April 23, 2014

"By using a common four-letter term for sexual intercourse... Lawrence was trying to remove the stain of profanity from plain English words."

Writes the NYT in an obituary for Richard H. Hoggart, the cultural historian who was the star witness in a case about the censorship of "Lady Chatterley's Lover." Hoggart testified in 1960 about why D.H. Lawrence wrote the word "fuck" in 1928, and the NYT still won't print the word in 2014.

But the NYT did print the word "fuck" 4 days ago — as I noted here — in the sentence "Fuck Brooklyn!" which is just some dumb thing a basketball team's general manager yelled:
With A list celebrities, including rappers Drake, Jay-Z and Beyonce, occupying courtside seats, an embarrassing technical malfunction and a jaw-dropping expletive delivered by Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to thousands of frenzied supporters at a pre-game pep rally, the first game of the NBA postseason offered a little bit over everything.
Why print "fuck" the hurtful, intentionally brutal slam, and not "fuck" the nonmetaphor, used descriptively, with love and artistic force? Have a rule and stick to it. Your rule could be only sometimes, but what rule would justify "fuck" the sports arena epithet over "fuck" a great author's word choice for which free speech advocates fought governments? Perhaps: "Fuck" is fit to print to vividly convey how wrong it is to yell fuck in front of a lady like Beyonce.

As for the other lady, Chatterley, she asked "But what do you believe in?" and he said:
"Yes, I do believe in something. I believe in being warmhearted. I believe especially in being warm-hearted in love, in fucking with a warm heart. I believe if men could fuck with warm hearts, and the women take it warm-heartedly, everything would come all right. It's all this cold-hearted fucking that is death and idiocy."

"But you don't fuck me cold-heartedly," she protested.

"I don't want to fuck you at all. My heart's as cold as cold potatoes just now.... It's a fact!... Anything for a bit of warm-heartedness. But the women don't like it. Even you don't really like it. You like good, sharp, piercing cold-hearted fucking, and then pretending it's all sugar. Where's your tenderness for me? You're as suspicious of me as a cat is of a dog. I tell you it takes two even to be tender and warm-hearted. You love fucking all right: but you want it to be called something grand and mysterious, just to flatter your own self-importance. Your own self-importance is more to you, fifty times more, than any man, or being together with a man.... I'd rather die than do any more cold-hearted fucking."


Big Mike said...

Lady Chatterley's Lover is a work of fiction. When did couples in a relationship start using the f-word to descibe coitus in their private conversation? This is probably not a new phenomenon and almost certainly predates the Roaring Twenties. Basically Lawrence was writing dialog the way real characters really speak. Even in the 1920's that was not a new notion.

Paul said...

Aw.... fuck!

Not sure if it's 'warm hearted' or not.

Donald Douglas said...

I saw the headline "Lady Chatterley's Savior" at the Times' obit page, and wondered what that was about? Now I know, heh.

Fandor said...

Beyonce is not a lady. Rappers are not gentlemen. They choose not to be. Their language is vile and common. (So is their crappy "music".)
Much of young society is following their lead. It's cool. If we scold them, or correct them for being foul, we get "the look" or possibly worse, if they are not afraid to get in your face, for whatever the reason.
Most are punks anyway.
Some are just psychopaths.

We are responsible for the state of things.
We allowed this to happen.
By we, I mean, those of us who think of ourselves as responsible adults.
Responsible adults, in my day, would NEVER tolerate the things that seem to be common place today. Did it make the world better? Maybe not, but it was certainly more civil if not perfect.
We were encouraged to bring out our "better angels', to aspire to the ideal, to be "better far than we are".
Well, we didn't pass that along.
"I'm O.K Your O.K." right?
"Who am I to judge?"
"It's all relative."
"There are no blacks and whites, only grays."

Concerning the present state of affairs, one might say "FUCK IT, if you can't take a joke."

And Ann, the joke is on us.

Christy said...

The David Milch commentary on the first Deadwood disc (I so miss commentaries now that I stream everything.) explains that the dropping of f-bombs every five seconds was his way of conveying violence to an audience accustomed to guns and blood. To those of us who do not run with the Rahm Emanuel set, it is a nasty violent word. Much, much worse than, for example, bully.

Unknown said...

What do you believe in (Crash)?

Patrick O said...

We need words to retain their profanity. That's the trouble with so many attempts in the past and present. There should be words and terms that are beyond the pale, outside of polite discourse. Otherwise, language loses its ability to communicate. Because there are sometimes we especially need a profane word, or exclamation. That's the trouble with cussing too much too, such words lose their impact and so there is a loss for more expressiveness.

The tendency to make words essentially synonyms in both meaning and impact waters down the English language.

It is the same as if we were to make all punctuation marks into exclamation points!

Paco Wové said...

Love the 'potatoes' tag. Fascinating where it goes.

rhhardin said...

The epithet is okay, the verb is not.

wildswan said...

I have the impression that the word was in common use in the Army and in prisons and other very tough all-male situations for a long time. Then at some time in the Twentieth Century it began to be used between men and women but I don't think it was at all common in Lawrence's day. I think that his books were so shocking in their time because that word was not commonly circulating. In the Fifties and Sixties writers like Henry Miller and many others introduced characters who used the word all the time and in the Sixties using the word all the time suddenly became the normal thing to do. It was required at parties and elsewhere. And has been ever since. To me it is so acceptable that it is a dated cliche. In living language it is now a meaningless word like "like"and "y'know", "whatever" "awesome".

