George Carlin had a routine about the seven words you’re not allowed to say on television. The other night I confessed to some people having noticed I’m much more likely to use that language in public than any of my friends. I became conscious of this tendency a few years ago when I was at lunch with two coworkers, enthusiastically holding forth on I can’t remember what, and realized they looked a bit thunderstruck. Replaying in memory the last thing that came out of my mouth I understood why. If we’d been on the air, a couple of items would have been bleeped.
Where did I pick up that habit? Although I grew up in the Sixties contemporary with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the comedy of Lenny Bruce, neither was an influence – I read about the controversies in the paper, but I was too young to be exposed to any of their verbiage directly. No, I’m pretty sure I learned those lyrics from other students in gym classes during junior and senior high school. We seemed to believe that sprinkling our sentences with sexual and scatological innuendo proved we were rebellious, powerful and authentic.
I am musing about this today because I’ve been seeing the F-word a lot recently. Of course, that’s because I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about SFWA controversies.
It’s not just my imagination. Taking the list on Jim Hines’ blog as my test population, I found the 18 out of 74 writers, roughly one-quarter, used the F-word at least once — Seanan McGuire, S. L. Huang, Foz Meadows, Heidi Cullinan, Betsy Dornbusch, Natalie L., Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kameron Hurley, Samantha Henderson, Rachel Acks, Ann Aguirre, Tracy Cembor, Amy McLane, Matt Yaeger, Karina Cooper, Lauren Roy, Alan Baxter, Thomas Pluck.
(The number would be even higher if I counted instances where a blogger quoted another author’s use of the word.)
I thought it was just me.
I’m curious how they made that choice. It isn’t that they grew up in the Sixties, that’s for sure.