In Defense of the F-Word

In contrast to Bill Cosby’s rage against the N-word, we have from–of all people–Charles Krauthammer an eloquent defense of the F-word.

In Defense of the F-Word

I am sure there is a special place in heaven reserved for those who have never used the F-word. I will never get near that place. Nor, apparently, will Dick Cheney.

Heh. Nor I.

Flood-the-zone coverage by investigative reporters has not, however, quite resolved the issue of which of the two preferred forms passed Cheney’s lips: the priceless two-worder — “[verb] you” — or the more expansive three-worder, a directive that begins with “go.”

Though I myself am partial to the longer version, I admit that each formulation has its virtues. The deuce is the preferred usage when time is short and concision is of the essence. Enjoying the benefits of economy, it is especially useful in emergencies. This is why it is a favorite of major league managers going nose to nose with umpires. They know that they have only a few seconds before getting tossed out of the game, and as a result television viewers have for years delighted in the moment the two-worder is hurled, right on camera. No need for sound. The deuce was made for lip reading.

Which makes it excellent for drive-by information conveyance. When some jerk tailgater rides my bumper in heavy traffic, honking his horn before passing and cutting me off, I do a turn-to-the-left, eyeball-to-eyeball, through-the-driver’s-window two-worder — mouthed slowly and with exaggerated lip movements. No interlocutor has yet missed my meaning.

There is a certain multi-purpose utility to the word.

Cheney’s demonstration of earthy authenticity in a chamber in which authenticity of any kind is to be valued has occasioned anguished meditations on the loss of civility in American politics. Liberals in particular have expressed deep concern about this breach of decorum.

Odd. The day before first reports of Cheney’s alleged indiscretion, his Democratic predecessor, Al Gore, delivered a public speech in which he spoke of the administration’s establishing a “Bush gulag” around the world and using “digital brown shirts” to intimidate the media. The former vice president of the United States compared the current president to both Hitler and Stalin in the same speech — a first not just in hyperbole but in calumny — and nary a complaint is heard about a breach of civility.

If you suspect that this selective indignation may be partisan, you guessed right. But here’s an even more important question. In the face of Gore’s real breach of civil political discourse, which of the following is the right corrective: (a) offer a reasoned refutation of the charge that George Bush is both Stalinist and Hitlerian; (b) suggest an increase in Gore’s medication; or (c) do a Cheney.

The correct answer is “C.” And given the circumstances, go for the deuce.

Indeed. While it’s arguably improper for a person of Cheney’s high office, a presumed role model for America’s youth, to use such language in a public setting, it is an expression of the correct sentiment for having one’s integrity challenged by the likes of Pat Leahy. A punch to the nose would be even more communicative but, alas, is considered inappropriate in these politically correct times. A pity.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Damn that Aaron Burr. I blame him for the end of public dueling between public officials.

    I have little doubt that Cheney is a better shot than Leahy.

  2. DC Loser says:

    I wouldn’t know about that…those Vermonters are pretty crazy about their guns.

  3. carpeicthus says:

    How I too, long for the days when Senators would beat each other with canes. Clearly, what we need is Senatorial mud-wrestling.

  4. Boyd says:

    My favorite invective was heard while passing the open door to a berthing compartment aboard the USS Eisenhower:

    “F*** you, you dumb f***ing f***!”