I am delighted to be able to announce that I have been working on a new, fourth edition of my book The F-Word.
The F-Word is a historical dictionary devoted to the word fuck, illustrating in detail every significant usage of the word: parts of speech, senses, derived forms, abbreviations, expressions, proverbs. As a historical dictionary, it, like the Oxford English Dictionary, includes quotations showing exactly how the word has been used throughout history, drawn from a wide range of sources, including famous writers, Victorian pornography, Urban Dictionary, TV shows, military diaries, Twitter and Reddit, rap lyrics, and even this blog.
The first edition came out in 1995, and was based on the Historical Dictionary of American Slang (the fuck-containing volume of which had been published in 1994). This edition largely ignored non-American uses of the word, and its treatment of entries beyond the letter F was spotty. The second edition of 1999 remedied these and other problems. The third edition, published in 2009, was a massive update; by that point I had become an editor at the OED, and was able to use its resources, as well as the greatly increased availability of online sources, to significantly expand the book. The fourth edition will benefit from the further expansion of online databases, as well as increased interest (both popular and academic) in both the use and the study of offensive language.
Among many other things, Madeline Kripke was a collector of dictionaries and other language books. At her death, in April 2020, an early victim of the Covid-19 pandemic, she left behind more than 20,000 books, boxes full of manuscripts — from an early Merriam-Webster archive to her own purchasing records, essential to determining the provenance of her many acquisitions — and ephemera, so much that she could barely move in her Greenwich Village apartment. But impressive as they are, the numbers are less important than her curation: she wasn’t a hoarder, and she didn’t collect accidentally or on a whim, but purposefully and with great knowledge of the history of people’s interest in language. She was a formidable scholar who chose to exercise her intelligence, not by teaching in a university, but by curating a peerless private collection. Much of that collection is devoted to strong language or language adjacent to it.
You may have heard that Donald Trump is a pussy ass bitch. You may have heard it, to be precise, from Chrissy Teigen; she called him that after he insulted her husband (John Legend) and her, back in 2019:
It’s back in the news because we just learned that Trump tried to trump it – according to a former Twitter employee testifying before congress, the White House asked Twitter to take it down, and Twitter said no. You can read more about it on Slate, in an article by Heather Schwedel that quotes me, Jonathon Green, Ben Zimmer, and a couple of noted linguists.
Obviously, the real question for us on this here blog today is “Why did Donald John Trump object so strongly to being called a ‘cat donkey dog’?”
With another year in the books, it’s time once again here on Strong Language for our annual salute to excellent swearing. As time marches on, we’ve had the opportunity to anoint sweary winners for eight years running now. (Check out our past roundups from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.) As always, we pay homage with these awards to the patron saint of Strong Language: Malcolm Tucker, the ultra-foulmouthed political operative portrayed with panache by Peter Capaldi on the BBC series The Thick of It and its cinematic spinoff In the Loop.