The F-Word

( 6 )


We all know what frak, popularized by television's cult hit Battlestar Galactica, really means. But what about feck? Or ferkin? Or foul--as in FUBAR, or "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition"?

In a thoroughly updated edition of The F-Word, Jesse Sheidlower offers a rich, revealing look at the f-bomb and its illimitable uses. Since the fifteenth century, no other word has been adapted, interpreted, euphemized, censored, and shouted with as much ardor or force; imagine Dick Cheney ...

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The F-Word

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We all know what frak, popularized by television's cult hit Battlestar Galactica, really means. But what about feck? Or ferkin? Or foul--as in FUBAR, or "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition"?

In a thoroughly updated edition of The F-Word, Jesse Sheidlower offers a rich, revealing look at the f-bomb and its illimitable uses. Since the fifteenth century, no other word has been adapted, interpreted, euphemized, censored, and shouted with as much ardor or force; imagine Dick Cheney telling Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy to "go damn himself" on the Senate floor--it doesn't have quite the same impact as what was really said. Sheidlower cites this and other notorious examples throughout history, from the satiric sixteenth-century poetry of James Cranstoun to the bawdy parodies of Lord Rochester in the seventeenth century, to more recent uses by Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Ann Sexton, Norman Mailer, Liz Phair, Anthony Bourdain, Junot Diaz, Jenna Jameson, Amy Winehouse, Jon Stewart, and Bono (whose use of the word at the Grammys nearly got him fined by the FCC).

Collectively, these references and the more than one hundred new entries they illustrate double the size of The F-Word since its previous edition. Thousands of added quotations come from newly available electronic databases and the resources of the OED, expanding the range of quotations to cover British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Irish, and South African uses in addition to American ones. Thus we learn why a fugly must hone his or her sense of humor, why Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau muttered "fuddle duddle" in the Commons, and why Fanny Adams is so sweet. A fascinating introductory essay explores the word's history, reputation, and changing popularity over time. and a new Foreword by comedian, actor, and author Lewis Black offers readers a smart and entertaining take on the book and its subject matter.

Oxford dictionaries have won renown for their expansive, historical approach to words and their etymologies. The F-Word offers all that and more in an entertaining and informative look at a word that, while now largely accepted as an integral part of the English language, still confounds, provokes, and scandalizes.

The most controversial word in the English language--the word that still can't be used on network TV or in our major newspapers--is displayed here in its endless variety 17 senses as a noun, 28 senses as a verb, not to mention innumerable phrases, compounds, and derived forms, supported by colorful citations dating back to the word's earliest appearance in the language in the 15th century.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Considering the cloud long hanging over it in more refined circles, the "F" word delights amateur linguists the world over, as they employ it frequently, fluidly, and with great relish. Whether noun, verb, adjective, or adverb, colorful uses abound, and new variations continually creep into the lexicon. Like a mushroom, the "F" word has multiplied in the dark, growing strong, pungent, and resilient.

In The F-Word, author Sheidlower happily traces the humble beginnings and endless permutations of the granddaddy of all English-language profanity. More than a slang dictionary, The F-Word is a proud, uncensored exploration of a short, sharp shock of a word.

Here's a cultural reference point for you: Plug into the soundtrack for the original Woodstock festival, 1969's shining moment of generational unity. Skip over Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, The Who, and even Jimi Hendrix re-imagining "The Stars Spangled Banner." Instead, cue up Country Joe McDonald and the Fish, and check out "The Fish Cheer." A spelling lesson to end all spelling lessons: "Gimme an 'F.'" "'F!'" Several hundred thousand people, giving voice to society's most verboten word. "What's it spell?" Talk about catharsis. Talk about freedom.

And as many imaginative variations you might know, including any longshoremen still out there, The F-Word will undoubtedly increase your verbal dexterity. From one lone syllable first recorded almost 500 years ago, the "F" word has grown into an entire army of colloquial expressions. Ironically, speaking of the Army, the military can be thanked fortheintroduction of numerous acronyms that incorporate the "F" word - SNAFU being the most famous and the most fabulous, as it allows for open understanding without recrimination.

In the second edition, Sheidlower adds scores more examples to the engaging text, rifling the English canon with grand results. For every stuffed shirt who would never dare utter such gutterspeak, some saucy scribe or punny peon has worked doubly hard to use the "F" word in a novel, terribly picturesque fashion. And Sheidlower glories in detailing his finds: the Scotsman's Scot, Robert Burns; Papa Hemingway: e.e. cummings; Jack Kerouac; and many others.

