The F*** word, the trickiest word in the English language

Use of the word can be a most tricky affair

Last night, after Argentina beat Croatia in the FIFA World Cup semi-final, the most famous footballer in the world Lionel Messi posted the below on social media:

‘Come on Argentina F***’:  I was pretty sure he wasn’t asking a nation of 46 million to pro-create and this made me realise that the use of the F word, especially for a non-native speaker, can be a most tricky affair. It’s not intuitive how and when to use the f word and I doubt TEFL courses (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) have a lesson titled, “The F word: its role as a noun, verb and present participle”

Word order really matters. For example, saying ‘that was f***ing amazing’ means something completely different to ‘that was amazing f***ing’. One is an adjective, an expression of undefined joy. The other is a noun, an expression of a very defined, usually nocturnal joy.

The f word mainly adds vulgarity and is nearly always offensive and used in negative content but it has this uncanny ability to add emphasis to what is being said. Think of “yeah” versus “F*** yeah”. It’s like coriander (cilantro). A light tiny sprig brings out the flavour, too much and it’s obnoxious.

It gets further confusing because despite its ability to add emphasis, the f word is also capable of meaning the opposite.

There is a famous story from the 1980s: up in the north of England, a foreign car manufacturing company had sent a senior manager over to fact-find on any problem areas in the factory. The senior-manager was a non-native-English speaker and although his English was perfect, he had not had any f word lessons.

In a tense meeting with all of his managers listening, he became frustrated that facts were being withheld from him.

He turned red in anger, pounded his fist on the table. He looked around the room and said menacingly, “You think I know nothing. You think I know F*** NOTHING. In fact I know F*** ALL”*

  (* F*** all in slang means ‘nothing’) 

Yes the F word is perhaps the most varying and interchangeable word in the English language. Mesmersing, confusing, even bamboozling, sometimes cool in the right company and nearly always crude and vulgar. And finally to confuse matters further, it can even suddenly appear in the middle of words when you’re least likely to expect it.  


“The F*** word, the trickiest word in the English language” was first published on


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s