Quadriliterality

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 11.00.07The philosophy of fuck

Dalrymple writes:

My brother once worked on a roadbuilding site. An Irish foreman, looking at a machine that had just broken down, said, ‘Ah, the focking focker’s focking focked’, which for some reason that I cannot fully explain was not vulgar or offensive at all, but funny and expressive.

Anthony Burgess has the same story, with an army mechanic taking the place of the roadbuilding foreman:

I once heard an army motor mechanic complain of his recalcitrant engine by crying ‘Fuck it, the fucking fucker’s fucking fucked.’ There you have the word used as five distinct parts of speech.

Why the most pleasurable activity known to mankind, and the organs by which it is procured, should be debased through the use of the basic, or quadriliteral, terms as expressions of opprobrium has never been adequately explained.

Fucking, it is true, can be used as a neutral intensifier in fucking good and fucking stupid, but to be fucked or participate in a state of fuckup or a snafu (‘situation normal: all fucked up’) is to be in a state of distress.Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 13.29.26 To be called a prick (though never a penis), a cunt or a twat is not pleasant. There is perhaps a fundamental puritanism in such usages, a denial of the holiness of sexual pleasure, which, of course, explains the taboo.

Words like fuck, cunt, shit, piss are not slang; they are ancient words long buried by a social decorum not so mindlessly repressive as our permissive age seems to think. Some seem to believe that there was once a sort of golden age in which no figleaf was imposed on language, but squeamishness about these four words, and others with sexual or excretory referents, goes back a long way. Shakespeare undoubtedly knew fuck and probably used it in everyday speech, but the word is not to be found in his plays or poems. Samuel Johnson once said that the two most important activities in life were ‘fucking and drinking’, but never in print. To call fuck and cunt good old Anglo-Saxon words which later propriety has expunged from the language is to ignore the total lack of documentary evidence.

Fuckers

Fuckers

— from the chapter ‘Low-life language’ in A Mouthful of Air (1992)

Dalrymple establishes — for the benefit of a prisoner-patient — his knowledge of the usage of the word fuck, its cognates and declensions, with the following example:

Here are some fucking pills. Now fuck off and take two of the fuckers every four fucking hours. And if they don’t fucking work, come the fuck back and I’ll give you some other fuckers.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 13.23.05Dalrymple observes that

if you prohibited the use of the word fuck you would reduce half of British youth to silence, an eventuality that would increase marginally the average cultural level of the world’s population.

Fuck, says Dalrymple, is

a philosophy, or at least an attitude to life.

Advertisements
Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: