Friday, May 16, 2008

New York Times finds that New Yorkers cuss a lot and don't even really notice

Clyde Haberman takes a look at "fucking" in the Times today (uh, the word):

The reality is that this vulgar word has been tossed about with such abandon in public for so many years that New Yorkers tend to tune it out. Its endless, and mindless, repetition left them numb long ago. By now, the word is no longer shocking, just tedious.

Through frequent use, “a word like this begins to be less of a curse word,” said Ricardo Otheguy, a sociolinguist at the City University of New York Graduate Center. “The more you use it, the less dirty it is.”

You routinely hear Wall Street suits use the word at high decibels in the subway. Police officers bounce it casually among one another, no matter who else is around to hear. Teenagers use it all the time. Some people walk around with the word screaming from their T-shirts — an insight, perhaps, into their capacity for self-degradation.

But for how much longer? I wouldn't be surprised if legislation was passed making it illegal to swear in New York City. At least indoors. If we want to swear, we'll have to go outside -- as long as it isn't 500 feet from a school or place of worship. And they'll be a steep swear tax. And landlords will begin offering apartments that allow swearing. That will jack up rents by $400 a month...

P.S. Thanks Sue Simmons!

Related (kind of!): Joan Acocella's essay in Smithsonian Magazine on why New Yorkers seem rude -- and smart!

[Via Gawker]

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