Bryan just wrote with this question:
BTW, Re: 'fuck'. How do you analyze 'fuck around', as in, "I was just fuckin' around" (i.e., with some papers, or all morning long), where 'fuck' and 'fiddle' are referentially synonymous? I suspect that 'fuck you' really doesn't have a sexual connotation any more; I'm pretty sure it doesn't for me. And the possibility of a non-sexually connotative use of 'fuck' is confirmed by the lack of sexual connotation of 'fuck around', (when the fucking around is not with persons not your committed monogamous partner, but rather papers &c). Good question. I think this needs clarification, since I didn't say it very well in my first notes on the topic.
I do agree that, in some contexts, the word 'fuck' doesn't have very strong sexual connotations. Any such connotations are probably left over from the kind of punishment that would be meted out by a parent or teacher who overheard an eight-year-old saying "Hey, let's fuck around on the swingset!" What is supposed to be so bad about this expression? Why would a child get in trouble for it? At least with the word 'damn', you can give the child some idea of what other people will understand her to mean: the word refers to damnation, to hell, to eternal punishment. What is the bad thing that the word 'fuck' refers to? There's only one thing that I know of that the culture considers bad, that this word refers to: sex. The younger the child, the more important it is that she not say it, because sex is not for kids, who are pure and innocent. Innocent of what? Of the terrible thing that carnal knowledge is.
I think that Bryan's question highlights what a horrific package-deal the word 'fuck' represents. There is simply no way to express what is supposed to be bad about saying the word without eventually getting to sex. This is not to suggest that Bryan would so silly as to teach his child that sex, or the word 'fuck', is bad. Nevertheless, his child might very well be sent home from school for saying "Let's fuck around!" at which point she would need to have it explained what the big deal was; and if neither she nor Bryan want her to get sent home every day, she'll need to stop saying it. What is Bryan going to say, to help her understand this? He can say that some silly people think that the word is bad; but the explanation for that, ultimately, comes down to sex. Sex is at the root of it. Sex, that thing we all need, desire, are curious about, and like to engage in, is the problem behind the word 'fuck'. It wouldn't be such a fun word to get away with saying, if it weren't--not because we like to get away with using sex-words, but because we like to get away with saying bad words.
The problem is that, in most contexts, the word 'fuck' has bad connotations. These connotations are carried over into contexts in which it should have good connotations. It is because of the carry-over in this direction, that I've stopped using 'fuck' and words like it in non-sexual contexts. I don't want to infect my mind with even the slightest suspicion that, when I fuck, I'm doing something terrible, or even mildly-disapproved-of. The problem is not that 'fuck' always has sexual connotations, but rather that it doesn't always have sexual connotations. And when it doesn't, the connotations it does have are usually wretchedly bad. It's not the sort of word that one can say during a typical job interview, for example. ("So, tell me, Bryan. When you're not working, how do you like to relax?" "Oh, I usually just fuck around with my model railroad...")
No, words don't have intrinsic meaning. I'm sure that there are people who can use the word 'fuck' with no sexual connotations whatsoever. I'm not one of them; I always think of sex when I hear the word. And if you go to any search engine and type in 'fuck', you will find a wealth of porn and erotica sites, most of which at least purport to think that sex is desirable and good. So in the general culture, the term has not lost its sexual connotations, and even people who never use it sexually themselves get exposed to uses of it as a sexual term.
It seems fairly inescapable. Nevertheless, I don't see any reason to contribute to it, or to take part in my own mental and emotional corruption by using the term in unpleasant contexts. I implore other people to at least think about it before they blurt it out, to be careful of what they mean, and what other people will take them to mean, before they speak. That's all.
Incidentally, I don't think that modifications of the word, often used by children and religious people in order to escape earthly punishment or eternal damnation, do anything to ameliorate the psychological damage. Replacement expressions such as 'gosh darn' are simply laughable; after all, the Almighty knows that you're taking his nickname in vain, so you're still going to hell. 'Frickin' still means 'fuckin'; 'freakin' is just as bad. These little modifications may create the illusion of using a neutral expression, but if you know what expression you're trying to cover up with it, then I can't see how it does any good. And it's even worse to feed these expressions to little kids, who won't understand until much later that they've been taking the name of sex in vain for years because their elders told them that it was ok.
The Everyday Living Can Opener In 1989, my roommate introduced me to a can opener that cut the can on the side, rather than on the top. The main benefits are that the top of the can doesn't fall down into the food, and the cut edge is very smooth and dull. I wanted to own one myself. So ever since then, I've been on the look-out. Apparently, not many other people thought this was a good design, because I couldn't find one. Even can openers that were advertised as "safety can openers" were only "safe" because of the way the opener itself was shaped, not because it cut the can in a safe way.
I found something similar, but better, in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago. This one doesn't cut the can at all. It's absolutely beautiful. As near as I can tell, it grips the rim of the can and squeezes it; as you twist the handle, breaks the seal all the way around the lid. The lid just sits there on top of the can until you twist it a little, at which point it pops off with little sucking sound. The food never touches the can opener itself!
From the user's point of view, it works exactly the same way: it clamps on to the top of the can, you twist the handle, and then you get to eat the food.
Why has this not been the standard way that can openers are made? Is it just me? If you can seal a piece of metal onto a can, shouldn't you know how to unseal it? Shouldn't the inventor of the Tin Can have been the one who thought of this? And if the inventor did, did we just forget? Was it "impracticable" until stronger steel was invented?
Anyway, these are the questions that bug me. It seems like a fairly obvious design--even more obvious than a cutting can opener that cuts the side instead of the top. Why have the lids of cans been falling into food for 100 years? Why have we all been satisfied with this state of affairs? (And by 'we' I mean 'that part of the market that doesn't include me'.)
If you want one, you should probably hurry. Fate is always such that, whenever I find a product I love, they stop making it the next month. It took me almost 12 years to find a non-standard can opener, so I wouldn't bet that it will be remain in production unless lots of other design fanatics buy themselves one right away. In fact, there's a good chance that, when you call tomorrow, either the phone number will have been disconnected, or the company will deny ever having made such a product. But try it anyway. Price: Approximately $7.00 U.S. Here's the contact information from the package, which I got at Food-4-Less in Clairemont Mesa, just East of La Jolla, CA:
Safe Cut Can Opener
Everyday Living TM
Distributed by Inter-American Products
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Bar Code Number: 1110 79017