I hate “I fucking love science.” I don’t hate it because of its content (I don’t find any of its posts to be particularly informative nor entertaining, but I’ll let people enjoy what they want to enjoy); it’s the title that rubs me the wrong way. I have an intimate relationship with profanity. I love profanity. Fucking love it. I tell myself it’s okay to swear like a sailor because I also have a relatively large vocabulary and tend to liberally sprinkle sesquipedalian phrases into casual conversation, but the truth is, I say fuck a lot, probably too much, and it’s why I’ll never be able to hold any job that isn’t theater-related.
Why then, don’t I love “I fucking love science?” Because it’s precious. It’s cloying in its “ain’t I a stinker” mischievousness. There’s a gleeful, twee little poke in the ribs embedded in the title – I imagine the page creator’s thought process went thusly: “How incredibly urbane to use such a naughty, naughty word to describe my affinity for enlightenment and edification. My friends are correct to think I’m the wittiest member of our circle.” Obviously I’m completely justified in hating the title of the page being annoying, so it sticks doubly in my craw to see the internet validate this abuse of abusive language by flocking to the page (13 million + likes.)
Per the rules of memetics (read: BECAUSE INTERNET), everyone now fucking loves everything. Type “I fucking love” into the Facebook search bar, and you will find a panoply of declared affinities – I won’t attempt to list them all here, but my favorite titles from the first page alone are “I fucking love Norway,” “I Fucking Love Cocaine,” and “I fucking love this.” Notice, also, how I capitalized all the words in “Cocaine” but not the other two. That’s because most of the “I fucking” groups take a page from “I fucking love science” and don’t bother to capitalize their titles, even though THAT’S TOTALLY A THING THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO. I guess science requires one specific type of smartness, and the ability to clearly convey concepts through language by understanding and following the basic rules of grammar and punctuation takes a different part of the brain. I don’t know which part because I don’t fucking love science enough.
TANGENT ABOUT FORMATTING, GRAMMAR, AND STYLE
(and an excuse to do an indented paragraph because I think it looks nifty)
I don’t understand people who don’t at least attempt to use proper grammar. Well formatted, grammatically correct writing is stronger writing. By taking three seconds to do things the right way, you’re showing your reader that the words are important enough to you to merit that attention. I know a few talented playwrights who send out scripts littered with typos, and it feels disrespectful to the actors: “I want you to memorize all these words verbatim, but I’m not going to take the time to proof-read them.” (I will never write a blog post about your/you’re, there/their/they’re, to/too, it’s/its, because there’s nothing new to be said, but you can probably surmise my feelings towards such egregious faux pas.) (Also, watch as this blog post turns out to be littered with errata, and I end up eating a healthy serving of crow.)
I’m pretty sure I learned how to curse from Eddie Izzard. My friend Alex introduced me to “Dress to Kill” in middle school, and I quickly became obsessed with Eddie’s entire oeuvre. When Eddie Izzard says fuck, it carries no more weight than any other filler word. A typical Eddie Izzard routine goes something like this: “smart thing smart thing smart thing irreverent thing fucking smart thing absurd thing punchline.” That’s primarily how I use profanity as well. It’s like throwing an egg into a Betty Crocker cake mix. It’s technically an unnecessary extra ingredient, but it makes you feel like you’re cooking, so you mix it in there anyway.
I should be happy that the internet is doing it’s darndest to up the ubiquity of the word fuck. I think the idea of “bad words” is one of the more idiotic social conventions humanity has ever inflicted upon itself. Why is it bad to say fuck? Words are just air molecules being jostled around in a specific way. Why is fuck a bad word, but cuff isn’t? It’s the same consonants and vowel, just reversed. Shoot v. Shit? Just a vowel’s difference. And is crap technically even a bad word anymore? Growing up, it was decidedly taboo in my household – I remember the first time I heard it said on “Ren and Stimpy,” and it blew my little mind that Nickelodeon got away with a bad word. On TV!
