The F Word Paperback – 20 Sep 1999
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The F Word by Jesse Sheidlower provides the most thoroughgoing and engaging account imaginable of the word still considered to be the most vulgar and offensive word in the English language.
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I used to feel pretty hip, but now that my teen years are far behind me, I no longer know everything - and I am really feeling like an old codger when I hear a new phrase on TV or in a movie I've never heard before.
If someone has remolded the "F-word" into another word or phrase, it's in this little dictionary. Almost an encyclopedia of the F-word. Each entry gives an approximate date of usage (some usages are timeless, and used for over a hundred years, some are over a hundred years old and just aren't used at all. If the phrase or word first showed up in a book or movie, that reference is also given. Examples are cited and the origins of how each word evolved (as appropriate) are also noted.
As needed, a listing will note if it is a colloquialism for an age group, racial group, sexual lifestyle group, etc.
I had no idea what Stevie Wonder's song "Bad Mamma Jamma" meant until reading the definition in this text!
The illustrations are clever, and surprisingly not vulgar, considering what book they are in. This is far more than just a snicker-fest - although you can sit down and read it and giggle here & there, it is truly a reference book for American slang at its worst.
All sorts of phrases containing 'the magic word' are included and referenced, as well as some words of equivalent meaning, some euphemisms for it ('freak', for example), and some great abbreviations (eg 'BUFF').
A great range of sources are used, from James Joyce to Madonna to Usenet erotica newsgroup posts. All serve to illustrate the point that the 'F-word' is one of the more versatile words in our language, and can fit into virtually any situation.
All in all, it's a fascinating and funny read for anyone interested in the English language, and I'm sure it says something that the history of a word such as this is so much more easily documented than probably any other word.
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