For a couple of hours last week, a lot of people in the San Francisco area were under the impression that Bay Area Rapid Transit had, well, lost its shit.
“Get your shit together” from a public agency?
Have you heard where fuck comes from? For Use of Carnal Knowledge. No, um, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. No, wait, Fornication Under Consent of King. No, it’s…
…It’s Frankly Usage Crank “Knowledge,” Only For Fools. Or FUCK OFF for short.
Sorry to shit on your party trick – don’t worry, it won’t Ship High In Transit, because FUCK OFF – but no swearwords ever in English (or probably any other language) have been created from acronyms. This is for two reasons:
- Acronyms are intrinsically euphemistic. They are used to camouflage rude, offensive, or otherwise unendurable things (often just unendurably long).
- Acronyms have only really been used to generate words since the mid-20th century.
This is the story of a bygone Hollywood recording studio whose name was an acronym for a sweary Arabic-Yiddish (and also maybe Turkish) epithet. I learned about it in a comment on a blog post about a Korean-English translator.
Needless to say, I love the internet.
How the fuck did what the fuck become acceptable — nay, desirable — as a template for business names and ad campaigns? The obvious rhymes, the winking allusions, the no-apologies acronyms: It’s a WTFestival out there.
Headed back to school? Here’s your syllabus for Swearing 101.
“For so universal an experience, a child’s discovery of curse words is the topic of surprisingly few picture books.” The New York Times reviews a new book that’s among the surprisingly few: Little Bird’s Bad Word, by Jacob Grant.
“Son of the illegal lottery!” sounds filthier in Tagalog, we’re sure. More at Foul Mouth: a website about Filipino dirty words.