Why The F (Word)

Catcher in the Rye used it five times. If you find an old copy in a second-hand book store, chances are some 12 year old (now 80-ish) underlined every instance. Back then, the f-word was outrageous; shocking; and hidden. And then, more often than not, it had to do directly with the sex act. But that curious 12 year old would have had his mouth washed out with soap–at the very least–had he uttered the word in public. “Ya kiss ya mutha with that mouth?!”

Hidden, because after rare and typically cryptic use in the sixteenth century, it was banned from english dictionaries from 1795 to 1965. I find it interesting that there was a word, even outside protestant and Puritan influence, that was deemed unbecoming to anyone who would use a dictionary and keep civil company. That was then. This is (f-ing) now.

So where did the word come from in the first place? That sleuthing is made more difficult because of the reluctance across the history of written language to write it out and to record its use by upstanding members of literate society. There are inaccurate stories that it originally came from a royal decree to repopulate after the plague: “Fornicate Under Command of the King.” Good story. Fake news. But maybe good advice for the survivors of Covid19. Eat. Drink. And make babies.

The best etymological roots seem to trace it to Scottish/Scandinavian roots, variously including fukka, focka and fock (penis.) Apart from the sexual use, it came to imply violence (hitting, punching, thrusting.) The combined “thrust” of the term to profane the act of procreation and, at the same time, imply ill-intentioned aggression, making it a perfect word for our moral-psycho-socially dysfunctional times, don’t you think?

There was a time not long ago when it was veiled and substituted as fork, pork, fug or eff/effing/effed. But the gloves are off now and it is released full-monty into the wild. Perhaps the high-density winner is the movie Wolf of Wallstreet where it was used every other breathe: a total of 506 times in a three hour movie. The script must have been tres-easy for the actors to remember. And if you forget a line, toss in some f’s as subjects, objects and epithets.

The word has morphed in the media and common vernacular of the past decades to be a much more versatile word by far than the original verb. Few words have so many different uses, often within the same sentence.

From Opinion: The f-word is everywhere – CNN

Think about it. It can express surprise, outrage, anger, humor, delight or desire. And it can stand in for several parts of speech: noun, verb (in any tense), gerund, participle, imperative, interrogative, interjection, to mention just the most common uses.

It can be quite a variety of speech bits: the verb, of course, as in f you, intended to imply obliterating, humiliating or otherwise damaging the intended subject. Then there are the prepositions: something or someone can be f’d up, f’d over or f’d around with. There is the flying f, from an 1800 ballad of sex on horseback.

It can be an adjective whose meaning is conferred by context, so that f-ing awesome and f-ing terrible both imply the extreme. As a noun, to not give a f means to disregard as trivial.

And perhaps the most unique use of the word is as an “infix” (as opposed to pre-and suff-ix) where the word comes in the middle. Consider for example the emphatic infix of “un-f’ing-believable.

It can be used as an interrogative as in What da f?

But any more, it is a space filler that may or may not be chosen for any of the above purposes, but because it comes to mind. My favorite story is this one:

During a trivia game at her assisted living home, she could not think of the name of Peter, Paul, and Mary's magic dragon, so she blurted: "F--- the Magic Dragon," which now has become the family's official title for the song.

You can find plenty of praise for the word, including being an antidote to the “poison of piety, fastidiousness and erudition” and “a way of defining character.” I just don’t care to watch or listen to such characters for more than a minute.

So I having accepted the fact that I can’t find many things on Netflix or elsewhere that do not accost my brain with extensive overuse of the word, I still don’t quite understand how other words, with long rich histories of use, could not as well express outrage, surprise, indignation or malice.

After the first dozen f-bombs, I will chose to take a walk instead. There is sufficient anger, violence, misogyny and racism in fact without having to have it brought into common language, veiled or overt. I tend to remove my attention and my advertising dollars from those that have no better way to draw and keep my attention.

“Let your yay be yay and your nay be nay” the Bible admonishes. Speak your mind without the theatric embellishments, brethren and sistren. So my guess is, there was an f-word equivalent even back then. Verily, verily I say unto thee, if you don’t have other words than that for me well, just shut the…

Fragments: ’20 Week 11

So if I set up a kind of schedule and framework–say for every Thursday–maybe I’ll do a better job of posting at least once a week? Does it matter? Only that it might make me less the tree blogging in the forest with a few ears to hear, and I get to see a task completed. Might be, within the fragments, you’ll find a thing or two of interest or benefit. And the lists over time will let that browser know me better by seeing what has drawn my attention over the past week. And does that matter? The jury is still out.

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REALM OF NATURE ♻️

You’re Not So Different From an Octopus: Rethinking Our Relationship to Animals That we have allowed ourselves to see humankind as other than and apart from NATURE is part of the philosophical wrong path we’ve taken that lead us to see the biosphere as nothing but a commodity and fodder for the economic machine.

To save insects from extinction, we need to give them space | Ensia And how likely do you think this notion will gain traction? We won’t give space to Polar Bears, penguins, or tropical forests to grow. Imagine–in light of the above point–that we have fellow feelings (and our own self interest) to the point where we purposely create “insect corridors.” Nah.

