May 21, 2007

"Why and when did you decide, f*ck that, I'm coming out swinging?"

Amba asks why, so soon after putting an asterisk in "f*ck," I did a post that consisted of calling someone a dick. Good question, and my first answer to it is inadequate, as I noticed this morning. So I reanswered, and I'm elevating the answer to a post, partly so Amba will see it but also to set up a new conversation about how we should be speaking to each other.
I make a special case out of the word "f*ck" because of filters. They can't filter "dick." It's a name. My own father's name was Dick. I have yet to meet anyone named F*ck.

But there's the question, why did I do a post like this, just calling the guy a dick? I don't usually post like that or talk like that about someone. It's like the old "nerd wants love" post. I do it occasionally, when linking to someone who's being rotten to me. (I normally just don't link to such thing[s].) A short post requires you to go over and read it. He gets traffic. He's not particularly hurt by it, actually. He has his point and you have to read it. You might think he's right. Personally, I think he's so clearly wrong that just reading his post will get you where I would otherwise have to persuade you to go.

Plus, I operate on whim and intuition here. And the guy's name is Quick. It rhymes with dick and calling him a dick is quick.
And I did just approve of John McCain saying "f*ck you" and "chickenshit." Maybe McCain emboldened me. Which might be a reason to disapprove of him. He's setting an example and, being a leader, he gets followers.

Now, I was criticized for saying "I want a President who says 'f*ck you' and calls things that are chickenshit 'chickenshit.'" Notably, Beldar wrote: 'I do not want an American president who cannot restrain himself from shouting 'F*** you!' at his peers." But I don't know that McCain couldn't restrain himself. I wasn't there. I didn't hear the context. I assume Senators say harsh things to each other behind closed doors, but I don't have a feeling for what the norm is. My approval is at the abstract level. I am not expressing an opinion about whether the things McCain called "chickenshit" really were chickenshit. And Senator Cornyn possibly didn't deserve a "f*ck you" on that occasion.

What I didn't like was that people who oppose McCain on the immigration bill chose to quote him to the press and that the press reported it. They were trying to use American sensitivity to language to shape opinion about the immigration bill. But your view of the immigration bill shouldn't depend on whether one of its supporters expresses himself in ruder language than you like. I'm sure you know that, but it was an attempt to manipulate you subliminally, and I meant to call them on it. It was also an attempt to wreck McCain's presidential candidacy, something plenty of people have a motivation to do.

I wrote my post saying "it's nothing" not because I tolerate uncontrolled anger -- though I probably accept (and engage in) more passionate expression than most people do. I wrote it because I thought I detected an underhanded political move. Who decided on this occasion to tattle on a few of the words that were spoken at a closed-door meeting? Why did they do it? You can't be naïve enough to think that it was someone who just loves a mutually respectful deliberative environment.

ADDED: And here's Amba's response to this post:
I wondered if it was McCain's influence, or just the toughening effect of the gratuitous vileness Ann's been subjected to, or even, on some level, an angry swiping-away of the stereotype of the delicate-sensibilitied female or feminist blogger. Tearing down the goddamned lace curtains....

[The blogosphere] is what we make it, and there's an interesting tension between the desire for courtesy and the dislike of bullshit. Real civilized discourse holds that tension instead of collapsing it one way or the other -- into potty-mouthed ranting or prissy political correctness of either persuasion -- and it strikes me that it has a lot to do with gender, and the homage paid each to the traditional sensibilities of the other by tough women and courteous men.


Dave said...

Hi Ms. Althouse,

I couldn't reach you via e-mail so I'm just leaving a comment here. I wanted you to know that I posted up one of your photos at my blog (under the CC license) and as a result, my blog post has made one of Reddit's top 50 stories (and could still be rising now). If you go to my blog, "More Than Fine" ( or Reddit (, you should see the site there.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks, and excellent photo. Feel free to contact me at davechensblog at gmail dot com.

Ron said...

Maybe by emulating the McCain-esque "f*ck" you secretly desire to be President! Throw your hat into the ring! If you wore a hat...

Perhaps we should make "F*ck" a new class of profanity, one for certain specific uses, like in a family setting!

bill said...

Having returned from a visit to Minnesota, I suggest using the very versatile *ff d*.

AJ Lynch said...


You were right. Quick was being a dick so don't waste your time defending your response.

It's amazing people like Qucik believe everyone in his age group had such similar experiences in the 1960-70's and so should hold some precise, uniform , collective groupthink.

AJD said...

I see!! When you do it, it's "passionate." But when someone you don't like does it, they are a dick or a f*ck.

Peter Palladas said...

I have yet to meet anyone named F*ck.

How odd, Fock is actually rather a common name. But there we have it.

I could allow myself a rant and say that the D word is quite as offensive as the C word - both equally denigrating the wondrous genetalia with which we are so variously decorated and reducing the person to their respective reproductive organ.

But then again it is - or can be - accurate to say of a man "You think with your D." Men do. It's hard wired, so not our faults:-)

Women think with their Cs? Sounds forced.

But what about this 'swinging' thing? When we 'swing' that is married couples exchanging car keys.

