A few years ago I was delighted when I saw someone crossly ask What the fuckitty fuck fuck? Funny and heartfelt and kind of cool for reducing the potency of swearing to a kind of childish rhyme. Great rhythm too.
I used the phrase a few weeks later. I was complaining about something I felt passionate about to a group of people I thought should know better. People I thought I could persuade. I thought it was a light-hearted way to express my frustration but I got roundly condemned for being aggressive and attacking. It might have been the fucks, but it might have been the fact I made an outright statements of belief. I argued and I would not compromise. That aside, it made me think, could someone really mistake What the fuckity fuck fuck? for genuine bottled up agressive abuse. It seemed to me silly to its core. A brilliant statement about swearing and silliness, which then taints the subject of the swearing to the same ranks of daftness. A kind of geeky statement, in my mind at least about the evolution of language.
Fast forward a bit. I'd been hearing What the? for a while, shorthand for What the fuck? To my giddy pleasure (thank you thank you weird gods of social media) when it got switched to The fuck? I love these abbreviations. What the? seemed to meet some criteria for sensible truncation of language, but The Fuck? Deviant. Splendid.
It's not just swearing though, I've noticed especially around Facebook photos of gloriously small beings being small and glorious, people will post comments that in themselves are totally meaningless if read straight, but are actually potent with meaning. Potent with the words that aren't said. I think it's mostly a North American dialect getting globalised. A shorthand. Facebook comments that go like this.
I. Just. Can't.
I. CANNOT. I tried, I really did- but I just can't with her. It's too much.
It's still quaint to me. This being so overwhelmed by the emotion of what you say that you can't see it. In such empathy with others you don't need to say it. But maybe it's enmeshed in the States. Invisible to them now absorbed into the language and how to talk. BuzzFeed just entitled an article about ugly babies in renaissance art 39 babies who can't even. What's going on here? This is marvelous.
The first picture in the BuzzFeed article is a Durer cherub like baby and it's been captioned This baby can't even. I have no idea what the baby can't even do or be. Do they mean it can't exist. It's just too.... Look I'm learning. Or does it mean it can't smile. Or it can't hold its own food because it appears to have wings. The next picture This one can't anymore. Can't what? Can't what?
An aside. Once, in a writing class we were asked to do an erasure exercise. It's a common exercise. You take a page of non-poetry text and cross out words, then write up the remaining words and play around them to see if you can create a decent poem. My approach to variations of this exercise, and I think a usual approach had always been to cross out the little words and be left with a palate of high meaning exciting words, a bunch of startling nouns and evocative adjectives without all the dreary dross. In this occasion I tried the reverse. Left with a bunch of ands, thes, thens, howevers, in which cases, therefores. The more pompous, the more avidly avoiding the point the better. The duller, and the more mundane. I think I'm a geek about this stuff. I kind of liked the results. In as so much that the however. When they were. What were you. In the and. The then. The the.
I got to thinking about all this again when a friend, angry at something, heavens knows there's enough to be angry at the moment posted something in Facebook, saying The actual? Yes, I think triumphantly. I can't explain my joy. How it gives me hope. The eloquence. The humanity. It's all very human. It's all in the way we do it. On analysis things can disappear. We can have a whole language that simply refers to another language which contains the real meaning. We can swear without swearing. We can protest using words of compliance.
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