The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 17, 2014

Little word carries way too much weight

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — It is a short word, just four letters, but it is perhaps the most talked-about, if not the most used, word in the English language.

It begins with an F and ends with a K, and I’ll let you fill in the other two letters if you’re of a mind to.

Everybody else does, it seems, including the mayor of Los Angeles.

Mayor Eric Garcetti was speaking to a crowd of 19,000 fans Monday night at a celebration of the Los Angeles Kings winning hockey’s Stanley Cup when he said, “There are two rules in politics. They say never ever be pictured with a drink in your hand. And never ever swear.

 “But this is a big bleeping day. Way to go, guys.”

Only he didn’t say bleeping, and he said it with a drink in his hand.

Garcetti, incidentally, is the son of Gil Garcetti, the LA County district attorney who prosecuted the O.J. Simpson double murder case.

It was 20 years ago Tuesday that the world was riveted to the live TV coverage of the slow-speed chase involving O.J. and that infamous white Bronco.

Now that was a big bleeping day.

But back to the LA mayor’s unfortunate use of the F-word. It is being compared to Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz using the epithet on live national television as he took to the microphone at Boston’s Fenway Park in 2013 before a game in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Ortiz spoke during a pregame ceremony honoring the first responders to the bombings.

“This is our bleeping city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong,” said Ortiz to the assembled throng.

Now that was a big bleeping day.

Whether Garcetti was trying to secure the hockey fan vote or to enhance his street cred, his decision to toss the F-bomb was unfortunate.

That word has become so prevalent these days it has certainly lost its shock value, and has virtually lost its meaning. It has almost become background noise. I mean, even the mayor of Los Angeles is using it, for crying out loud.

Everyone knows what it means, of course, and if you don’t, go ask your father.

The first recorded use of the word was in a Scottish poem in 1503, but its origins beyond that are somewhat murky. Some say it is an acronym of some sort, though the story that Friends University in Wichita used to be called Friends University of Central Kansas (thus forming an unfortunate and embarrassing acronym) is simply an urban legend.

Comedian Lenny Bruce used the word freely in his act back in the 1960s. For him, it became a free speech issue. “Take away the right to say, ‘Bleep,’ and you take away the right to say, ‘Bleep the government,’” he once said. The government was not amused. Bruce was arrested several times for obscenity and was convicted in 1964.

If Bruce were alive today, he would be considered almost tame by 2014 standard.

The 2013 Academy Award-nominated Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Wolf of Wall Street” holds the record among mainstream movies for the most uses of the F-bomb — 569, or roughly 3.16 bleeps per minute of the 21⁄2 flick, and that didn’t count the frustrated patrons waiting in long concession stand lines.

That puts “Wolf” behind only a documentary called, simply, “Bleep,” only they used the real word. The documentary on the F word contained 857 uses of the F-bomb, 9.21 per minute of the 93-minute film.

The F-bomb is used to express surprise, anger, joy, disdain, disgust, envy and nearly every other human emotion. It is used as both a noun and as a verb. It is used in theater, in literature, in movies and on cable television.

Enough. Let’s declare a moratorium on the F-bomb. Let’s find another word, one that doesn’t carry the same sexual connotation, but is just as offensive.

How about hate? It’s short, snappy and offensive as heck. Or racism, bigotry or intolerance. Some people substitute the word “fudge,” but fudge is far from offensive — in fact, it’s darn tasty. By the way, Monday was National Fudge Day, celebrating the yummy candy, not the tamer version of the F-word.

If we could indeed replace the F-bomb from our lexicon, or at least render it irrelevant, that would indeed be a big bleeping day.

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Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.