Best columns: The U. S.

THE WEEK Magazine

                                                                                            July 14, 2006 (pg. 14)


The F-word isn’t what it used to be said Joel Achenbach in Thc Washington Post. Once the most taboo—and thus, most emphatic— word in the English language, “the F-bomb” is now used in everyday speech as an “all-purpose intensifier.”

Hip-hop artists, Bloggers, and people under 25 now use “f---” so casually and frequently that it has lost its power to shock.

The word has become so mundane, in fact, that even politicians such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Kerry have all felt comfortable using it in interviews and in public. The cheapening of “f---” is a shame—”not because it is a bad word, but because, in certain circumstances, it is a very good word.”

 Dropped into the right sentence at just the right time, the word’s “rock-hard consonants” explode off the tongue, making “plain language more colorful and emphatic.”

Drop a hammer on your toe, and nothing provides the therapeutic value of shouting “F---!” (Try shouting “Drat!” or “I)agnabhit!”) To convey fury, or urgency, or comic incongruity, nothing works as well as as long as it is reserved for these very special occasions.

So in the interests of one of the English language’s great legacies, let’s all stop saying f---, unless we have really good cause. “For the good of human communication we must come together, as a people, to protect this word, and ensure that, years from now, it remains obscene.”

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