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  • D. Randall Faro

Gee Willikers

Nuts. Raspberries. Jeepers. Drat. Phooey. Doggone it. Gee willikers. Or as a cousin of mine once said in frustration: Dingy-dangy-darnit! All good alternatives to the f-bomb.

I just completed a 365-page novel (title and author withheld to protect the guilty) with an interesting storyline and a cute writing style. The f-bomb was used 200 times, or every other page. If the author skipped several pages with it, he would make up for it with a page containing the alternate word for copulation half a dozen times or more. On page twenty-three he stretched it to seven. I kept expecting a page with ten-plus usage, which, in my untutored judgment, would qualify the author to be nominated for the Ignobel Prize for Literature.

I’m no prude, and during my years in the Navy and Marine Corps I heard it used more often than quacks from a flock of mallards. But I wonder. I wonder just why this crass word for a particular biological function is the exclamation of choice more often than not. Maybe because it rhymes with other pleasant-experience words, like: luck (good, that is); buck (everybody loves greenbacks); truck (everybody craves a pickup, even if not admitting such); puck (some linguistic historians posit the carnal knowledge term was first uttered during a 4th-century hockey game). But I digress.

Never mind that the f-bomb is a word for what (sometime, somewhere) is a sacred act reserved for two people in a deeply committed love relationship. Oops. Silly me. That idea flew out the window with standup comedians and WWE wrestling behemoths. Never mind that for-better-or-worse (for which consummation of a marriage used to be reserved . . . oops, silly me again), the term is offensive to some. Like, who cares who one offends these days of First Amendment ultra-hoopla? Never mind that the hyper-use of the f-bomb showcases a lack of creativity and/or a sad unfamiliarity with the rich vocabulary contained in the English (or any other) language. Be it the spoken or written word, a large percentage of folk, writers and readers, seem more than okay to not be challenged with more than Dick-and-Jane literary skills. Never mind that we’re bringing up generations of kids who, at the dinner table, don’t give a second thought before saying, “Please pass the f-ing butter.”

You might have noticed that I have not completely spelled out the term. This is not out of fear or some Victorian sense of propriety. It’s because a) I’m tired of hearing and seeing it ad nauseum, b) I don’t wish to validate the crass use of something which I (again, foolish me) hold to be a holy act between committed lovers, and c) I just think there is a dingy-dangy-darnit better use of language than the f-bomb affords. Lee Child says (who uses no profanity in his acclaimed Reacher series books) that while in real life highly stressed people might cuss a blue streak, on the written page, that quickly grows tiring and trite, and stinks of a writer trying too hard.

Some supposedly esteemed psychological studies claim that blasting away with expletives is good for the psyche . . . relieves tension etc., and I’m in no position to dispute that. But I can state from personal experience that uttering “raspberries” at the top of my lungs after smashing my thumb with a hammer does every bit as much as yelling . . . well, you know. Try it sometime. Might work for you too. And it might be respecting a grandparent’s sensitivities.


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