The comparison “X as fuck,” as Jesse Sheidlower tells us in The F Word (soon to be updated!), has appeared in print since at least 1978. [UPDATE: 1970! See Jesse’s comment, below.] By 2010 or so, the abbreviation “AF”—as in “elegant as fuck”—had begun cropping up in public settings, especially Twitter. When I first wrote about it in 2015, AF was still pretty much under the radar commercially, relegated to Etsy jewelers and festival T-shirts, but over the next few years it began going mainstream. In my most recent post on the subject, from July 2019, I noted that a product called Down There Wipes was being sold at Target with the prominently displayed slogan “FRESH AF.”
AF was one thing. Surely, though (I said to myself), the spelled-out “As Fuck” would never appear on supermarket shelves.
More than a decade ago, I was hired by a large US retailer to develop names for a new perfume the retailer was introducing. There was no actual fragrance for me to sniff, or even a list of ingredients—just a concept and a target audience. The “juice,” as it’s called in the business, would come later.
A few years after that project I attended a talk by a fragrance-industry consultant who told the audience that most perfumes are created that way now: first a mood board, then a name, and then, finally, the contents of the bottle.
Most perfumes. But not all. Not, for example, Fucking Fabulous, a unisex fragrance launched in 2017 by American fashion designer Tom Ford. In this case, the name came last.
The official line from the Tom Ford brand is that Fucking Fabulous is “undeniably the most straightforward name for a beautiful scent.” It’s a little too straightforward for many retailers. Bluemercury, an upscale beauty chain, bowdlerizes it as F’ing Fabulous (see image). Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman Marcus just call it Fabulous, while depicting the bottle with the full name. Sephora, by contrast, minces no words: It’s Fucking all the way.
After John Kelly published his comprehensive post on merkin in 2015, I assumed there could be little left to say about those pubic hairpieces with the quaint name. (You should read the whole post, but here’s the etymological gist: from Matilda to the diminutive Maud to the secondary diminutive Mal to the third-degree diminutive Malkin to the variant merkin.) Yet recent developments suggest that we are far from finished with merkin, or it with us.
Was it a misinterpretation? A well-meaning reporter’s deft attempt to avoid a Federal Communications Commission fine for airing “obvious profanity”? An example of the perfidious mainstream media’s pro-Democrat bias?
Or was it something else entirely?
Here’s what we know: On October 2, as 28-year-old racecar driver Brandon Brown was being interviewed about his winning race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, some people in the stands were chanting “Fuck Joe Biden!” (What provoked the political chant at a nonpolitical gathering? Unclear, but it had already been well documented, along with the #FJB hashtag, both on- and offline.)
NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast either heard or wanted to hear something different: