Ever since language began words have come in and out a favor and have often changed meaning. While Benjamin Franklin used to say privy, we now say bathroom, toilet, can or John. Privy now means being informed of something.
Just as life and people change, so do their colloquialisms. In the 1930s, if someone called you gay that’s a completely different message 100 years later. In the 1960s far out meant something interesting and wild instead of distance and groovy is a mystery to anyone today who didn’t live through the time. And radical meant something different in the 80s than any other decade. Some young people would say PHAT, meaning or fly or cool, a generation or two ahead of them would be mystified as those words meant something else to them.
With this idea in the mind an examination of the power of a word is appropriate. Can words hurt? Yes. Can they kill? No. Do words have meanings that should be societally shunned or is free expression to be allowed regardless? for this, I propose and serve up the word F**** for consideration.
That I can’t even print the word in it’s entirety, proves it is still in question. A decade ago and certainly two or three this word would’ve been received in public with shock and sometimes even fainting. Now it’s commonly used on the streets of most urban cities and their subways, but in the last decades has even become commonplace on the Broadway stage.
It’s used in the movie Goodfellas 300 times and in Wolf of Wall Street 569 times and its mere use no longer requires an R rating.
But what if the word taken completely out of context? Looking deeper into its function, it is actually a very functional word in today’s lexicon. It appears in the dictionary as a noun and verb, but it’s usage has evolved to the point where it now serves, depending on the sentence, as a noun, a verb, an adverb, an adjective and even an article or pronoun…nearly every type of word. So why is it revered by some and revolted by others?
In its original context, I can understand why some may even exalt its ban, however, in today’s vocabulary it can be used frequently without distain. How many words do you know that are so flexible they can provide so many linguistic functions?
So perhaps, instead of assigning certain importance on individual words we should instead defer to the manner in which they are spoken, not necessarily separable from anything else. I submit that this much maligned word is often used now in a benign way, leaving its meaning to the ear of the beholder. After all, it is just a word.