Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Illogic of the Four Letter Word

by Kerry Schafer

This, as you can see, is a duck:

If you've passed seventh grade, or possibly sixth, you will be well aware that duck rhymes with fuck. Now I love ducks, and I'm not at all adverse to a good fuck, but if anybody can tell me how the two words came to be used together in a Four Letter Word Combo Deluxe, I'd love to be so enlightened. Fortunately, I believe the ducks of the world are oblivious to the phrase Fuck a Duck, and just go about swimming and preening without worrying about what might be in the heads and on the lips of humans.

Probably they don't give a flying - OH. Wait a minute. Maybe there is a connection after all.

Moving on:

Lovely specimen of a bull, is it not? Bull is also a four letter word, but all by itself nobody takes objection to it. It's perfectly safe, even as a six year old child under the sharp eye of a first grade teacher, to talk about bulls. But once again, we put the name of the animal together with a pithy Anglo Saxon word and create another Four Letter Word Combo:

Bull Shit.

Always said with a great deal of emphasis and often just a slight edge of righteous indignation. Again, why the bull? All animals poop. What is it about the excreta of the bull that is so much more powerful than that of any other animal?

Pig shit is infinitely stinkier, as is dog shit, chicken shit, and monkey shit. Elephant shit is vast and more impressive. If you are owned by a cat, you know well what an unpleasant place the litter box can be. Personally, I've had far more unpleasant incidents with cow shit, which is more plentiful due to the fact that cows outnumber bulls one herd at a time.

All right. Let's cut the bull and move on.

I know, I know, beaver isn't actually a four letter word.

Neither is this:

And this is, but only if you can't spell in English:

If you're still with me, I do have a point, and it is this: Words themselves are not inherently good or evil until some committee makes a ruling. Think about it. It's bad to say shit, but okay to say poo, and crap is somewhere in the middle. It's fine to make love, but not to fuck. You can pee, but you'd better not piss.

Fascinating, really. As writers I think it's really pretty simple - pick the best word for the job and be done.


  1. I have stared and stared and stared in vain at your comment, KAK, and failed to understand. I know this makes me naive or dumb or something - but I still don't get it.

  2. Yep. Words are tools. Use a wrench when a wrench is called for, and a hammer when one is required.

  3. I've always wondered about the lengthy combinations of things like "Jesus f**kin' Christ on a jumped-up pogo stick." Who coined that phrase? Under what circumstances?

  4. There's a committee. We're all automatically banned. For life.