Friday, 7 December 2012


The highlight of my writers’ group this week was the reading of a poem that included the dreaded “f” word. During the critique session that followed one member strongly objected to the use of that word. Several group members then objected to her objection. It was a fascinating little scenario. I found myself acting as piggy-in-the-middle, fully appreciative of the point of view on either side of the divide. 

How is it that this four-letter word has such power to polarise a group of people? There’s no doubt the word divides on the basis of age.  In reality a 15th century word describing the act of sexual intercourse, it is today used by many young people as an expletive to express impatience, annoyance, anger, a situation beyond repair or to give a strong emphasis.  Occasionally, they use it to describe the sex act. An older person considers its use to be crude, lewd and vulgar, even if it’s not in the context of sex. Then there's the religious divide. A religious person is likely to object to it on the grounds that such vulgarity would be a disqualifier to having a clean heart and mind and, what’s more, incur the condemnation of their peers.

But it is, after all, only a word, isn’t it?

My own view is that its traditional vulgarity and over-use has trivialised sexual intercourse. For me, it detracts from the sacredness that is inherent to sexual union in a committed and lifelong relationship. However, in terms of the poem that was under discussion, I was not offended. It was appropriate in terms of its context and its current usage as an intensifier. The person who objected did so out of a personal aversion. This was clearly outside the requirement of critiquing the actual writing, which is to assess the structure, tempo, scanning, etc .

Would I use this word myself? No. But there may come a time when one of  my fictional characters might.

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