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That Word

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Students Allowed To Say “Fuck,” But Sparingly


By James Donahue

September 2005


A secondary school in Wellingborough, UK, has launched an interesting new policy for students this fall. The children may use that popular “fuck” word in class as long as they don’t overdo it.


While this may raise a few eyebrows of the moralistic Christian-oriented souls in America, the idea has apparently been accepted by the parents of the students in Wellingborough without much comment.


Alan Large, the headmaster at the 1,130 student school, said he has received no complaints about the policy. “The reality is that the f-word is part of these young adults’ everyday language,” he said.


“As a temporary policy we are giving them a bit of leeway, but want them to think about the way they talk and how they might do better.”


He said the school will limit the number of times the word is used to only five in each class period. After this, some form of discipline will be employed. Students that never use the word will be rewarded.


As a writer and a constant practitioner of words of the English language, I have been fascinated by the word fuck. It is among the oldest of the English words, dating back to early English literature. There is reference to the word in one of Shakespeare’s works written in Elizabethan England during the 17th Century.


The word fuck is thought to have had Anglo-Saxon roots and once was a commoner’s word that simply meant “to strike” or “to penetrate.”


Then there is the story that the word is an old acronym once tacked over the doors of government-approved brothels in early England that meant “fornication under consent of the king.”


Another old story said the word is an acronym stamped on the foreheads of unwed couples caught in the act of fornication. They were locked in stocks in the public square and the letters FUCK stamped on their foreheads. The letters then meant “for unlawful carnal knowledge.”


These are but stories. We have no way of determining their validity.


Comedian George Carlin puts the word into perspective. He says that when we use the words “fuck you” as an insult, we seem to have it all wrong. He suggests that, instead, we say “unfuck you.” Carlin says this is a more appropriate curse because it indicates that we want this person never to enjoy the pleasure of sex again.”


And there we come to the root of the problem with this word. To say fuck means to comment about the act of sex between a man and a woman. This is what we call this act. And in our Christian-oriented society, sex is something we hide under the blankets, or beyond bedroom doors and never talk about.


In fact, free sex between unmarried couples is still considered a criminal act in many states. The church marks it as a grave sin. And if we have sex using a contraceptive, or take any measures to prevent a pregnancy, it means that we are fucking for the pure pleasure of it and this is probably the most evil act a man and woman can do.


Indeed, couples caught doing something as dreadful as having natural joyful sex should be put in stocks in the town square with the letters FUCK branded on their foreheads. At least that is what the moralists think.


It is interesting to note that the word “fuck” has become one of the most commonly used and remains the strongest of provocative expletives in the spoken English language, where ever the English language is used.


This is not only true in the UK, it is true all over the United States. Where ever you have a group of children playing, or construction workers gathered, or people gathered for a social event, you will hear the word used frequently.


Yet it was only in recent years that this word was officially added to our dictionaries.


The reason the word still contains the power it has, I believe, is because it is still considered profane. The church continues to condemn both the word and the act. Thus we are compelled to use it frequently out of pure defiance of the rule.


I believe the people running that school in Wellingborough have hit on something profound. If you make this word legal, and allow the children to use it even in the classroom, it will begin to lose its punch.


If we all did this, and changed our stogy attitudes about sex in general, we would not only have healthier thoughts, but it might clean up our dialect.


After all, where is the thrill in using a word that no longer has any shock value?

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