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.
Although it’s given all-caps styling in the title, FBOY Island, HBOMax’s first foray into reality TV, is not an initialism. Rather, it’s an abbreviation of, and a euphemism for, fuckboy. It’s an oddly diffident elision when you consider that HBO has been gleefully detonating F-bombs for a couple of decades.
I’ll get to the story behind the coyness—and to the history of fuckboy—in a bit. First, though, an introduction to the series, whose first three episodes premiered on July 29 and which will continue through August 12.
Yep, it’s another “dating” show—the title nods to Love Island, Paradise Island, and, for all of us 30 Rock fans, the wholly fictional and hilarious MILF Island—with a familiar setup. Three young women who have slightly different skin tones but are otherwise hard to tell apart (size 00, hair extensions, false eyelashes) are transported to a magnificent villa on a tropical island (not identified, but it’s Grand Cayman, and the villa costs $5,198 a night). So are 24 young men who appear to have spent vast amounts of time at the gym and the barber shop, and whose occupations include “bitcoin investor,” “CBD entrepreneur,” “TikToker,” “club promoter,” “talent agent,” “child care-slash-influencer,” and “exotic dancer-slash-realtor.” Continue reading →
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 the two years since I first wrote about seeing “AF” — the abbreviation for the intensifier “as fuck” — in various interesting places, I’ve kept track of its spread from the fringes to the mainstream, or at least a major tributary of the mainstream, of popular culture. In April of this year, when I noted its use in New York subway advertisements by the food-delivery service FoodKick, I speculated that this was the first time AF had appeared in a commercial context. Well, I was wrong. It wasn’t the first. And it certainly hasn’t been the last.
Back in July 2015, when I wrote about the spread of “as fuck” and its abbreviation, “AF,” my sightings were limited to tweets, rap-album titles, and small-batch consumer goods sold on Etsy and other online marketplaces. In a comment on my post, “Y” predicted a bigger future for “AF”: “It’ll be co-opted by the mainstream. In fifty years, Modern Maturity will have recipes for Scrumptious-as-Fuck Cupcakes, and Midwesterners will tell their minister that his sermon was def as fuck.”
Fifty years? Try 22 months. That’s how long it took for New York–based FoodKick to launch its cheeky-as-fuck ad campaign in subways and social media.