Fun fact I learned from a cursory glance at a Time Magazine article summarizing a book I didn’t read:
4. The ancient Romans laid the groundwork for modern day f-bombs.
There are two main kinds of swear words, says Mohr: oaths—like taking the Lord’s name in vain—and obscene words, like sexual and racial slurs. The Romans gave us a model for the obscene words, she says, because their swearing was similarly based on sexual taboos, though with a different spin. “The Romans didn’t divide people up [by being heterosexual and homosexual],” she says. “They divided people into active and passive. So what was important was to be the active partner.” Hence, sexual slurs were more along the lines words like pathicus, a rather graphic term which basically means receiver.
I love this. Next time you’re in WeHo and someone disparagingly calls you a bottom, consider yourself part of a proud and ancient tradition of slut-shaming.
TANGENT ABOUT EPITHETS (AND ALSO MY THOUGHTS ON FAGGOTRY)
I grant that epithets can be legitimately offensive and are wildly different from profanity because they carry hundreds of years of painful history with them. Faggots are so named because homosexuals were considered so worthless, their bodies were disposed of by being tossed onto flaming bundles of wood. It’s hard to defend the word kike when there are people still alive on this planet who were thrown into fucking concentration camps for their beliefs. (Wikipedia offers an interesting theory on the etymology and derivation of kike, which I never stopped to consider until this day. I fucking love etymology.)
So I get it, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. I’m ambivalent about kike, but I love the word faggot. This is a minor source of contention between me and some of my gay friends. I want the word to be re-appropriated because it’s so much fun to say – there’s an f sound, a hard g, and even a t at the end… what a delightful word to pronounce! – but I will also concede that I came of age as a gay teenager in West Hollywood, where gay slurs are very rarely slung without a soupçon of self-awareness. Had I grown up in a more conservative (and why is it whenever assholes are being especially assholic they always couch it under the name conservatism?) environment, and had I been forced to truly struggle with my identity, the word faggot would probably carry a lot more weight for me. Nonetheless, sticks and stones and all that. The one time in highschool someone called me a faggot in earnest, I merely countered with “yeah, and?” Then I ran because sticks and stones and all that.
There is one more insufferably insipid linguistic trend that drives me f*cking bonkers, and I call it Effete Censorship.
Who the f*ck do you think you’re fooling?
An anecdote. Years ago in Hebrew School, I had a conversation with my rabbi about chametz foods (these are foods that are not considered kosher for passover.) I mentioned that as a reformed Jew, I didn’t really believe that God (sorry, G-d) was keeping track of every little thing I ate (even back then I was pretty sure I didn’t believe in G-d), and that the importance of keeping kosher for passover was largely symbolic, a way to remember the suffering of our people and to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy today. Why then, I wondered (in my best Shalom Alechem-character voice), do we make matzo-meal cookies, cakes, and pizza crusts? Yes, technically the food is kosher, but doesn’t eating it defeat the purpose of our yeasty abstinence?
Replacing vowels in curse words with asterisks is a the equivalent of a matzo-meal cookie. It’s telling your little brother you’re sorry for hitting him in the face with a fly swatter but only because mom made you. It’s the California Roll at a 4-way stop sign.
All I’m saying is go big or go home. If something on Facebook moves you enough to declare “HOLY SHIT!” (and Upworthy will do that to you, folks) then declare “HOLY SHIT!” Don’t compromise your message! And conversely, if you’re worried that people are going to judge you for using profanity, then don’t use profanity! Open a f*cking dictionary, sh*thead, and learn some new words to express your amazement. Try, for example: “I’m flabbergasted!” or “This blows my mind!” or, I dunno: “Wow!”
I don’t have a coda for this post (if we’re being honest, you shouldn’t ever expect a clean ending from me in one of these things; endings aren’t my forte, which, by the way, is pronounced as one syllable, like FORT, because it’s French and means strength. If you pronounce it FORT-AY, you’re saying the Italian word for loud. Maybe I’ll expound upon similar vexations in another post…), so instead I’m going throw a little introductory paragraph down here:
Hi, my name is Brandon Baruch, and this is my first post on Been and Going. I’m gay and was raised Jewish (neither defines me, but my writing is more offensive if you don’t know that.) My goal for this column is a mixture of rant and anecdote, and also I want to coin the portmanteau “rantecdote” and then make that a thing. A lot of my writing will be about words and language unless I find something else that interests and/or irks me.