The F-Word

- jim Young 20000924/20010121

Nobody let on that he saw nothing, for then he would not be fit for his post, or else he was a fool. Never before had the Emperor’s clothes been so successful! 
‘But he hasn’t anything on’ said a little child.
‘Oh listen to the innocent,’ said his father. And what the child had said was whispered from one person to the other.
‘He has nothing on – a child says he has nothing on!’
‘But he has nothing on!!’ cried all the people at last.
- Hans Christian Anderson, from The Emperor’s New Clothes

I remember the first time the boy child used the word “fuck” in front of his mother and I. His mother freaked and demanded that the boy child be put down. I could see by the expression on the boy child's face that he had just discovered a very powerful and valuable tool. He was in grade one and had heard the word used by his friends. Not realizing the significance or meaning of the word, the boy child had used it in a very innocent and casual manner.

It was time for a proverbial father-son chat. I sat the boy child down and told him that I was not about to tell him that he couldn’t use the word “fuck”.

“You’re going to hear your friends say it from time to time,” I explained. “You’ll probably hear grown-ups say it sometimes too. And you’ll probably even hear me say it once in awhile. So I’m not going to tell you that you can’t ever use the word.”

But, I told him, if he wanted to use the word “fuck” he would have to accept the repercussions that might come his way. “You just saw your mother’s reaction, and that’s probably a pretty typical reaction you’re going to get from a lot of adults, so you’d better be careful where and when you use it. There’s a time and place for the word,” I continued, “and it’s going to be difficult for you to determine when it’s okay to use it and when it’s not okay to use it. If you use it at school in front of your friends, that might be okay - unless a teacher comes walking around the corner and overhears you saying it. Then you’ll catch hell and will have to suffer whatever punishment the teachers decide to dish out to you. So it’s up to you,” I told the boy child, “but if you want to be safe, it’s probably better if you don’t get in the habit of using it too much, especially around grownups.”

I never heard him use the “f-word” again until he was in his twenties.

I used the expression “f-word” above to make a point. Many of you were probably uncomfortable with seeing the word “fuck” in print in the story I just related to you and were somewhat relieved when I changed it to the “f-word”. Why is that? In your mind did you not translate “f-word” to mean “fuck”? Much of the print media choose to use “f**k” instead of “fuck” but we all know (youngsters included) what it means, so why not just print the word “fuck” and be done with it?

Television stations insult my intelligence in the same manner when they “beep” portions of dialogue in a movie. “Why don’t you ‘beep’-off man,” quite frankly is just silly and in fact draws attention to the word that might otherwise just slide right by.

In his book I’m Not Really Here,  Tim Allen discusses the use of the “N-word”.

“My personal bitch is about the word ‘nigger’. I don’t like the word and I don’t use it, but does that mean we have to call it the ‘N-word’? Are we really fooling anyone? Doesn’t this just make the problem worse? It seems to me that by substituting one word for another we’re actually giving the word more power than it deserves. We have power over words, not the other way around. If we’re not careful then pretty soon we’ll have to invent a whole bunch of new symbols to replace the old symbols; the trouble is, eventually they won’t be any less objectionable.

Let’s try something. ‘Hey, you freaking N-word!’ Nope. Still hurtful. Doesn’t change a thing for me."

So if changing the letters in print, or the words in the movies isn’t changing what we’re reading or hearing – tell me one more time - Why the f... are they doing it?

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