Mainstream AF

It’s been just about four years since I published my first post about commercial sightings of “AF,” the abbreviation for the intensifier as fuck. And my, how far we’ve traveled since 2015: from festival T-shirts and Etsy geegaws to subway ads, a Netflix movie, and a surreal bidet commercial. We went back and forth on pronunciation: one-syllable word or initialism? (The latter, it would seem.)

And now we find ourselves, and AF, in the middle of Main Street, USA.

To be precise, the personal-care/feminine-hygiene aisle of Target.

Down There Wipes in “Sensual Seduction.” They’re FRESH AF, says “Rachel S.”

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“Trust me, I’m an asshole”

You’ve invented a new kind of bidet for the American market: an inexpensive, easy-to-install attachment that replaces toilet paper with a water stream. You’ve given your invention a cheeky name: Tushy.

Now you need a mascot to give your product a face. Naturally, you choose … an asshole. And you give it a starring role in a nearly three-minute-long advertorial.

“But like literally: Poop comes out of me.”

Sort of a manic pixie dream asshole, actually, with a potty mouth that cheerfully emits English swears and English-inflected Yiddish scatology along with a generous dose of social shaming.

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The further adventures of “AF”

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.

“I’m feeling myself because my boobs are swoll AF”

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Commercial as fuck

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.

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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.

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