WHAT PEOPLE DO ✂️

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak highlights serious deficiencies in scholarly communication | Impact of Social Sciences If there is a silver lining on the vast cloud that will become the global Covid19 storm, it might be that we rethink how we are failing to work as if we are all in the same lifeboat.

How South Korea Is Composting Its Way to Sustainability | The New Yorker This article came along when Ann and I realized we could play a role in community sustainability–and this, as we contemplated the need to be locally sustainable in our neighborhood as Covid19 sweeps through. We don’t have a dog now, and even though we don’t create a LOT of food scraps, what we have should be going to our neighbor (from whom we get eggs) who has chickens and pigs. Duh.

WHAT OUR TOOLS DO 🛠

Hand Pumps: An Option for Back-Up Water Pumping | Resilient Design Institute We are loathe to leave our water and wood independence on Goose Creek. The Other Place needs one of these. A friend called just last night and offered the unused manual pump installed just before Y2K, now unused because they are content to depend on a forever supply of propane for a whole-house generator. We are not.

How to add personal documents to Kindles and Kindle apps – The Verge So it is no secret I am trying to train myself to herd the million cats of information I come across. Taking smart notes is key. Getting text into annotatable format is the beginning. Then comes the hard work of winnowing the wheat and putting it in places and forms that my Future Self can find when needed.

How to Legally Download Movies for Free to Watch Offline It seems a wise thing to do to retain sufficient reading and viewing material to sustain a family through rocky times. I have lots of empty space on the iPad and iMac. Hopefully these downloads include older movies with less blood, a richer vocabulary and characters with character.

UP CLOSE and PERSONAL 🔎

Guest Column: ‘Holding Space’ at The Floyd Country Store – Blue Ridge Country Dylan and Heather are keeping the Heart of Floyd alive and well.

NRV’s ‘Fish Ladies’ retiring, ‘Fish Kids’ taking over | Business | roanoke.com The end of an era: but not really. We have bought from the “fishwagon” every week since we moved here to Goose Creek, I think. We’ll miss the ladies but keep enjoying the trout, catfish and shrimp. The article says when they started out, they discovered people would not buy shrimp with the heads on. Reminds me that, when I met Ann in college, she (from Biloxi) was the designated shrimp peeler anywhere they were served en mass. She was an experienced girl. In that way.

Amazon.com: Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella with Teflon Coating (Black Red): Upper Echelon Products So I decided I wanted my Last Umbrella: one that would be visible unique and less losable; one that was well made and warranteed; and one that (unlike my ten yr old golf umbrella) could be put in a car wet and not soak the passengers seat. This is it. When not expanded in use, it collapses, keeping the wet surface to the inside. Clever, if weird.

Why we need an absence of noise to hear anything important | Aeon Essays I have sought out, been steeped in, and learned from the solitude and (relative) tranquility of two decades of quiet. Places too big, too fast, too fake and too noisy send me into adrenal stress, as they do most people. Alas, most city folk don’t even realize the cost they pay.

Radio queen: DeVito has four decade ‘habit’ | Local News | roanoke.com So you Floyd folk might know Linda’s many current hats and voices, but not the background. She has quite a history, and brings pieces of all that into her multiple roles in Floyd County and SWVA, and we are the better off for that.

ORBIT OF EARTH 🌏

Earth View from Google Perusing the images of our Blue Marble from space never fails to elicit AWE for me. This is a “good” we rarely seek out or find. It is right under our very feet and the cosmos above. Day and night, the planet is an awe-inducing place if we care to look.

Why Do We Love the View From High Above? | Psychology Today Herein, an essay on the eve (well, three months off) of moving to higher ground. There is something happening when we stand on a peak and see the distant forest, river, mountain peak and meadow. What is about the “higher ground” that draws us–and often makes us pay extra?

A global shift to sustainability would save us $26 trillion – Vox The costs of the status quo keep rising; the costs of sustainable alternatives keep declining. To choose to live in an a world governed by an unsustainable economic model is self-destructive; we know that, and just hope the end of the road will not happen until some other people are behind the wheel after we’ve lived the good life.

The Children-Avatars of Goose Creek

It is a fact (barring worse-case outcomes in the real estate realm) that this date a year from now, I will not be sitting at this desk in this room at these coordinates on Planet Earth. But someone will be just about to experience their first spring on Goose Creek.

Who will it be? What will it be for them? How will they become embedded in the local ecology, or will they be “summer people” who simply recreate and vacation here and then go absent–snow birds wintering in the Caribbean?

I try to imagine this house with the enlivenment of other souls than ours. It never has been and never would be OURS, other than in the legal sense. They too will be semi-permanent transients, pretending their own OUR-ness for a few years, a few decades. But what do I want to think their lives will be like, in my most hopeful moments? How might the Whole Ecology of this parcel and square mile of corrugated ridges and forest become home for them?

