In a sign of how commonplace profanity has become in our society, the newest edition of Canada's venerable editors' handbook, The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling, includes for the first time one of the most notorious four-letter words in the English language.In the edition being published Monday, editors will now find the expletive right between FTP and Fudgsicle.
"We found the word was creeping into our news stories on a fairly regular basis, probably because people are saying it more and more in public, and various media pick it up on their microphones and recorders," said Patti Tasko, editor of Caps and Spelling.
Its entry in the 40th anniversary edition of the 215-page guide - the only vulgarity included other than "damn" and its variations and s.o.b. - is designed to give editors guidance. In short: avoid it for the most part. And if it must be used because it adds a valuable news element to a story, spell it out. No f and three asterisks. No "eff word." No freakings, friggings or firkings either, for that matter.
The addition to Caps of what might well be the English language's best-known curse word would have been unnecessary 20 years ago because it just didn't appear in print that often. Now it's routinely listed in dictionaries and commonly heard in movies and popular TV shows. It's used to convey annoyance, despair, anger, incredulity and lust. It's a verb, a noun, an adjective, an adverb - even verbal punctuation.
"It's much more socially acceptable than it used to be," says Katherine Barber, the editor-in-chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. "I hear children using it a lot. I hear them walking down the street saying it, and I mean young children who are only nine or 10 years old. Maybe children that age have always been running around yelling it, but I don't think so. Somewhere along the line it has lost some of its power, but that doesn't mean that it's not still offensive to certain portions of the population."
The word that rhymes with duck is only one of dozens of new or changed listings in Caps, the manual used by thousands of editors in journalism, public relations, government and business. Many of the new entries are technology-related, from BlackBerry to Xbox.
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