We’ve worn out a lot of words in the last five years. “Awesome” used to mean “fall on your knees, drooling, in fear or amazement.” Now it ranks around “OK” (or to use the common term, “K”) or just a shrug. We’ve also bleached out the meaning of “basically,” “literally,” “absolutely,” and “good job,” usually accompanied by a high-five if said to a child under the age of six.
Watching how Americans use English is something that fascinates me (but is not “a passion” of mine–we wore out passion when we brought it into the office and substituted it for “mildly interested.”)
Culturally, we are now wearing out the F-bomb. I will freely admit to being a bit stodgy about using this word freely. It makes me uncomfortable, and I’ll confess that I didn’t use it at all until I was about 23 years old. There were two reasons:
1. For me, it was a shocking, violent word best associated with rape, darkness, and the opposite of love. (Your results may vary.) I also had to say “Cheese and rice” in the homes of my Catholic friends, instead of naming the Christian deity’s son outright.
2. The F-word was considered vulgar, and writers (particularly women writers) were encouraged to use move vivid, powerful, and vibrant words. It made for lively combinations of adjectives, adverbs and interjections. It made me an excellent collector of exciting phrases that would pass the editor’s inspection and still allow the reader to know what we meant.
We use f**k so commonly that we have made up substitutes that are used in even the most proper corporate meeting: “freaking” came first, and sounded quite harmless, so we upped it to “fricking.” And then we just forgot about talking around it and went right for the f-word.
Note: Many of my friends use the word frequently. I do not correct them. Nor am I shocked. Loving language is more about observation than being the f**k police.
What does interest me is the adaption of the phrase “Not giving a f**k” and its best friend “Not a single f**k was given that day,” to mean two different things entirely. (Google the phrase, then click on images. NSFW).
You would think (or at least I did) that “not giving a f**k” would mean not caring, indifference, not being involved in an outcome, having an ability to walk away from any situation.
It may mean that in some circles, but it also means being so sure of yourself that you don’t care what other people think. You are rooted firmly in your values. Now, that’s a use I find interesting. Mark Manson described this meaning in an article on January 8, 2015. Yes, “giving a f**k” means caring, but that’s the point–he discusses why caring too much can drain your focus of what you should be caring a lot about. And on those issues we care deeply about, well, then you give a big f**k.
Here’s what Manson says: “Indeed, the ability to reserve our fucks for only the most fuckworthy of situations would surely make life a hell of a lot easier. Failure would be less terrifying. Rejection less painful.”
What all this means is that indifference breeds drama, and drama is empty of power and force. Caring about others, choosing to protect what is important to you, well, that is what we want to give a f**k about. An interesting twist of events.
And finally, because I’m worn out from clicking on all those asterisks, here is a poem I found about living that life of deep caring, real coherence and authenticity. Without once using the f-bomb.
You are the well-trodden, dusty tracks of habit
and you are a freedom so brilliant it brings
deities to their knees.
You are the hesitation and the mistrust that make us
so desperately cling to the plastic replicas of who we are,
and you are the ache of the real calling us from the other side of risk.
You are that mystical courage
that makes us get up and out of bed each morning, despite it all.
Achingly beautiful, dull, exhilarating,
horrendous, paradoxical, cosmic, dense,
dark matter and radiance beyond measure.
Here is your world.
Here it is.
You have been so busy creating walls,
squeezing your tail and your wings
into this digestible hand-me-down dress,
trying so very hard to compartmentalize the
unfathomable wilderness that you are.
There is no action, no withholding,
no sprouting or rotting,
no lover or predator,
no loser or hero,
no wound nor victory
that is not you.
Here is your world.
Here it is.
:: Chameli Devi
––Quinn McDonald is careful what she cares about. Language is right up at the top of the list.
Warning: If you use the spelled-out f-word in your comments, the comment will automatically go to spam. I’ve been a blogger for eight years now, and that control is a comfort.