Michael said...

I love Bobby Knight's thoughts on the F-Word.


Roughcoat said...

I'm still trying to wrap my thoughts around "love hair."

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Fuck those fucking fuckers!

Austin said...

I think the use of the term "fuck" lost any artistic poignancy it may have had with the release of the film "Get Shorty". In that film the word was laid bare and ridiculed beyond redemption. "Fuck off fuckball"!

Saint Croix said...

Perhaps: "Fuck" is fit to print to vividly convey how wrong it is to yell fuck in front of a lady like Beyonce.

Why do some people still think sex is a big deal?

Why outlaw prostitution? Why this concern about adultery? Why are we so upset when our mates cheat? Because it puts the baby at risk, that's why. Infanticide, infanticide, infanticide. All of our sexual hang-ups, all of our sexual repressions, all of our Freudian shit about sex is there because sex leads to reproduction, all the time.

That's why we have this bad word to describe sex without love. It's why fornication was a crime, and prostitution was illegal. It's why Jews and Christians stayed away from the orgy. It's not the sex they object to. It's sex without love, and the baby-killing that always seems to result from sex without love.

People use the word "fuck" indiscriminately now because we think sex is no big deal now. Birth control has convinced us that sex is no big deal.

Until a pregnancy happens. And suddenly we're back in the B.C. era, with an unwanted child. And a desire to get rid of it.

Saint Croix said...

So-called "liberals" want to make it a crime to say the word "fuck". While these same liberals say it's right to kill a baby.

This is mind-boggling to me. It's Alice in Wonderland stuff. You're going to make it a crime to say a bad word? While a knife in the neck is a constitutional right?

For instance, John Paul Stevens writes...

The Commission identified several words that referred to excretory or sexual activities or organs, stated that the repetitive, deliberate use of those words in an afternoon broadcast when children are in the audience was patently offensive, and held that the broadcast was indecent.

John Paul Stevens wants to protect children. That's fucking rich. Here is that same John Paul Stevens, Mr. Decency, who is now making a joke about the spilling of ink as he says it's right for a doctor to stab a baby to death outside the birth canal.

Why do Stevens and other liberals object to saying the word "fuck" out loud, while they are quite willing to kill babies in private?

I think they are the worst sort of hypocrite. They put up a facade of sexual morality. And to keep that facade in place they are willing to do all sorts of violence to innocent children.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

We're always told to view the world through the eyes of children. IMHO a more pointless exercise doesn't exist. How about if we view the above passage from Lawrence through eyes of a rube. "This fucking guy thinks too much (and talks too much about) fucking." (This is why I could never be in college at this point in my life. That kind of attitude would get me a D.)

Saint Croix said...

I haven't read D.H. Lawrence but now I really want to.

Thanks, Althouse!

betamax3000 said...

Dirty words?

The Truth about the House of Althouse will be revealed on Saturday. Watch the Cafes....

ironrailsironweights said...

A four-letter word ending in "k" that means sexual intercourse: pork!


James Pawlak said...

I suggest like consideration of "work", "snow" and, of course, "golf".

Gahrie said...

Because there are sometimes we especially need a profane word, or exclamation.

I agree, but the process has been in effect for quite a while. At one time, damn you was the most profane curse, as you were literally calling upon God to send someone to hell.

Paul Fraker said...

George Carlin, as part of his famous "7 words" routine, had fun with the dual meaning of the word, substituting it for "kill", as in "We're going to fuck you now, sheriff, but we're going to fuck you slow."

Alex said...

I use it all the time, it's like casual breathing.

rcommal said...

This seems apropos somehow and in some ways.

Terry said...

Patrick wrote:
"We need words to retain their profanity. That's the trouble with so many attempts in the past and present. There should be words and terms that are beyond the pale, outside of polite discourse. Otherwise, language loses its ability to communicate."
This is why we need to bring back the second person singular "thou" (subject) and "thee" (object). "you" is plural. It is wrong in English to refer to a group of people as "thee". But you? "Hey! You! Come here!"

Carl said...

Leave it to those bloodless ball-less cocksuckers at the Times to conceptually bowdlerize fucking, for fuck's sake.

Is it still shockingly rude to call someone a cocksucker in print? I sure hope so.

Saint Croix said...

I should add too that one of the astounding things about Christianity is that anything can be forgiven. But note that honesty is required, brutal honesty.

fuckerfaster said...

who gives a fuck?

Saint Croix said...

WHen I was young I thought "taking the Lord's name in vain" was simply a reference to cursing. And you can see why spiritual people would not like words like "shitting" or "fucking," since those words are so earthy, so biological. Animals shit and animals fuck. Religious people like to think we are above animals.

And yet that Commandment is much deeper and more profound than a rule about language. It's talking about the sin of vanity, the sin of pride. It's a Commandment warning people about what you say in the name of God.

Nichevo said...

Yes Alex but you're Russian, so fuck you is indeed like breathing, actually fuck your mother is like breathing. So you're not really a good example.