The Indomitable Power of the Word “Fuck”

By Ian Odell | Staff Writer

5 mins read
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I firmly believe that “fuck” is the greatest word in the history of the English language. “Fuck,” simply put, fucking rocks. Not a single word matches its versatility, expressiveness and conversational zeal. No other word can be used to so effortlessly communicate joy, disgust, anger or mild disappointment. Without “fuck,” the English language would be as bland and flavorless as a bowl of Weetabix, the second worst British invention after colonialism. Allow me to explain the many wonders and intricacies of the word “fuck.” 

To begin, where exactly did the word “fuck” come from? As it turns out, the origins of “fuck” can be quite difficult to trace. Generally speaking, taboo colloquial words such as “fuck” were rarely written down in dictionaries or recorded in serious publications up until relatively recently, so our written record of the word is quite limited. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word likely originated from various Germanic words that had something to do with striking someone, or possibly the Swedish word “focka,” meaning “to have sex with.” We do know, however, that the word likely acquired its fully modern meaning by the mid-1800s. 

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One of “fuck”’s primary functions is that of an intensifier—not always taking on a meaning of its own, but enhancing the power of another word. This is often the case when it is used in expletive infixation. In school, we are often taught about the existence of suffixes and prefixes—two terms referring to words placed before or after the roots of words to change the meaning of the word. The “less” in “harmless” would be an example of a suffix, and the “un” in “unpopular” would be an example of a prefix. However, a third grammatical term exists for words placed in the middle of other words to alter their meaning—infixes, which are common in other languages but quite rare in English. The word “fucking” in “abso-fucking-lutely” would, in this case, constitute an infix, as it intensifies the meaning of the word “absolutely.” I think it is abso-fucking-lutely amazing how “fuck” can be used to create this rare and unusual grammatical form. 

“Fuck,” when not simply an expletive, is most often used in its verb form. Obviously, it can be used to refer to sexual intercourse, but its range extends far beyond that. “My boss keeps fucking me over with these assignments”—could any phrase possibly better communicate the feelings many have on the job? How about the increasingly common usage, especially among young people, of the term “fuck with” as a means of saying you enjoy or respect something? “I fuck with David Bowie,” for example, would not communicate your sexual relations with said star, but rather liking him as an artist. Additionally, the versatile abilities of “fuck” extend into the realm of compound words. What better insult exists to call a foolish blowhard than “fuckface,” or maybe even “fuckwad”? I can’t think of many more expressive words for a situation gone completely wrong than “fuckfest.”

Finally, let us look at the great range of emotions that can be conveyed with “fuck.” To communicate frustration and disappointment, one could say “Fuck this.” If you feel overjoyed, try using “Fuck Yeah!” Befuddled and confused? How about “This fucks with my head?” What phrase works better when someone needs to be left alone than “fuck off”? 

I do not recommend that people use “fuck” in all contexts—there are, obviously, places where its usage would not be appropriate. However, writing off its grammatical utility and playfulness would be a grave error. Many people are quick to write off swear words as filthy sentence-fillers rather than tools to be used in communication and expression. If this article leaves you with one takeaway, let it be this—don’t fucking underestimate fuck. 

Ian Odell is a first year majoring in international relations

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