New Dictionary: F*cking Means Really. Seriously. Dammit.

Work f_cking hardHey, younger people, are you really all okay with f*cking as a synonym for really? Seriously. Do we need a new dictionary?

I caught a great post on Medium the other day: Jon Westenberg’s Why Copying the Habits of Successful People Won’t Make You Successful.

Toward the end, he comes up with a brilliant highlight point (the illustration here):

In reality, there’s only one habit that you can emulate that will get your somewhere. Just one. Work f*cking hard.

Great point, and well written. Is his wording better than “work hard” or “work really hard?” Not to me. Do you like it better?

Yesterday I found the Facebook page for “I fucking love science.” Seriously. That’s the page name. Can’t you just love science? On the other hand, 23 million likes for that page. Sigh.

I guess it’s my problem. The old meaning sticks to the sides of my head when people use it this new way. But it’s ugly. Not different at all to how I’m stuck with knowing the original meaning and derivation of the verb “sucks,” which came from—ugh.

And, for that matter, the original meaning of the word sh*t, which conjures up the wrong thing, for me, when people go with the trendy “get sh*t done” or last decade’s “get your sh*t together.”

But this is humans and the way we work. Words change meaning. Isn’t that groovy?


  • Gerald Richards says:

    At school in the 1950s we had, in the library, at book of slang and in it was the word “fuck”. I first heard the word used in business in the 1970’s when I attended Board meetings as the Company/Corporate Secretary. The Chairman, in exasperation of the conversation from his fellow directors, exclaimed “Oh fuck me”. He and the others were far from inarticulate, a number having been to Eton and Harrow in England. And we would make sure we did not split our infinitives, end sentences with prepositions and would watch the syntax. One hears the word in business all the time here in Australia. Perhaps we’re not so judgemental.

    As for saying it in front of children, my grandchildren have heard it from me and their other grandparents. I believe there was an outcry when Rett Butler said ‘Quite frankly I don’t give a damn” in Gone with the wind. Profanities have been with us for many a year (Read your Shakespear) and through usage move into the main stream. Would you not attend a seminar if the speaker used the word “Damn” or “Jeepers, what are you doing” or “Crap” or Gadzooks”?

    It is the one magical word which, just by its sound, can describe pain, pleasure, love,
    and hate. In language, “fuck” falls into many grammatical categories.
    It can be used as a verb, noun…

    It can be an action verb (“John really gives a fuck”), a passive verb (“Mary really doesn’t give a fuck”), an adverb (“Mary is fucking interested in John”), or as a noun (“Mary
    is a terrific fuck”). It can also be used as an adjective (“Mary is fucking beautiful”) or an
    interjection (“Fuck! I’m late for my date with Mary”). It can even be used as a conjunction (“Mary is easy, fuck she’s also stupid”).

    There are very few words with the overall versatility of the word “fuck”. Aside from its sexual connotations, this incredible word can be used to many situations:

    1. Greetings “How the fuck are you?”
    2. Fraud “I got fucked by the car dealer.”
    3. Resignation “Oh, fuck it!”
    4. Trouble “I guess I’m fucked now.”
    5. Aggression “FUCK YOU!”
    6. Disgust “Fuck me.”
    7. Confusion “What the fuck…….?”
    8. Difficulty “I don’t understand this fucking business!”
    9. Despair “Fucked again…”
    10. Pleasure “I fucking couldn’t be happier.”
    11. Displeasure “What the fuck is going on here?”
    12. Lost “Where the fuck are we.”
    13. Disbelief “UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLE!”
    14. Retaliation “Up your fucking arse!”
    15. Denial “I didn’t fucking do it.”
    16. Perplexity “I know fuck all about it.”
    17. Apathy “Who really gives a fuck, anyhow?”
    18. Greetings “How the fuck are you?”
    19. Suspicion “Who the fuck are you?”
    20. Panic “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
    21. Directions “Fuck off.”
    22. Inquisitiveness “How the fuck did you do that?”

    It can be used in an anatomical description – “He’s a fucking arsehole.”
    It can be used to tell time – “It’s five fucking thirty.”
    It can be used in business – “How did I wind up with this fucking job?”
    It can be maternal – “Motherfucker.”
    It can be political – “Fuck Donald Trump!”

    It has also been used by many notable people throughout history:

    “What the fuck was that?” – Mayor of Hiroshima
    “Where did all these fucking Indians come from?” – General Custer
    “Where the fuck is all this water coming from?” – Captain of the Titanic
    “That’s not a real fucking gun.” – John Lennon
    “Who’s gonna fucking find out?” – Richard Nixon
    “Heads are going to fucking roll.” – Anne Boleyn
    “Let the fucking woman drive.” – Commander of Space Shuttle “Challenger”
    “What fucking map?” – Mark Thatcher
    “Any fucking idiot could understand that.” – Albert Einstein
    “How the fuck did you work that out?” – Pythagoras
    “You want what on the fucking ceiling?” – Michelangelo
    “Fuck a duck.” – Walt Disney
    “Why? Because it’s fucking there!” – Edmund Hilary
    “I don’t suppose it’s going to fucking rain?” – Joan of Arc
    “Scattered fucking showers my ass.” – Noah
    “I need this parade like I need a fucking hole in my head.” – John F. Kennedy

  • Mark Metzner says:

    Hi Tim,

    Unfortunately our society accepts profanity more and more in our “mainstream” lives. It is, to a great degree, an erosion of Standards. There is a time and place for profanity, however, the business world is not one of them. When I encounter a colleague or business associate that constantly swears, I have a hard time taking them seriously. I’m not a prude and can tear a blue streak with the best of them but during a business meeting or presentation, I can actually restrain myself – what a concept! When I hear someone resorting to using foul language continuously during a business conversation, I can’t help but view that person as inarticulate. With respect to Daria’s situation, I hope she was successful in vetoing the potential speaker – it would be a very poor reflection on the group / company / association sponsoring the event. All the best for the New Year.

  • Daria Steigman says:

    Hi Tim,

    I suggested nixing a potential speaker a couple of years ago b/c the person peppers her talks with F-bombs and the like. I said that I don’t find it hip and do think it distracts from the business point she might otherwise be trying to make. And I said it would doubtless be offensive to some portion of the room. (And lest anyone think my feelings are different for male speakers, they are not.)

    Using profane language doesn’t make your point any more valid. I get “WTF” in tweets — it’s convenience shorthand for expressing a sentiment of astonishment, aggravation, and exasperation all in one while saving room to actually say something before bumping up against a character limit. But in blog posts intended for thought leadership and professional conversations with peers, and especially with potential clients, why would you want to lead with that which might end up turning someone off? You don’t need to speak the King’s English (or French, Spanish, or Chinese), but it helps not to use words you don’t want your kids to repeat.

    PS: Happy New Year!

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Daria, and Happy New Year to you too. Thanks for this and especially that last point about the kids repeating, which hadn’t occurred to me. The people I know who occasionally add this kind of language to their writing, for public consumption, are still not ready to hear it from their kids.

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