So powerful is the "F" word that a mere allusion will often convey the larger story, a device which allows the fine and crafty screenwriters at "NYPD Blue" to push the envelope, week in, week out. Wonder what George Carlin's thoughts would be on Detective Sipowicz, as Andy foams and sputters and spews and says, "No effing way."

The F-Word. Un-effing-believable!

From the Publisher

"Sheidlower's 'The F Word' has provided inordinate delight and distraction from my normal working day."--The New Yorker

"It wasn't so long ago that the dear old F-bomb was barely uttered outside of private conversation, let alone written into literature or film or television. Here to educate you on its illustrious lineage--not to mention its present and future--is The F Word, a handsome, concise and erudite history of the term."--Very Short List

"Funny, yet surprisingly informative... The F Word is an encyclopedia for all things, well, f***ed."--Entertainment Weekly

"God bless lexicographers, you know? The F-Word is no thin bathroom book, either, but a meticulously researched 320-page hardcover reference tome, robust enough to sit alongside the OED." --SF Weekly

"The F Word is a gem in its lexicographical expertise and its scholarly explication. There will be nothing better, at least until Jesse Sheidlower produces a fourth edition."--Jonathon Green, editor of Chambers Slang Dictionary

"A thoroughgoing exploration of the most celebrated verb/noun/adjective/adverb/interjection/infix in English, with ample citations of its use over the past five and a half centuries."--John McIntyre, You Don't Say blog

"Sheidlower's introduction undertakes a swift and no-nonsense debunking of some common myths about the word...This is vulgarity at its most erudite."--Inside Higher Ed

"The detailed lexicon of the word's many uses and compounds is fascinating."--Milwaukee Shepherd Express

"Investigat[es] every possible combination, situation, and divagation in which the most notorious expletive in English can be found. For a word that can't be printed in most newspapers, it's certainly leading a rich, full life." --Erin McKean, Boston Globe

"A must for anyone interested in the most notorious of English obscenities. This is not one of those pro forma 'revisions' that correct a few errors, toss in a few added items, and add a new preface; the text of the dictionary is twice as large as the second edition, over a hundred new words and senses have been added, and it now aims to cover the entire English-speaking world. This book makes me proud to be a part of a civilization that could produce such a thing." --Stephen Dodson, The Millions

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195393118
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/4/2009
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 346,037
  • Product dimensions: 8.26 (w) x 5.66 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jesse Sheidlower is Editor at Large of the Oxford English Dictionary. Recognized as one of the foremost authorities on obscenity in English, he has written about language for the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Slate, and Esquire, as well as American Speech and the Journal of English Linguistics.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Great explanation of origin

    Has good explanations of the word. Great for the curious.

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  • Posted March 25, 2012

    Great Party Starter or Stopper

    This book is not for everyone. Those that are offended by the F word will be appalled. However, if you are considering buying this book I assume that you are not and that you have friends that are not. It is the definitive book on the origin and derivation of many of the uses and contractions etc. of the word. The forward to the book is delightful too. I have the earlier edition and bought this one for a friend. I found that is was updated with even more F words added. It is always a great hit at my parties and now my guests insist on looking at it each time they visit!!! Enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2011

    eh ...

    OK, If you want a dictionary of "F" word related terms, this is the book you're looking for. If you were expecting something from Lewis Black, not so much. Wouldn't recommend paying full price for this nonsense.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    A hoot!

    We bought this book because so many of us like to use the F-word, but don't really know its history or all of its uses. This is actually a serious, scholarly approach to the history, uses and application of that four-letter word we all know and love...or love to hate. I would recommend it to anyone who is not easily offended or who likes to curse! My friends and I are treating it as a word-a-day book and texting each other a new sentence every day. The first part of the book is a history and the second part of the book is an A to Z encyclopedia of words, phrases and abbreviations/acromnyms. Great fun! I bought several copies as gifts for friends and relatives. What that says about me....? Not sure!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2000

    This 'F' Deserves an 'A'...

    Like much of pop-culture, we think we know the scoop, but do we really understand the 'whole' scoop? The F-Word brilliantly dissects the taboo word we all are familiar with, and have thought of using as an adjective - if not uttered outright - bringing to light the historical basis, conception and growth of this powerful yet simple four letter word. Covering the gamut from it's common slang tonality and associated primal inference, to it's literary usage and power as a legal acronym, the F-Word enlightens. This book is 'f-ing' guaranteed to make the reader 'profanely' wiser!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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