In which Ursula Le Guin posts at the Book View Cafe about the modern embrace of a certain F word.** Snippet:
I remember my brothers coming home on leave in the second world war and never once swearing in front of us homebodies: a remarkable achievement. Only later, when I was helping my brother Karl clean out the spring, in which a dead skunk had languished all winter, did I learn my first real cusswords, seven or eight of them in one magnificent, unforgettable lesson. Soldiers and sailors have always cursed, what else can they do? But Norman Mailer in The Naked and the Dead was forced to use the euphemistic invention “fugging,” giving Dorothy Parker the chance, which naturally she didn’t miss, of cooing at him, “Oh, are you the young man who doesn’t know how to spell ‘fuck?’”
More at the link, including some examples that raise questions about the use of the word as salt (or pepper). For rhythm in a sentence, I suggest we use the term The Heathers Effect. But, hey, how much do I love Le Guin for this post (and in general)? An effing lot.
And you really should read the whole thing, because agree or disagree, there are serious points being made about the nature of the words that become our chosen profanities, and their connotations.
That said, I'd be thrilled if she read Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist. A girl can dream.
Updated to add: So apparently there is some controversy about whether it was Parker or Tallulah Bankhead who said this to Mailer. Anyone have a sure-thing source? Or is this just an excellent fiction? I won't really be disappointed either way.
(Link via @Jonathan Strahan & @SFSignal.)
*I'm quoting Ursula Le Guin so I assume it's okay to use this language on a family blog, right? (Wait, this is my blog, not a family blog. Eff.) Insert smiley face. (Or similar emoticon, which I'm certain Dorothy Parker would agree is way more offensive than language will ever be.***)
**My mom (the principal) told me once that a common reason girls ended up in her office was calling each other 'the B word' and resulting disputes. She believed in making them specify which one. This is a purely an aside, thus the star.
***I use them too, but I don't have to like it. The real curse of the modern age.
(Was this all just an excuse to use this post title? Maybe.)
4 thoughts on “Effing Le Guin*”
I loved Le Guin’s post. Reading it, I realized that while I cheerfully swear like a sailor in private life, I am exceedingly careful about these effing words when I write. Not so much because I find this sort of language offensive, but because all words matter more when I’m writing them.
Me too — and her, just, period. It’s interesting though, because I do think our preferred curse words are personal on a sonorous level. I almost never use the sh- word she mentions is a fave, for instance.
I believe it’s Cyn Leitich Smith who I first heard say that you have to be careful with profanity in fiction, because it registers more loudly. (Paraphrasing.) Which is true.
But, of course, there are times when that’s the only thing that will work. And it’s even harder in fantasy; at least, that’s my feeling, for YA fantasy. (I can cite several exceptions, but generally speaking.)
Mostly, I just wanted to use this post title. 🙂
“The imagination involved is staggering. I mean, literally.” LOL!
How much do I love your post, and LeGuin’s Effing Post? OH SO MUCH!
She is awesome.
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