact that is wasn’t in the dictionaries was irrelevant.

If you love language, and you get a thrill from learning how it all fits into the past and present cultures, then you will love this book. Or maybe you just want to learn how to use the word fuck with greater efficiency. Whatever the reason, this is a great book that I am thoroughly enjoying, and thought I would share the experience.

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