Ambiguous abbreviations

A little over a year ago, the Health Quality Council of Alberta launched a campaign to eliminate abbreviations in health care, arguing that their inherent ambiguity could lead to devastating consequences in life-or-death situations. Does DOA mean “date of admission” or “dead on arrival”? And in fast-paced health care settings especially, using these abbreviations increases the risk of misinterpretation.

Fortunately, most of us sweary language lovers live and work in more relaxed environments, and we can exploit the ambiguity of abbreviations for entertainment. Here are some favourite examples, in alphabetical order, taken from real sources. Leave yours in the comments! (Mouse over the headings if you’re not familiar with what they euphemize.) Continue reading

Sweary maps 2: Swear harder

You may remember Jack Grieve’s swear maps of the USA. Now he has a nifty new web app called Word Mapper that lets anyone with an internet connection make use of the raw data behind those maps.

Being a mature grown-up, I put on my @stronglang hat and went searching for swears and euphemisms. What emerged were some intriguing – and visually very appealing – patterns of rude word use in contemporary discourse:

word mapper us swears fuckery

word mapper us swears shitty

About 60 maps follow, so fair warning: It’s an image-heavy post.

Continue reading

A very good year for swears

On January 8, attendees at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting, in Washington, D.C., selected they — a “gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, as a non-binary identifier” — as the word of the year for 2015.

You can read good arguments for singular they in the blog of Dennis Baron, a professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and in an explainer that Strong Language contributor Gretchen McCulloch published in The Toast.

But here at Strong Language we’re more interested in the WOTY undercard, which this year was replete with sweary words … and even a naughty emoji. It was, according to our research, the first time in four years that a sweary word made it onto the ballot — assholocracy was voted the “Most Outrageous” word of 2011 — and the first time in ADS history that any variant of fuck was nominated.

Continue reading

What the fuck is the “A” in “fucking A”?

Swearing loves the alphabet – or euphemisms for swearing do, at least. To avoid saying fuck outright, we might just drop an f bomb, sidestep with the f word, or register ‘initial’ reactions with WTF. Some swears play with spelling: see you next Tuesday, say. Yet others, including a number originating from military expressions, are acronyms: snafu, or Situation Normal: All Fucked UpThat’s no BS, an abbreviation of bullshit that Mark Peters has written a whole damn book on.

But what about fucking A? What is this doing? Is it standing in for another swearword? What the fuck is this A in fucking A?

Continue reading

Sweary as fuck

A friend who attended one of the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well concerts in late June came back with a fashion report. No, it wasn’t about tie-dyed peasant skirts or blinged-out Birkenstocks. It was about this T-shirt:

polite_as_fuck_tee

“Polite as fuck” tee from Buy Me Brunch.

Or maybe this one. (My friend didn’t pause in her revels to gather photographic evidence.)

polite_as_fuck_cursive

Cursive does seem well suited to the message. T-shirt from Amazon.

The sassy oxymoron—civility meets vulgarity—is what tickled my friend (and me). I hadn’t seen anything like it — but then again, I hadn’t yet made an effort. As it happens, the “X as fuck” construction is highly commercial.

Continue reading