I was witness to an argument on Facebook this week between people who prefaced the whole shooting match by saying they “normally keep private things private” or something like that, which was immediately laughable because the world has never seen so much airing of dirty laundry, and because Facebook has that darn Message button if you really want to be private about it. But, I’m a lover of irony, so I read through some of the posts. The most interesting thing, to me, was the use of the F-word. Not interesting=clever, but interesting=misspelled. When you add an –ing to the end, then shorten it to just in’, you don’t need to change the “i” to an “e.” And that goes for all -ing to in’ shortenings. Just sayin’. (See?)
Most English majors will point out that there are so many gorgeous words you can use in place of the F-word that you’re really doing yourself a disservice to condense your vocab down to just that one. While I agree with this thinking, I can’t help but point out that if it’s done well, the F-word can be sheer poetry. In my lifetime, through high school, college, jumping into the bar scene, being friends with athletes and military personnel, and working in kitchens and boardrooms, I’ve known one person who really had a handle on it: My friend Josh.
One particular night working at a restaurant, my coworker Darrell and I made up a game (server games are the best) where we both tried to talk like Josh for the night. This came about because Darrell had told a story with entirely too many F-bombs in it–which I pointed out–and he made fun of me for my “inability to swear without sounding like an uppity professor.” Thus, the game of trying to talk like Josh was born.
Josh talks fast and hard, and can throw in the F-bomb left, right, and sideways and not miss a beat. Darrell and I tried our best to emulate this, in the kitchen, the server station, and even quietly near the bar, tossing out F-bombs all over the place and for no reason–which is where we went wrong, because it’s not a haphazard skill.
By the end of the shift we’d both had some impressive runs, but as we locked up and rounded the corner we ran smack into Josh, of all people, who was outside a pub having a cigarette. We chatted him up for a second, during which he launched into an effing rant that, in one sentence, not only used the F-word as multiple parts of speech but he also tossed in two effings followed by an actual noun where the effings were not redundant. No kidding, each one meant something different and we understood him perfectly.
I’ve studied nine languages over the years, and I’m telling you, Josh’s skills are nothing short of art. Yes, art. Educated, purposeful, quick-thinking art. It’s one thing to toss in an F-bomb in place of a word because you can’t think of the word you’re trying to say. That’s what Darrell and I were doing with the game. It’s another thing entirely, though, to use it as diction to convey heartache, love, angst, appreciation, and to describe a scene with precision and clarity, and even beauty.
Game over. Darrell and I looked at each other and shook our heads, defeated. “The master!” we congratulated Josh, first shaking his hand, then hugging him and telling him we how much we loved him. And when we left him there outside the Irish pub to finish his cigarette in the cold, night air, poor Josh had no effing idea what was going on.
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler who has waited tables in five U.S. states. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing.