For unlawful carnal knowledge


What makes “fuck” such a “dirty word?”

Article: Kyle Leitch – Production Manager

[dropcaps round=”no”]T[/dropcaps]he holidays are a little unusual for me. While most people are decking the halls and fa-la-la-la-la-ing, I’m usually decking faces and burning down Christmas displays. In case you didn’t get it, I have a miserly air about me from Nov. 30 until at least Jan. 07.

People that know me well know that I have a “problem” with my language. Whereas some folks would refer to me as a “potty mouth,” I quite like to think that I work in profanity in much the same way that other artists work in paint or clay. Verbal castigation, often aided by so-called colourful language is my muse, and I’m proud of the way I’ve managed to turn “foul” language into a heightened art form.

Imagine my surprise, then, while plying my trade in public, I had someone lose their cool on me.

“You shouldn’t say that in public!” They fumed. “It’s embarrassing!”

“Why?” I responded. I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer to what I felt was a legitimate question. Why are some words bad, and some not? Why are we expected to mold our patterns of speech to be inoffensive to the fragile sensibilities of those around us? They are the public just as we sweary folks are. If you didn’t want to hear “offensive” language, then you shouldn’t engage with the public.

The word that got me into hot water has different etymologies depending on who you ask. The common consensus is that it started its life as an acronym in jolly ol’ London town. Consenting adults who were attempting to have a child got a plaque to display that let everyone know that they had royal ascent to be doing so. What was the plaque called? Fornication Under Consent of the King. Another possible origin is brought to us from the world of prostitution. When ladies of the night were hung for indecent behaviour, a plaque on the gallows read, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.”

So, there it is. Are we so squeamish that in a couple of hundred years, we decide that any word having to do with the physical act of sex is banned from the popular vernacular? Trust me, in a bastard tongue like English, where nearly every word has been co-opted, mangled, or outright stolen from other languages, there are definitely everyday words that have infinitely more offensive origins than that.

The moral of the story is that I’m not going to change the way I speak, be it in public, here in the Carillon, or otherwise. Some people are going to continue to take a defiant stand, and it’s their right to do so, just as it’s my right to taunt them further. And if you’re offended by that sentiment, then, in the words of one Stephen Fry: “So fucking what?”

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