Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fuck You!

You can say something is bullshit, which means it is as worthless as the feces of bull, but how did fucking become an adjective? Fucking, as we all know, began its life as a gerund, referring to the act of sexual intercourse. It then evolved into a modifier, as in the case of a woman on 23rd Street the other day who was overheard angrily saying, “You take the fucking car.” But how did the adjectival form of the noun come to take on the same connotation as the imperative of the verb, as in “fuck you”? Now, “fuck you” means you will get fucked, which is basically a nice idea, unless fuck in some way implies that in being fucked rather than doing the fucking you are getting the lesser end of the deal, as in Philip Larkin’s famous line, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.” For instance, people who feel they have been taken advantage of frequently refer to themselves as “being fucked in the ass.” But there are lots of people, male and female, who enjoy being buggered—at least an equal number (if not more) than those who enjoy doing the buggering. It all doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense, but there is no mystery to language. Idioms tell us something, and the message in “fucking,” “fuck you” and “fucked in the ass” is that there is something about a normally pleasant experience that is not pleasant. This negative association seems to derive from the folksy and now anachronistic notion that it is better to be the giver than the receiver, better to penetrate than be the one who is penetrated. But passivity and vulnerability, as we all must realize at some point, are highly successful ways of gaining knowledge.

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

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