It's a word that's used to express anger, shock, awe, disgust - even joy. It's a word that's extremely commonly used in the everyday language of young people but one rarely appears in the mainstream media.
Yes, even I hesitate to use the F word - both in polite company and in my writing.
But as the publisher of a youth magazine it's a question we have had to grapple with. When rock bands give us interviews, for example, they often use the F word. And we censor the same by printing f***.
That has been the established convention. But does it make sense anymore? The F word is being used as a verb, a noun, an adjective, or merely for effect and attitude. It's lost its original meaning or edge.
Besides, the word commonly appears on the internet. Not cloaked under *** but in its full glory.
There was this one time JAM published the F word minus the ****. It was a sub-editing mistake.
Well, the only person who noticed was a fellow journalist - he didn't think it was a good idea at all. Not a single reader wrote it to say he/ she found it offensive.
Yet, after a heated debate, we decided to stick to journalistic convention. It felt a little wannabe to do otherwise.
But it looks like times may be changing... A recent issue of DNA - a completely mainstream paper with family readership - has taken the liberty of breaking the Rule.
In an interview with film maker Tarsem Singh published in the paper's Brand-Equity type supplement 'Ad Zip' last week, the F word is used in full - not once but twice. (Sorry, no web link - DNA has no online version yet).
Was this a policy decision, or a sub-editing mistake? Would be interesting to know! And was I the only one to notice or have there been a ton of responses - negative and positive - from readers?
My view is that certain lines have to be drawn and maintained. If newspapers started publishing news in sms format bcause that is the lingo of the day - well, that would be a rather sad day!
Which is why I can't really digest this strange bit of news: A high school in England is allowing the f-word to be used in each class, but only five times per class...
Is it an experiment in reverse psychology (allow them say it - then they won't feel like it?). Or one confused, desperate-to-be-hip school! What's next? Teachers lobbying to use the F word 5 times in every lecture, perhaps.
The world is well and truly fucked.