So does the use of the D word make one a swinger? The magical power of words eh!

Don't recall that being tackled in J L Austin's 'How To Do Things With Words'. Time for a new edition perhaps.

And anyway, you people have people called 'Randy'. Jeez, how rude is that!

Pogo said...

I usually like Quick's stuff. His post ridiculing moderates was unusually dumb.

The more I read about McCain's expletive episode, the more I find him to be in the wrong.

One can't always expect prim decorum in deliberative bodies, but eff you has become so common, it loses its punch while simultaneously eroding public speech.

It'd be much better had he some wit, and learned how to mock one's opponents with style. Eff you is too pedestrian, and makes the speaker look sorta dumb.

Roger said...

I understand the issue of filters; the rest of the issue strikes me as pole vaulting over a mouse dropping. IMO

rsb said...

I would never call myself a pundit; it just sounds bad and connotes to me someone who blows a lot of hot air. I also read his blog and consider him a pundit.

tomw said...

On the McCain thing: you didn't address Beldar's comment that you would probably be shocked if your colleagues used such language to you in a meeting. It's not being overly prim to assume some level of decorum.

But the underlying issue with McCain (overshadowed by the language) is that he was flying in for this one meeting after missing votes for 5 weeks and was upset that a senator was continuing to have issues.

StephenB said...

There's a Firefox extension that uncensors words like F*ck. Check it out.

Ann Althouse said...

Freder, why the hell did you write out the f-word when I'm obviously saying not to do that. I would have responded to your comment, which was inaccurate.

Freder Frederson said...

So I will rewrite my post not writing out the word.


I don't get it. You constantly berate left wing bloggers for their bad language and manners. Yet when John McCain shows extremely bad manners and language in an extremely inappropriate forum (certainly much more inappropriate than the rough and tumble blogosphere), you find it admirable.

Or is bad language only bad when it is directed at you. E.g., "Ann Althouse is such a f----ing hypocrite."

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

It would almost have to be a Carlin bit where a comic talks about how the "F" word can be used as every part of speech. I filed to realize that a given or surname wasn't on the list.

But how would you pronounce an asterick? Would it be like a 'pop'?

On McCain; wasn't an issue of the 2000 campaign that McCain had temper control problems? Weren't there issues between McCain and Bush because of what McCain considered a falsification of his temper control problem?

Mindsteps said...

I have to fight myself constantly in my efforts to take the high road. My fourteen-month old son cusses. His words are unintelligible, but he has the intonation down pat.

michael farris said...

"I have yet to meet anyone named F*ck."

Please, allow me to introduce you to
Reinhardt Adolfo F*ck

B said...

Ho hum . . .

Nice to know that I've reached the level where my previous comments in a previous post still stand the test of time (2 days).

I must be getting good at this after all: a previous learned observation

bill said...

Don't be so sure that dick won't run afoul of the censors. Even iTunes has a problem with it. If you're looking for a certain Herman Melville novel, you'll find Moby D*ck. Then there's the noted producer who gets asterisked: Van D*ke Parks (replace it with a "y").

A larger issue is that except for f*ck, your policy on language is unclear. Some curse words are accepted, some aren't. This isn't reflective of any particular tone you wish to set or ways you want arguments and conversations to be held. Instead, you are censoring what you might otherwise say because you are scared of poorly written filtering programs. To use a curse word that apparently is allowed, that's chickenshit.

If you think a certain word, or even words are unacceptable, that's fine. But the asterisked version should be just as unacceptable.

John Stodder said...

All I know is, I wish you'd never linked to Daily Pundit. That guy is the biggest load of crap I've seen in some time. He makes the Kos kids look like Socrates.

If you really want to turn your stomach, link over to his personal website, a monument to massive self-delusion. He writes books about cavemen, under a psuedonym, and ghost-writes sci-fi for William Shatner.

Oh, and according to Wikipedia, his boast about inventing the word "blogosphere" is false. A more accurate version of his slogan would be "I'm the guy William Safire mistakenly thought invented the term blogosphere, and figured, what the hell, why correct it?"

His regular posters seem to love him, though. Yech.

Peter Palladas said...

Herman Melville novel, you'll find Moby D*ck.

Hell no! I just love Moby Duck. Hands off iTunes!

Ann Althouse said...

Freder: "You constantly berate left wing bloggers for their bad language and manners."

When did I do that? I remember defending Amanda Marcotte when she got in trouble for her language. I've been defending shock jocks lately. If I do something "constantly" there must be at least a few examples in the last month. I don't think there are. I don't like when people write nasty things about me, and I'm critical of empty, substanceless denouncements, which I get every day, but I really don't know what you're talking about.

bill said...

And now it turns out that iTunes has corrected itself. So Dyke and Dick are now safe.

Still, I think it's stylistically incoherent to embrace calling someone a dick or chickenshit, and then get all huffy over f*ck.

mythusmage said...

I ficking say if Ann wants to focking bar to the facking use f*ck on her fecking site, that's her fycking business.

Ann Althouse said...

Bill, I'd prefer to be stylistically coherent, but on this one thing, my interests as a writer are on the side of not blocking readers.