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.
After John Kelly published his comprehensive post on merkin in 2015, I assumed there could be little left to say about those pubic hairpieces with the quaint name. (You should read the whole post, but here’s the etymological gist: from Matilda to the diminutive Maud to the secondary diminutive Mal to the third-degree diminutive Malkin to the variant merkin.) Yet recent developments suggest that we are far from finished with merkin, or it with us.
Strong Language contributor Jonathon Green (@misterslang), the author of Green’s Dictionary of Slang, has a new project of special interest to SL readers: Slang Family Trees. “The aim,” writes Jonathon, “is to look at some of slang’s primary themes and show the way the lexis assesses given topics on a semantic basis.” The trees are constructed with mind-mapping software and appear as .pdf files. To get started, see vagina, penis, and drunk.
To drive awareness on International Women’s Day about how women are paid on average 25 percent less than men, J. Walter Thompson London created an outdoor campaign that uses censorship to show how offensive the world can seem with 25 percent missing. (Via Little Black Book)
I’m very excited to be a new contributor to Strong Language, after my two previous salacious guest posts on scandalous trademarks. I’ve been the author of Gilson on Trademarks, a treatise on U.S. trademark law, since 2006, and I’m delighted to make this foray into sweary territory. Just don’t tell my parents.
Now, on to our story. Engine 15 Brewing Company applied to register the trademark NUT SACK DOUBLE BROWN ALE for beer. An attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused registration on the ground that the mark was scandalous, meaning that it would offend “a substantial composite of the general public.” The applicant appealed, putting the ball in the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s court. Here’s the beer’s label, which the owner did not try to register:
Before we see how the Board ruled, though, let’s start the ball rolling by looking at the USPTO’s record on testicles, scrotum and related slang terms.