A rather shit post

Sometime in the twentieth century, shit—having already long been a verb and then a noun—also became an adjective, as in He was a shit teacher or That restaurant has shit service. Exactly when this happened is a bit tricky to pin down, precisely because of the word’s versatility. In many contexts, the shit you think is an adjective might actually be a noun.

There’s a common misconception that putting one noun in front of another noun turns the first into an adjective: Continue reading

When fucks get real

What the fuck has become so commonplace that, as our own Nancy Friedman pointed out, marketers are no longer shy about alluding to it. But its ubiquity has meant a loss of its former power, and we’ve had to find ways to intensify it when our amusement or bewilderment graduates to incredulity.

According to the Corpus of Global Web-based English (GloWbE), these are our favourite ways to spice up this popular dish: Continue reading

Akutai matsuri—Japan’s festivals of abusive language

oiwa_bishamonten_saishoji_temple__ashikaga_city_ashikaga-shi

One day a year, visitors to the Saishōji Temple in Ashikaga are invited to shed their stoicism and politeness for a night of cathartic cursing. At the akutare matsuri (“rowdiness festival”), also called akutai matsuri (“festival of abusive language”), held annually on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of worshippers make the forty-minute trek up the mountain to the temple, shouting insults and epithets along the way. Although all potential targets of these insults are fair game, the curses themselves are typically mild, especially by Strong Language standards. The insult of choice is usually “bakayarō!”—loosely translated to “you idiot!” Continue reading

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle

A cat plays a fiddle

When you’ve already started saying fuck—whether it’s in “I don’t give a fuck” or just a good ol’ naked “Fuck!”—but realize you’re within earshot of delicate sensibilities, fiddle (or fiddlesticks!) is a convenient last-minute mincing. An old word, from fidula in Old High German, fiddle has, since its birth as the name of a stringed instrument, taken on a host of meanings that semantically overlap with fuck to a surprising degree (although much of this overlap is due to fuck’s tremendous versatility). Continue reading