Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The "F" Word

Going back again into the archives just for the anniversary week, this was published one year ago on July 23 2011.

When I was a cub scout, every Wednesday saw me incarcerated in St Andrew's Church Hall in Watford along with my fellow green-jersey-clad, neckerchiefed, and woggled eight-year olds. No doubt we were under the care of some repressed pedophile, who taught us to tie knots, light fires and get splinters in our knees.

One day while waiting for the hall to open so we could take our oaths, we were entertained by one of the "common" boys of the neighbourhood. Now, we may have been encouraged to look down on these larrikins, but they always seemed to have a supply of lurid information of which we were totally ignorant.

This particular example of the lower orders was throwing around the "F" word with great effect. I immediately recognized that this would be an important addition to my developing lexicon.  I practised quietly in my head to ensure that I had the right inflection, and then stowed it away to be brought out later.

It was unfortunate that I chose the sanctity of tea time the next afternoon to launch my verbal missile. I think I used it in its adjectival form, along with a request to pass the jam. To say it did not receive quite the enthusiasm I expected from my mother would be huge understatement. She froze. After an eternity of silence, she asked me who had taught me to speak like that. In panic, I selected the scoutmaster as being my informant, which only magnified my indiscretion.

It proved to be too big a burden for my mother to carry alone, and my father was eventually brought into the fray. The subsequent lecture was of the type that all childhoods (if they have any value, that is) contain. And can still provoke fearful emotions.

Later on I realized that the word should not be used indiscriminately or it cheapens the language. For instance, I once heard out of the mouth of a recently discharged member of Her Majesty's Armed forces about a piece of equipment that had broken: "F*** it, the F***ing, F***er's F***ed!" Ah, the eloquence of it!

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