Alexander Film Works

But What Does It Mean?

In It Bugs Me, Just Because... on June 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm


There’s a few things that have been bugging me lately.  Mostly, the misunderstanding that words caused on a transit bus in Oakland, California, is shocking.

I’m sure you’ve seen the video by now… the black male taking offense at what a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran said, about having his “boy” spit-shine his shoes for his upcoming trip to a funeral, and talking about his “brother”.

As I understand it, the black male took the use of “boy” as a racially offensive derogatory term.  (It was a custom, back in the day, for white southerners to refer to males of color as “boy”, to denigrate and diminish their status.)  It’s not necessarily so, anymore; the vet could have been referring to his son, his nephew, or a young male who works for or with him.  The dictionary definition of “boy” is merely that of a non-mature male.

Spit-shining shoes?  Anyone who has been exposed to the military knows that spit-shining is the preferred method of imparting a shine on shoes before inspection.  It’s a traditional way of doing it.  I believe that the black male in question had never been exposed to this terminology, and took it badly as well.

And then, the black male took issue with the vet’s use of the term “brother”; the black male seemed to think the word was exclusive to those of African-American descent.  The dictionary says it refers to a male sibling of the same parentage; it’s also been used for members of fraternal groups, or members of a religious order who are not priests.  The wider definition is to refer to those who have shared experiences, such as being in the same group in a combat situation, or being bound together by these common links.

Now… all this is preface, so to speak, to the main word that has been bugging me.  And a bit of warning:  If commonly used expletives give you a problem, it would be best for you to stop here.





The issue is the many and various syntactical uses of the word “fuck”.  The short Anglo-Saxon monosyllable, meaning having sexual intercourse, has been diluted so much by overuse that any shock value it may have had is almost certainly gone by now.  Younger generations than mine, exposed from near-infancy to profane, violent, and expletive-filled music and video, seem to use that particular word in every method conceivable in speech.

They use it as a noun – “You lazy fuck.”  They use it as a verb – “Go fuck yourself.”  They use it as an adjective, an adverb, an intensifier to other adjectives or adverbs.  They use it as an interjection – “Fuck!”  They even use it as a gerund (a form of the present participle of a verb used as a noun) – “Fucking is the best fucking thing fucking ever!”  (The first one is the gerund, by the way.)

In the lexicon of the younger generation, it seems, this one word replaces ever so many others, and that’s a shame.  We have so many words in the English language, and so few get used… Calling somebody a “fuckhead”, while descriptive, isn’t as lyrical as calling someone a “pusillanimous peckerneck piss-ant”.  (Yes, I’m fond of alliteration.)

I just miss it when people spoke a little more creatively, I suppose.  Putting that extra effort into it meant you really cared enough to send the very worst.

  1. My husband said, “That’s the first time you’ve laughed all day” (It’s really been a long day, littered with the F word, from me). 🙂 Oh thank you so much. I was just saying to someone else that I have a mouth like a sailor (and quite frequently F#(&*@&$*& is my word of choice), but it never seems to sneak into my writing. In fact, I have trouble writing cuss words, because as you so eloquently pointed out, there are so many other appealing options that I can think of, but not in the heat of the moment, it seems. This is hilarious! Great post. My husband thanks you for making the point. HE never cusses. 🙂

    • I am pleased and honored at the response I’ve gotten so far… Having worked for the Post Awful (or Post Offal, if you prefer) for a number of years, that particular word had become a seemingly integral part of my vocabulary. I’ve been working hard to demobilize that word, and send it back into the OED.
      I try to live up to a button I made… “I have a 75,000 word vocabulary, and I’m NOT AFRAID TO USE IT!”
      Sometimes it even works.
      Thanks ever so.

  2. Reblogged this on AllThingsBoys Blog and commented:
    This actually made me laugh out loud.

  3. Very good, and I agree with the writer

  4. It’s refreshing to see that somebody out there still knows what a gerund is.

  5. Hilarious. Never would have thought of “pusillanimous peckerneck piss-ant”! Envying you your vocabulary 🙂

  6. The F word peppers my husband speech to the point that I don’t think he hears it anymore. It is like saying the word “the.”

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