The worst word

By TIMOTHY GOWER  |  April 7, 2009

The problem is, those so deeply hurt by the very sight of that word tend to be women. Jay has conducted studies of how people rate the offensiveness of specific dirty words and reports that females overwhelmingly rate the C-word as the worst. But men aren't nearly as offended by it, so if you take the overall average of word ratings, the one that rhymes with bunt drops to third, behind fuck and--in Jay's opinion the word most people consider most offensive--motherfucker.

To be sure, MF is a double taboo--exclaim it and you're accusing someone not only of enjoying pleasures of the flesh, but of doing so with his or her own flesh. But what would motherfucker be without fuck? Mother-humper or mother-screwer or mother-copulator? It's the blunt edge of fuck that makes it hurt.

Fuck has shown incredible staying power as the worst all-around word in English, and it's showing little sign of losing its lowly status. Or make that lofty status, depending on your view. Of all the dirty words in our language, wrote Edward Sagarin in The Anatomy of Dirty Words,

&ldots;one word reigns supreme, unchallenged in its preeminence. It sits upon a throne, an absolute monarch, unafraid of any princely offspring still unborn, and by its subjects it is hated, feared, revered, and loved, known by all and recognized by none.

Some fucking endorsement, don't you think?

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