I got a great birthday card, the front of which said:
Dear people of the World,
I don’t mean to sound slutty,
But please use me whenever you want.
A great card on several levels. The “use me” is so much more economical than most of the explicit things one could think of, and therefore allows for (salacious) imagination, reminding me to be careful in writing to give the reader license to create her own vision of what I describe.
Which leads to the f-word (really?). I’m just thinking of the so-called dysphemism treadmill, in which a vulgar word becomes more and more acceptable. Pamela Hobbs, quoted in Wikipedia, notes that usage of the f-word falls into two categories: non-users and users. Non-users define the word in its proud Anglo-Saxon context and therefore consider it obscene and rarely use it. Users, on the other hand, have dissociated the word from sex and make frequent use as an intensifier, noun, adjective, adverb or verb. For them, as Hobbs says, fuck “no more evokes images of sexual intercourse than a ten-year-old’s ‘My mom’ll kill me if she finds out’ evokes images of murder.”
As a writer hoping to interest both users and non-users, my take is very, very abstemious use of the f-word (see, at my core, I’m a non-user, except when irritated). My rationale is that users usually employ fuck in ways that add no value to the sentence (although sometimes to the meter). None of that is useful in storytelling unless establishing a character’s unique voice.
So most of the time, I’ll go fuck-less. Grammar, on the other hand, I shall use and use and gratefully use.