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!