And the thought that has given me the most pleasure to project across the next decade of new owners here is that there will be children. A boy, Ethan, age 5 and a girl, Brittany, age 8 let’s say. Their parents are educated, adventurous, curious and nurturing for their children’s nature literacy and broadest-possible citizenship among people and all creatures. And it is for that kind of living education that they chose to buy this particular and unique property.

And so, while I have decided not to flesh out this fantasy here in vast detail, I feel certain that it is something I will muse about, before and after the sale, regardless of the childless buyers who winter in the Bahamas.

It will make me smile to “know” that these two children will carry on with my “knowings” of this place; will extend my memories of some of the very same rocks that they will turn in Nameless Creek; the very same fallen logs where they will find perhaps the same Slimey Salamander I found last summer.

They will walk the length of the creek, from the bluff and well past the Fortress of Solitude. (What if anything will they call that tranquil place where so many hopes and dreams once visited an old man?) They will walk in cold kettles up to their waist, in the dappled light of a green corridor of moss and fern, and learn early on how stinging nettle got its name.

Ethan and Brittany as teenagers will delight in inviting their friends here, who discover a wildness here not present even in many places within Floyd County. They will proudly show their visitors where the water snakes sun by the barn; which trees to watch for mountain boomers; and how to find water pennies under just the right creek rocks while collecting crayfish just for fun.

While not many children their age can identify a dozen spring and summer birds by their calls, they will know the Louisiana Waterthrush; they will know when and where the Scarlet Tanagers will build their nests; and they will stop in their tracks (just like I do, I just know they will) any time a raven makes one of a dozen different calls five hundred feet above them.

They will come to know who they are because of where they are. They will be rooted, grounded and placed humans because of what this place will offer to teach them, and because they have willingly and enthusiastically offered to learn and to know and to care.

Their laughter and their music fill my imagination, though they may never fill these heart-pine walls. Even so, I will think of them often, next year and beyond, my avatars who will live forward the life I leave them here. Tend the details and the lessons, and cultivate them, children. And share them in words and pixels. Perhaps someone will listen.

One-Armed Paper Hanger

So even with my good intentions to breathe life back into the blog, it’s been on life support in ICU for another week, hanging on by a thread (though not of active conversation) and waiting for an injection of adrenalin. But not because there is nothing to write about on Goose Creek. Far from it. And I do not apologize for personal sloth. Oh NO!

My goal was to ship out five bits from the upcoming book for (possible but not certain) inclusion in lit-mags to establish some writing cred–and perhaps attract attention of an agent or publisher. I did it, and so now moving on to other things.

On the positive end, I am finding wonderful resources for publishers, publications and writers who might be kindred spirits and a help towards the goal of printing for “One Place Understood: Field Notes from a Personal Ecology.” I’ve changed the name back since I mocked up a cover a month ago. (It won’t be this dark and will contain more color. And if I succeed in getting it third-party published, they’ll hijack the cover and the title, so I’m not spending much time on this just now.)

One bright spot has been the discovery of the ASLE–the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. I have joined as a member, and look forward to learning as a folk-writer from these mostly-academic professionals.

ASLE is where slow thinking (scholarly and artistic research and writing) meets swift action (we cannot truly be environmental humanists unless we are willing to become environmental activists). We study, write, compose and create because we care about issues like biodiversity, environmental justice, survival in a time of endemic precarity and global catastrophe, and the effects of climate change on humans and nonhumans alike. These concerns have long histories, and we believe that we can look to the past to imagine alternative futures. We do not have easy solutions to the problems that face us, but we do have faith that widened community is our best way forward. 

Just so you know: I’ve been busier than…you know; and had a cat to help every step of the way.

Mosey loves the melted ice from last night’s bourbon and Pepsi

BOOKENDS: Sowing Seeds

This is a screenshot from a portion of my BOOKS RECORDS in Notion app for Mac

I am having a spurt of organizational drive this week, and so I’m getting around to doing a better job of books book keeping, of distributing my books beyond Floyd, and getting back in motion not just with existing books but also and especially for the “new one” still in digital and embryonic form only.

Today I added book sales locations to the blog sidebar, notwithstanding the fact that there is an echo in the cobweb-festooned room that is Fragments from Floyd. That may change if the current surge of motivation continues.

So just to sign off on this minor change and move on, here’s the list of places where you can find my books. I visited all the out-of-town sites on a round trip last week, and had wonderful conversations and met many new readers and friends.

And that is a good bit of what has me jazzed: I am energized by finding folks who resonate with my curiosity and interest in “our relationships to nature, place and community” that is the theme for all three books.

Finally, if you are interested in purchasing a book and helping support independent authors, use the printable form. Saves you money (both books at $15 a piece) and I don’t have to pay a 40% discount to the nice shopkeepers who kindly sell my books. — Fred

IN FLOYD
Floyd Country Store
Maggie Gallery
Floyd Center for the Arts

IN MEADOWS OF DAN
Poor Farmers Market

IN GALAX
Chapters BookShop

IN ABINGDON
Heartwood Cultural Arts Center

IN MEADOWVIEW
Meadowview Farmers Guild

IN WYTHEVILLE
Wythe Visitors Center

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