Senator Elizabeth Warren, the planful Massachusetts Democrat, is not the presidential candidate who comes to mind when one thinks of political potty-mouths. (See Ben Zimmer’s 2019 Tucker Awards for examples of public swearing from Beto O’Rourke and Tim Ryan, who are no longer in the race, and from Donald J. Trump, who for the time being is.) So it was a bit of a surprise when Warren’s campaign adopted “LFG” as an unofficial campaign slogan and began selling “You and Me LFG” merchandise.
In this context, the initialism stands for “let’s fucking go.” Warren embraced it after US women’s national soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe used it in her video-call endorsement of Warren, posted to Twitter on December 13, 2019.
Megan Rapinoe: “Well, we have a little saying on the national team that we like to say — I don’t know if we can cuss on here — but it’s LFG. So let’s do this. Okay. LFG.”
CNN political correspondent MJ Lee spotted a winner, at least in the slogan category.
LFG is so clearly going to become the new Warren campaign motto. @mPinoe in her endorsement phone call to Warren: “We have a little saying on the National Team that we like to say. I don’t know if you can cuss on here, but it’s LFG.”
Warren: “Alright, Megan. You and me. LFG.” https://t.co/GhlIjSQqCy
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) December 13, 2019
“LFG” has been circulating in the sports world for several years, and has crossed over into general use. (For non-sweary interpretations of LFG, keep reading.) In February 2018, when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t able to accept the NFL MVP award in person, he relayed a message through his teammate Julian Edelman:
“He said one thing for me to say,” Edelman told the crowd. “He said, ‘LFG.’ I don’t know what it means, but he said, ‘LFG.’”
In 2019, New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso modified the team’s longstanding “LGM” (“Let’s Go Mets”) rallying cry to “LFGM” (“Let’s Fucking Go Mets”).
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 6, 2019
Which naturally lent itself to subway-inspired merch.
Urban Dictionary’s earliest entry linking LFG with “let’s fucking go” is from June 5, 2003. In the gamer community, LFG can mean “looking for group” (with whom to play); the earliest citation for that definition is dated December 5, 2002. There’s even a Looking for Group webcomic. Other entries spell out LFG as “look for green” (i.e., cannabis), “lonely fat girl” (which got 211 downvotes), and—my heart goes out to anyone who uses it this way—“live for God.”
Looking forward to seeing Lexical Functional Grammarians sporting this tshirt. https://t.co/g1YUKrH7zm
— Gretchen McCulloch (@GretchenAMcC) January 28, 2020
So WTF would you call the “F” in “LFG” as used by Megan Rapinoe, Elizabeth Warren, et al.? I asked Ben Zimmer, because I know my fucking limits. Here’s his reply:
I’d just call it an intensifier, since it’s the same kind of “fucking” we see in “That’s fucking how,” “I fucking know,” etc. (Linguists might also call it an emphatic discourse marker.) When it’s inserted into a set expression like “let’s go,” it does function a bit like an infix (cf. Lana Del Fucking Rey).