The Null Device

Fuck

There's a fairly interesting paper on the status of the word "fuck" in US law, and the irrational power that word taboos have in our seemingly enlightened society.
A trilogy of events motivated me to start this project. The first occurred during my second year of law teaching. In my Professional Responsibility course, the lesson for the day was attorney racist and sexist behavior. The case I assigned from a leading casebook was liberally sprinkled with fuck, cunt, shit, bitch and the like. Sensitive to the power of language, I recited the facts myself rather than ask a student as was my norm. After the course was over, I was reviewing my student evaluations and discovered this: "I was a little disturbed by the way he seemed to delight in saying 'cunt' and 'fucking bitch' during class. I think if you're going to say things like that in class, you should expect it to show up on the evaluation."
Three legally trained minds--a law student, a law enforcement officer, and a federal judge--each heard the word fuck and suddenly lost the ability to calmly, objectively, and rationally react. If fuck has power over these people, what are the limits of its influence?
It has some interesting factoids, such as:
Of particular interest to the lawyer-lexicographer is the suggestion of an Egyptian root petcha (to copulate). During the last Egyptian dynasties, legal documents were sealed with the phrase, "As for him who shall disregard it, may he be fucked by a donkey." The hieroglyphic for the phrase--two large erect penises---makes the message clear.
The author of the piece (which is titled, simply, "Fuck") makes it clear that he regards word taboos as irrational and unworthy of a place in rational discourse, and as such never avoids using the word where there is an option. Oddly enough, he also seems to refuse to put quotes around it, even when discussing the word "fuck" itself rather than what it refers to, as if doing so would be an unacceptable surrender to the Prim And Proper Language Police.

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