Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Who Gives a Fug?

In the interests of offending no one, I will deploy the device of Norman Mailer in the Naked and the Dead, and spell the common vulgarity as “fug.” 

The other day, I had a very brief encounter on a downtown street with a younger man who was, apparently, waiting for the bus. Just as I passed, he said to his companion, “I’m on fugging Facebook, but…”; I did not hear the rest of his sentence. 

Even so, I thought: What could be so “fugging” about Facebook? More basically, what is the deal with “fug” entirely?  

Screwing for a long time now.

Literally, it is a vulgar and verboten term for sexual intercourse. It would seem that the cultural treatment of this biological imperative as “dirty” (especially in the anglophone world) leads to the stigma which is attached to the word “fug.” 

But if that be the case, just what does the term “fug off” mean? Literally, it seems to imply that someone wishes another to stop having sexual relations. But its everyday use implies something else entirely – an aggressive way of saying “get out of here” or “you must be joking.” 

Journalist Bill Bryson made light of the term, “get fugged”, which he wrote was the equivalent of saying (if the word was taken literally) “get cash.” But of course, it means the opposite. Nevertheless, “fug” and its derivatives are uttered so commonly, whether at bus-stops, in most movies, and now on cable-TV, the apparent contradictions in its various uses go unnoticed. While the word obviously is less forbidden than it was in the past, it is still a “bad word” that people avoid using amongst others whom they don’t know. Simultaneously hidden and ever-present at once, “fug” resists analysis. 

This quality has given rise to certain myths as to the word’s origin. It is not, for example, an acronym for “Felonious Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”, supposedly the message posted to the stocks in which adulterous people were punished. Nor is it an “Anglo-Saxon” term, with its first recorded use occurring in the fifteenth century. 

Not only is there “fug off” and “get fugged”, there is also “not giving a fug”, “what the fug”, and the subtle distinctions between “fugging” and its apparent contraction, “fuggin’.” To say, “I have to go to fuggin’ work”, or “on fuggin’ Facebook,” does not imply sexual intercourse in either situation, and the meaning is obviously different than saying, “that’s a good fugging deal you made,” or even “my roommate walked in while we were fugging.” 

Not you Fugs.

In fact, “fug” less describes sexual union in its entirety, than it does the mere the phallic action involved therein. Even when used “properly” to refer to sexual topics only, the word says something far more aggressive and mechanical than is conveyed in the phrases “making love” or “going to bed.” 

When used metaphorically to describe things other than sex, the copulatory behaviour of the male animal is the source of figuration. In this sense, saying someone should “get fugged” is not to perversely wish them erotic reward. Rather, it is to hope that they should be raped, if metaphorically. Similarly, to not “give a fug” is to imply disinterest in something to the extent that it inspires (figurative) flaccidity and impotence. 

To command someone to “fug off”, or to declare one’s intention to do just that, is in either case another way of wishing removal of self from situation. There is implicit disdain and disgust for male homosexuality at least, embodied in these uses of the “F-word”, as in the condescending satisfaction that a man often feels in seeing an adversary being “fugged” – especially when it is another man. 

“Fug” thus remains a vulgarity not merely because of “Anglo-Saxon” or Protestant shame over the sex act. It is more so that the term itself reduces the human male to the status of his – plough. 

In this way, “fug” can be recognized as a type of synecdoche – a figure of speech wherein a part of something is taken to represent the whole: as referring to a car as “wheels”, or a house or apartment as a “crib.” The latter is meant to imply that one’s domicile is merely a place to sleep (especially, with another), whereas waking hours are spent elsewhere (this in large part behind the wheel of one’s wheels). 

The reality of “fug” as synecdoche wherein a man is reduced to his “member”, is shown in the fact that while sexual intercourse is thought highly of by most everyone, the most of the connotations of the “F-word” are overwhelmingly negative. There are many euphemisms for “fug”, but one of the more popular is “screw.” Unlike the former term, the latter can be used innocuously depending on context. But “screw” also lays bare the true meaning of the more forbidden word as a verb describing the male action during coitus.

Although I’m certain that the fairer sex throws the “F-bomb” far more frequently today than in the past, I don’t think I’m going too far in saying that, indeed, it is men who use “fug” far more frequently than do women. Given what I’ve proposed to be the true semantic of the “F-word”, this is no wonder. After all, men can relate to its core meaning, intimately and corporeally, in a way that women cannot. It is how, in spite of the apparent senselessness of it, Facebook can be “fugging.” 

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