10 October 2007

This is Fucking Brilliant

Notably, it is not brilliant fucking:
The first is the bone of contention in the Bono brouhaha: the syntactic classification of curse words. Ose's grammatically illiterate bill not only misspelled cocksucker, motherfucker, and asshole, and misidentified them as "phrases," it didn't even close the loophole that it had targeted. The Clean Airwaves Act assumed that fucking is a participial adjective. But this is not correct. With a true adjective like lazy, you can alternate between Drown the lazy cat and Drown the cat which is lazy. But Drown the fucking cat is certainly not interchangeable with Drown the cat which is fucking.

If the fucking in fucking brilliant is to be assigned a traditional part of speech, it would be adverb, because it modifies an adjective and only adverbs can do that, as in truly bad, very nice, and really big. Yet "adverb" is the one grammatical category that Ose forgot to include in his list! As it happens, most expletives aren't genuine adverbs, either. One study notes that, while you can say That's too fucking bad, you can't say That's too very bad. Also, as linguist Geoffrey Nunberg pointed out, while you can imagine the dialogue How brilliant was it? Very, you would never hear the dialogue How brilliant was it? Fucking.
Here is the generative... no. Fornicating... not quite. Making love... nope. Frakking! link. (And the use of "frak" in Battlestar Galactica is a fascinating example of that unique brand of puritanism that is the Excited States of America.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | ]

2 comments:

Ian said...

Ha, reminds me of a project I worked on where the client's Project Manahger was called Frakking (a Dutchman). Caused a few uneasy silences during introductions.

Cetamora said...

Oh.. I suddenly realized why Elliot says frick all of the time in Scrubs.. oh golly :S