When I was a teenager I swore a blue streak. There were one or two words that I considered taboo, well, one anyway, but other than that not much was off limits. I might have made an effort to curtail the swearing in front of my parents but I couldn’t have been 100% successful because I remember my mother telling me, with a long suffering sigh, that the problem with swearing wasn’t intrinsic to the words themselves. The problem was that when I swore I wasn’t using my brain to come up with a more effective way to express myself. I respected that argument and am ready to use it myself if and when it becomes necessary with my own daughter.
Despite the logic to my mother’s assertion, there were times at work when no other words would do, which brings me to the F-bomb. First let me say that I was very much a grown-up when I first heard the term ‘F-bomb’. I’m fairly certain that I was in my late thirties, perhaps even early forties, before I was introduced to it. That may be because in my generation we didn’t censor ourselves so there was no need for euphemisms. It seems, however, that the crew coming up behind us was a more genteel lot.
Some years ago I became aware that often when I used the F word, people would laugh in that slightly shocked way, indicating that while they would never use that language, coming from me it was entertaining. Then a strange thing happened. I started hearing the word ‘freaking’ all over the place, usually without its final ‘g.’ The same people who squirmed when I said the F word (or as they would say, “dropped the F-bomb”) not only didn’t seem to mind the word freakin’, but used it themselves!
I ask you now, what’s the freakin’ difference between the F-bomb and the word freakin’? If we all know what’s really meant, why is my use of the F word shocking (and apparently occasionally, as someone once reported me to HR, upsetting) but the word freaking itself is not a problem? Are the people who say freaking use their brains to come up with a more effective way to express themselves than I am?
I don’t know the answer to that. I’m going to ask my mother.