What is to be done with me? I wrote and dared to publish an essay advocating freedom to use the word fuck and its derivatives. Born in 1927, I feared that writing this was a transgression, but oh brave new world, it was embraced!
I’ve gotten only pleasure and positive comments. There were 1500 hits on the blog that day! Academically, I am on the catbird seat since I am professor emerita (an honorary appointment). And part of the fun is being the dirty-mouthed old lady professor. People are entertained, mildly shocked, certainly not horrified. Except for the New York Times.
I am also too old to have my mouth washed out with soap, a good thing too because I’ve always been opposed to corporal punishment especially when the culprits are old ladies or children.
Personally, I think I should be awarded a prize for prescience. Yes prescience. And since we’re dealing with words that good, clean one is a beaut; prescience: knowledge of actions or events before they occur; foresight.
Because on April 11, 2011, two days AFTER I posted,” The Fucking Best College Writing Course” – that revolutionary, linguistic essay, that veritable ground-breaking explosion – the noted journalist and leading New York Times theatre critic, Ben Brantley had the tricky assignment of reviewing a Broadway play WITH THE DIRTY WORD IN ITS TITLE!
Opening at the Schoenfeld Theatre that night was: “The Motherfucker With The Hat,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The Times sanitized the title to “The –––––––––––– With The Hat.” That’s a hard one to pronounce – and even harder to advertise, Brantley speculated. (Other papers just used a few asterisks but the Times wanted to avoid even the bowdlerized version.)
He began his review with a masterful paraphrase, “The play that dares not speak its name turns out to have a lot to say.” Brantley went on to discuss at length how, after getting the assignment he irritably anticipated the idiocy (my word) and difficulty of the assignment.
He praised the play enormously. “This is by far the most accomplished and affecting work from the gifted Mr. Guirgis, a prolific and erratic chronicler of marginal lives.” Brantley concluded forthrightly, “But you know the title really is the right one for this fast and furious study of lives in collision….”
Yes, sometimes the mot juste is not so pretty, but it is nonetheless, exactly what must be said.