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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thoughts on Language

F---  You!

There seems to be now frequent use of the F word, and I don't much like it.  When I was growing up and for much of my life it was rare and disdained. It was used at times by high school kids and low level workers from the rough side of town. Now, it often serves as an all-purpose adjective used by executives, housewives, students, actresses, and authors.

The first time I encountered prevalent use of the word, in various forms, was during the summer of my high school junior year. I worked in a lumber yard in South Philadelphia, which was largely devoted to creosoting railroad ties. My main job was hammering "S' irons into the ends of the ties. The work was a bit hard and the stacks of ties seemed endless. Work began at 8 a.m. and I remember that on my first day, after hours of work, I checked my watch and saw that it was 9:15.

The workers there were mostly from difficult neighborhoods nearby and a quite rough group. They picked on me a bit, as a "rich college guy", but most were  very friendly and quite helpful. And nearly all had a large vocabulary of uncouth words.

A later encounter with frequent use of the F word was during Navy training. We were a group of college kids but were joined by a few veterans from the fleet who brought with them a supply of curse words.

After that, it was a long, long time before the F word became so widespread and, I guess , somewhat acceptable. Although the word is still a bit jarring for many of my ancient generation, I fear that it has lost much of its sting.

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