There are many things in the world today that can get one’s ire, and so I am always delighted that I stop at the apostrophised plurals and malapropisms rather than getting into a proper lather about, say, the US election. If I get this upset about an errant ‘, imagine what I’d be like if I fully took on board the contents of today’s newspaper and projected into the future.
So what’s got my dander up today? A couple of books on a theme: ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Sarah Knight and ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson. I haven’t read them, but the reviews suggest they are very good. The problem? The titles.
The word, you see, is ‘fuck’. Fuck. It’s four simple letters. And I like the sentiment expressed by the title; so often we care too much about things that don’t matter and get ourselves in knots trying to please people who don’t care whether we are bending over backwards for their benefit or not.
Don’t tell me that titles of books are not very carefully thought out. My book is called ‘Insider Secrets of Public Speaking’ because my co-author and I sat down with the publisher and a long list of great words to include in a book title and went through several permutations before hitting on our final choice. Nothing is wasted, it does what it says on the tin, and gloriously, it abbreviates to ISOPS as in www.tinyurl.com/ISOPS.
The problem with ‘The [INDUCEMENT] of Not Giving a F*ck’ is that it is having a linguistic cake and eating the fucking thing too. If you’re going to use language, you have to accept that words have power and meaning. Saying ‘fuck’ as an amplifier in every sentence may well denote a lack of vocabulary in the interlocutor, but when you’ve got 80,000 words between two hard covers, and you’re forced to chose a mere handful to put on the front cover, for fuck’s sake make them count. The fact that someone has obscured the vowel in the word ‘fuck’ in the phrase ‘not giving a fuck’ surely means that they really did give a fuck. It suggests that whoever commissioned, designed and then approved the cover didn’t read the book.
‘You can’t put the word “fuck” on the cover,’ the publisher would’ve said. (Publishers seldom worry about saying the word ‘fuck’ in conversation.)
‘I don’t give a fuck,’ the designer didn’t say. And then the author acquiesced.
Perhaps you can’t say ‘fuck’ on the cover of a book. In which case, someone should’ve told the publisher of ‘Fucking Apostrophes’ by Simon Griffin, a book that is so close to my heart, a copy is actually inside my rib cage.
If you object to my use of the word ‘fuck’ because you believe I am lacking in vocabulary, you’ve got a problem with reality. The people who really have a lack of vocabulary are the ones who write ‘f*ck’ to get all the cachet and glamour of proximity to profanity whilst holding the word itself at a hygienic distance (yes, French Connection, I am looking at you). ‘Fuck’ was good enough for Larkin, and Shakespeare dropped the c-bomb, so on matters of profanity I shall take no puritanical lectures. The English language is full of amplifiers. If you have to fall back on ‘f*ck’ you really are really showing your ignorance.