(Published on The Huffington Post June 1, 2015)
I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words during the past 50 years, but I’ve never written the f-word. I don’t need the word to communicate effectively or to get published. The English language is rich with so many other delightful, juicy, descriptive, and provocative words that require more deliberate discourse, and my fingers just can’t push the keys to enter the four letters to write an overused, prostituted word.
Many of my friends and favorite writers use the f-bomb with great relish; almost as a badge of honor to show how feisty and liberated they are. I follow delightful blogs that incorporate the word regularly, but I don’t think it’s always necessary. Some writers call me a cuss-less curmudgeon and send humorous essays about how the f-word can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb. I remind them that the best authors only selectively use adjectives and adverbs. Also, the word has no context or logic. WTF means nothing.
I shared the stage last year with comedian and humor columnist Leighann Lord at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. She sprinkles her hilarious routines with a few saucy words but says that profanity is like a hot spice — it’s best used in small doses. I rarely go to movies anymore because of the repetitive swearing that adds nothing to the story. This doesn’t mean I’m a hopeless prude; I just don’t want to pay $10 to be assaulted with caustic profanity that hits me like slimy spitballs. From the safety of my home, I rented the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. It contained more than 506 f-bombs, and I slipped into a language-deficient coma.
In the final scenes of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, the leading man played by Clark Gable turned to the star Vivien Leigh and declared, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” The profanity in the line was unusual and shocking back then in American film. (This quotation was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute in 2005.) Imagine how that scene would be ruined if he had substituted the f-word or if profanity had been used throughout the movie. The powerful impact would be reduced to redundant noise as Miss Scarlett’s “Fiddle-dee-dee” became “G-damn, WTF?”
Certain titles captivate readers (and buyers) with a single word. I wrote a book with author Joanne Kimes titled Menopause Sucks. She has successfully incorporated the “sucks brand” into the titles of her books, and the word “sucks” is a marketing tool that effectively sells her work. I wrote about a fart and the viral essay titled “Don’t Fart During an MRI” became one of the most-read posts in the ten-year history of the The Huffington Post. These books and the blogs wouldn’t be as popular or civil if the words “sucks” and “fart” were exchanged for the f-word. “Don’t (F-Word) During an MRI” would not attract or impress my target audience.
I have said the f-word out loud, especially at the golf course, but I still choose not to write it. I have nightmares of my dear departed mother charging into my room with a bar of soap to swish inside my mouth. She used this tactic when I was a child after I innocently said the word “poop.” However, that punishment could explain my chronic case of irritable bowel symptom.
Writers have every right to use the word, and I don’t judge them for it. I would like to receive the same respect in return. Keep your profanity, and I’ll keep my more traditional language. I’ve occasionally written other swear words, including damn, shit, and hell, but that’s about the extent of my dabbling into the salacious world of four-letter-words. The world offers enough crude, vulgar, trashy, and blasphemous images and sounds to offend everyone, so I don’t need to contribute more.
This article will be published without that word, and I’ll still make a strong case for powerful, creative language. Many will criticize my perspective and snicker that I’m a dinosaur in the blogosphere. To them I tip my hat and say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”