Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Who let the dog out?

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.

Conventional wisdom
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.


  1. Nice post Rashmi :)
    Well, times changing - one has also seen variants of the word coming up.
    You should've noticed the sms lingo creeping into the normal lives - where the use of vowels is kinda becoming obselete.. like in reebok - its rbk now - Same with the F word - its now 'Fck' n u cld easily call it a typo n ignore it.
    U think the rule imposed there in US needs a similar one in India - therez actually not much of a need coz students here have alternatives - bad ones so to say. I wonder how bad shoudl be defined.

  2. 'England' that should've been..
    Sorry for the error.

  3. I thought you were kidding with the England thing ....

    As for the lines to be drwan, I am with you.

    and DNA breaking the rule is not so "cool" anyways

  4. using and noticing the F word in print is quite common and i dont think any one minds when the word is mentioned as f***.. so the point any way gets across..
    also the words quite a common use in our daily lingo, hence no one really minds it..
    but using it on teachers is taking it a bit far..!! and if so, then why only five times.. what exactly is the message the school admin is trying to get across..??

    god bless the world..!!

  5. the f word, i think its more used than 'the' these days. And i am one of the most frequent users, rite from college to home, and while talkin to pals, u name it

    i even did it in a quiz and got -5 for sayin F u to the QM

    Is it parliamentary? most def no, should it b allowed in schools? most def not, i wont like my kids to say F u to me. Shoud mags publish it? u f*** ing crazy or what

  6. You might find this intersting :

  7. I read recently that the established brand FCUK is also thinking of changing it brand name / brand strategy as the name has not viewed favourably in the Western.

    Some of fragrances they launched recently were titled "FCUK Him" and "FCUK Her"

  8. I don't think using the word in its full glory is something to be proud of. Its definitely not even a word a person would want to explain to children, so why make it so ubiqutious.

    Call me old fashioned if you have to, but we don't need to get ultra-modern and lose the script.

  9. Hi Rashmi,

    This is one topic tat really requires attention because of the attention tat it is getting.
    The first thing I want to know is why the hell is it being glorified ??????
    Its a politically restricted word....
    but why..when evry person here is using it 100 times in a day.
    The fact that even young school children use it just proves wat a popular word it is...n the only reason I can think of is becoz its a restricted word...
    Why would parents want to explain the word to their childern..Just tell them its a abusive word jus like 1000 other abusive words....
    Why does the word come with **** and make it stand out in any article or any column? The fact that it is singled out itself gives it so much of importance,,,
    Is it that the word not used directly affect its use..
    It is used exponentially because of teh special treatment it recieves.
    People who want to use it wil use it and people who dont want to use it will anyways not use it,..
    Its a personal decision.
    So please Let be...

  10. Are we just trying to sell or we're trying to make a difference here?

    That journalistic convention is an extremely good idea and every bit of morality helps (or whatever is left of it, even in language). You could say 'oh everybody knows it, so what the hell'.

    Don't do it (I mean don't use the entire word) just because the whole world is doing it. There may be very young kids (some rural, who knows) who may not be aware. Don't make them look up the internet or dictionary. Probably a little bit of innocence saved.

    In fact, be the first to tell your readers why you won't use certain words or phrases in full, tell them your stand on such things. You might gain much more respect not just from your young readers but also from their parents (who'll probably be paying for it).

  11. Hi rashmi..
    my first visit to your blog and wat a topic to discuss.!!
    to me it doesnt matter if d F word is used with or without *s.. but i guess it does make sense to use it with *s..atleast so that somebody cant point fingers at ya..
    i ve got this forward on d f word once.. will post it on my blog.. u can always make it a part of JAM if ya want..
    blog rolling ya.. hope to c ya around!!

  12. FCUK is coming to India soon. Then everyone will be using the F word because there will be huge billboards almost saying it..


  14. It's just a word and a reflection of how young people talk. Shouldn't a young magazine be a reflection of its readers?
    I think adding the *** is rather condescending to the audience. Besides the readers know what the word is even if its what's the point? Just my two cents.

  15. the last line was too good :-) .

  16. People are often under the impression that using such words makes them hip! ofcourse, it's very common now-a-days but using it conscientiously to grab attention is somewhat awkward!
    probably, the flip side of globalisation all this is...

  17. Nice post.

    My take on it is that once the Supreme court rules that ToI, HT and others as "Adult" newspapers, they can start using the F-word as much as they like. The "A" certificate would be a license to use them.

  18. seriously,it doesnt even register as a "forbidden" word

  19. Fuck is so cliched, that it's becoming lame to use it. :/ I avoid it, not because it's a 'bad' word, but it's a dumb word. The more the people say, the more it gets boring and meaningless.

    Oh,lookie! there's a word verification thingy, this should put an end to splogging.

  20. morality, decency, well these are issues that i do not wade into. my takes on these things are very different from whats considered "normal".

    anyways one reason i think fuck should not be used is because it doesnt have any meaning or rather is too ambigious. its a space filler, coveys nothing. If you want to use the actual meaning well sure go ahead but otherwise it just takes up print space.

  21. let's look at it this way Rashmi: you'd break the Rule and use it in JAM if you were pulling a fast one or making fun of a person, like we know JAM to be. Rule to the exception? I would totally argue this one out if I were in the JAM office, and you'd totally send me packing without any chai-pani, which you don't give anyways. Kidding! But hey, the word is still developing and will have some meaning some day.

    Point is: this word is going nowhere so at some point, you'll just need to figure a way out to use it in stories.

  22. There is an extremely funny piece by Monty Python called the Usage of the word Fuck. It's hilarious. If you can get hold of it watch it. If you use Morpheus or something it shouldnt be a problem.

  23. I guess words evolve over time and that makes them more regular. We never reallly see people using the literal translation for 'Fuck' anywhere. It has evolved from its literal meaning to sth like 'botched'. Hence I guess usage in informal and casual sentences is fine.

  24. this reminds me of a hilarious Osho tape i have in which he has 'praised' the word for its apparent diversity of use and ability to express so many emotions...

  25. Too much effing might pose a jeopardy to English. Who knows ! We might lose everything but still manage to (only) say fucking good ice creams, fucking good biscuits for sweet ice creams, salty biscuits and fucking bad grapes for sour grapes. Imagine the substitution power it could arrogate in years to come.

  26. Abhishek's mention of the Osho talk is indeed hilarious. Let me know if anyone wants that piece. I would be happy to e-mail it across. It talks about the dynamisim of the "f" word. There is no better word in the English language which can be better used in different ways and emotions.

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  31. It's weird when they censor the F word on the radio but leave the F sound. What's the point, your mind fills in the blank!


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