As a poet I like to be able to use all the words available. There are one or two words in the English language that are still deemed as unacceptable in polite conversation. Why is one word fine and another not…who decided that? At what point in history did somebody make the decision that a word that rhymes with duck is anathema?
I always think it is amusing that papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express, that spit invective as a matter of course, protect their readers from seeing this word; whereas in The Guardian, if the word is quoted it is written in full (although they do have the annoying propensity to spell it with two ‘o’s when it is spoken by a northern voice). What has this word (in the vast lexicon of the English language) done to deserve such treatment? It’s this juxtaposition about what is after all just a four-letter word that this poem is about.

 

F.F.S. IT’S JUST A WORD!

There is a word you may not have heard of
One from which you are being protected.
Anyone found to be uttering it
Needs their mouth washed out and disinfected.

Let’s give thanks to those upstanding journos
Who feel the need to protect the masses;
Making strategic use of asterisks
Placed like doilies and antimacassars.

These guardians of the public’s morals,
Themselves not shy when it comes to swearing;
Yet still feel the need to cover YOUR eyes
When giving their invective an airing.

So, it’s F – asterisk – asterisk – K.
If you’re innocent and find yourself stuck;
The asterisks represent U and C
And when completed the word rhymes with duck.

Yes I’m playing devil’s advocate here;
I’m well aware that you all know the word,
But why is it that it cannot be seen
And imperative it shouldn’t be heard?

And why is the moral outrage provoked?
It’s just a word! No, I want you to see!
Then I truncate it to the letter ‘F’
To be polite in polite company.

When Penguin were charged with obscenity
Over their Lady Chatterley’s Lover,
Were naughty words the cause for concern or
The ideas that lay ‘twixt the covers?

The judge said the book, if left unguarded,
Might cause your wife or servants to be shocked.
A coupling between lady and gard’ner…
See how I avoided saying – They ——!

And maybe that’s was the truth of it then,
Not that the word receives approbation.
It’s was more about stopping the servants
Getting ideas above their station.

So you want to know where the word comes from.
East of ‘this other Eden’ they reckon.
A word that means ‘to strike repeatedly’;
Bit like ‘banging’…the German word ‘ficken’.

It provides us with numerous functions
As an intensifier, it excels!
A jack of all words, not mastered by some
With a mind to find its usage repels.

As transitive or intransitive verb
Or explosive as an interjection.
It can be adjective, adverb and noun;
With the power to change a complexion!

It’s the whiff of taboo that remains when
The wind blows away all of your cautions.
Without doubt it makes a joke more funny
And is key in unlocking emotions.

Don’t you think it is somewhat ironic
That the word ‘bugger’ is seen to be tame.
When, you think, give or take an inch or two
The physical action is just the same.

Perhaps that’s the public school influence?
Where it’s deemed to be just boyish pranking.
(Don’t try to guess what the next rhyme will be
But it’s much further down in the ranking)

Still number two in the naughty word chart;
Never mind the bollocks and talking balls.
I can screw, shag, roger and fornicate;
These words are fine yet the other appals

It’s just a word; a one-syllable word.
Stop admiring the Emperor’s new clothes!
It’s nothing special…of no consequence…
As the French would say…c’est un quelque-chose.

If it offends you then ask yourself why.
Surely you see the whole concept’s absurd.
If we take away its power to shock
Then we’re just left with a four-lettered word.

Break down these linguistic inhibitions.
We’re just guilty of overplaying it.
If we stop making such a fuss each time
Perhaps people would just stop saying it.

But still my question hasn’t been answered…
Who made that executive decision;
Determined the word was beneath contempt
And removed from our hearing and vision?

The word was first recorded in English
As the doodling of a monastic clerk.
An idling young kid in a hoodie whose
Line manager had pissed him off at work.

Perhaps he was party to evidence
That his Abbot was predatorial.
So scrawled this graffito onto the page
To shame him for time immemorial.

Was there an excommunication in
The year of our Lord 1528?
When this one word became anathema
First to the Abbot, the Church, then the State.

Beneath all the calligraphic scripture,
The despair of a creature of habit,
Whose frustration spills out from the margins
When he articulates ‘fuckin Abbot’.

©gray lightfoot