I met this lady on the plane coming back from Minneapolis. I knew I liked her the minute she turned to a guy in his 30s and said, “I see you giving me that old lady look.”
He had been of course.
Giving her that old lady look.
He was annoyed because a mix-up in the seat assignment was backing up the line in the aisle. I chuckled as she called him out for his age discrimination. Lucky for me, the mix-up meant that she was now my new seatmate. I told her how she had amused me with her remark to the annoyed fellow. She said something about if he was fortunate enough to live long enough, he’d be old one day too.
She is 85. A doctor.
You know what that means, don’t you?
This was a woman who had earned the respect of many because she had the wherewithal to earn a medical degree during a time when few women were enrolled in med school. She was not intimidated in the least by someone younger making wrong-headed assumptions about her. People had been making wrong-headed assumptions about her for a long time. She’d stared down much more formidable men than a wimpy hipster in a hurry to find his seat next to the toilet in the back of the plane.
She had fought discrimination most of her adult life. She is not surprised to be fighting age-discrimination now. It is true that it takes a moment upon rising for her legs to cooperate. But, I can attest that after a 3-hour plane ride, there is nothing wrong with her mind. She’s far more articulate than most 40-year-olds. Well-read and knowledgeable about a multitude of subjects, from politics to religion to medicine. She was returning home after a 3-week visit with college friends. A few days at home and she was off again to see grandchildren in California. Whatever slowing down age has down to her is more than made up for by the speed of a jet plane.
When she discovered I was a wordsmith, she wanted to know what is it with this F-word. Why do people of my generation and younger use it so much?
“I have come to believe they have no idea what the word means. They are always using it in the most inappropriate of ways.”
How could I respond? How would you respond?
Of course she was right. Most of the time fuck is used totally inappropriately and out-of-context.
By definition the word means “to have sexual intercourse with.”
Imagine if every time the word fuck is used we started replacing it with the true meaning of the word – intercourse.
The title of Adam Mansback’s wildly bestselling book would be: Go the Intercourse to Sleep.
Bleachers full of parents would be yelling Intercourse You! at the referee who made the bad call during the football game on Friday night.
The teenager who failed to study for his test, pounds the desk and says in frustration: “Intercourse.”
The Starbucks client whose drink is made wrong, twice: “Intercourse it.”
The lawyer who loses the case she assured her client she would win: “That Intercoursing jury.”
All of Jay-Z’s lyrics: “Intercoursing cops. Intercoursing ho. Intercoursing dope. Intercoursing money.”
The chick whose boyfriend cheated on her: “He’s such an intercoursing idiot.” Although, it should be noted in such a situation, fucking would be used rightly.
I can’t think of any other word in the English language that is abused so widely and so commonly as fuck. Can you?
As Twain said: The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
Karen Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain (Mercer Univ. Press).