Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties

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Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties
Fuck book cover with title partially obscured by correction liquid
Cover of 2009 edition
Author Christopher M. Fairman
Cover artist Cyanotype Book Architects
Country United States
Language English
Subject Freedom of speech
Publisher Sphinx Publishing
Publication date
2009
ISBN 978-1-57248-711-6
OCLC 262433445
Dewey Decimal 342.7308/53
LC Class KF9444 .F35 2009

Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties is a nonfiction book written by law professor Christopher M. Fairman about freedom of speech, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, censorship, and use of the word "fuck" in society. The book was first published in 2009 by Sphinx as a follow-up on the author's article "Fuck". It cites studies from academics in social science, psychoanalysis, and linguistics. The author establishes that most current usages of fuck have connotations distinct from its meaning of sexual intercourse. Fuck discusses the efforts of conservatives in the United States to censor the word from common parlance in the country.

Fairman wrote his original article "Fuck" in 2006 and made it available on the Social Science Research Network. He had trouble finding a publisher for the article; it was rejected by the Kansas Law Review less than half an hour after submission. His article was published in 2007 in the Cardozo Law Review. Both the paper and subsequent book received favorable reception from news sources and library trade publications. Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries described the book as a sincere analysis of the word and its history of censorship. After the book's release, Fairman was consulted by media sources including CNN and The New York Times, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, on issues surrounding word taboo in society.

Background[edit]

Christopher M. Fairman graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He taught high-school level history for nine years before returning to his alma mater where he ultimately received his Juris Doctor degree. He worked as a clerk on the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District for Justice J. Woodfin Jones. Subsequently he was a clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for Judge Fortunato P. Benavides, and worked for the law firm Weil Gotshal in their office in Dallas.[1] Fairman became a professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law in 2000.[1][2] He specialized in areas of freedom of speech and word taboo,[2] and earned a reputation as an expert on the subject of legal ethics.[3][4]

Fairman was motivated to do research on "fuck" after learning of a Columbus, Ohio, man who was arrested for using the word in an email to a judge in 2004.[5] Fairman delayed writing the article until he received tenure because he was concerned its publication would adversely affect his professional reputation.[6] Nevertheless, his supervisors did not try to convince him to cease research into the topic.[6] Government funding helped finance Fairman's scholarship.[6]

His original 2006 article "Fuck" is an analysis of forbidden speech from linguistic and legal perspectives.[6] It covers use of the word in case studies about sexual harassment and education.[7] The article is 74 pages long,[8] and the word fuck is used over 560 times.[9] According to author Jesse Sheidlower in his book The F-Word, Fairman's work is the first academic article with the title of simply "Fuck".[10]

Fairman made his article available as a working paper on the Social Science Research Network website on April 17, 2006.[11] Initially the author unsuccessfully tried to have the article published by providing copies to multiple U.S. law reviews.[6] The Kansas Law Review rejected his article 25 minutes after receipt.[6] It was published by the Cardozo Law Review in 2007.[12] The author wrote a follow-up piece in April 2007 titled "Fuck and Law Faculty Rankings".[13]

Content summary[edit]

Fuck cites studies from academics in social science, psychoanalysis, lexicography, linguistics, and etymology.[14][15] Of the sixteen chapters in the book, eight use the word "fuck" in their titles.[9] He discusses uses of the word from the 15th century onwards.[15] Fairman establishes that most current usages have connotations distinct from its denotation of sexual intercourse,[16] and asserts that rather than having sexual meaning, the word's use is most commonly associated with power.[9]

The author discusses the efforts of conservatives in the United States to censor the word from common parlance in the country, and says these acts are opposed to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[17] Fairman warns against a tendency toward self-censorship.[5] He explains that those who choose to silence themselves tacitly encourage a process by which speech is forbidden through the legal process.[5] He argues that this passivity has an impact of increasing the taboo nature of the word.[5]

Fairman writes that legal precedent regarding use of the word is unclear because of contradictory court decisions.[14] He presents case studies of these contradictory applications of the law, and uses them to analyze public perceptions surrounding freedom of speech.[14] He provides examples of exceptions to the First Amendment, such as speech intended to cause violent acts, and discusses the manner in which federal and state governments sanction these exceptions.[14][17] Fairman draws parallels between protection of comedians' usage of taboo language to the ability of individuals in society to freely express ideas.[5] He argues that once citizens allow the government to restrict specific words that can be used in speech, this will lead to an encroachment upon freedom of thought.[5]

Reception[edit]

Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties was first published in 2009 in paperback by Sphinx Publishing,[18] and in an electronic format for the Amazon Kindle the same year.[19] The Seattle Post-Intelligencer called Fairman's paper compelling and amusing.[20] The Horn Book Magazine described the paper as a contemplative scholarly work which was simultaneously an engaging read.[15] Writing in the San Diego Law Review, Orly Lobel called Fairman's article a thought-provoking analysis into how the law and the First Amendment address issues of sexual language.[21] In a 2011 article for the Federal Communications Law Journal, W. Wat Hopkins was critical of Fairman's article and subsequent book, writing that both appeared to be formats for the author to repeatedly use the word "fuck", rather than actually analyze the subject from a rigorous perspective.[9]

A review of the book in Publishers Weekly called it a vibrant extension of his article,[17] and described it as educational and assertive in its promotion of freedom of speech, particularly in the face of the controversial language discussed.[17] Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries reviewed Fuck and called it a stimulating book.[14] The review concluded, "[h]ighly recommended. All readership levels."[14]

Library Journal described the book as a sincere analysis of "fuck" and its history of censorship.[22] The review characterized the book as of a higher quality than The Compleat Motherfucker: A History of the Mother of all Dirty Words (2009) by Jim Dawson.[22] Ian Crouch of The New Yorker praised the cover design for the book.[23] Crouch observed that the word Fuck was shown partially obscured by correction fluid but was still clearly evident in full.[23] He concluded this was an appropriate image for a book on free speech and word taboo.[23]

After the book's publication, Fairman was consulted by media sources, including CNN, on issues involving word taboo.[24][25][26] The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio invited Fairman to host its forum "Word Taboos" in 2010; his presentation was titled "Putting the 'F' in Free Speech".[5] In a 2012 article on the word "fuck", The New York Times characterized Fairman as the foremost legal scholar in the United States on "fuck".[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Christopher M. Fairman". Professors (Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law). 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Fairman, Christopher M. (February 14, 2010). "The case against banning the word 'retard'". The Washington Post. p. B01. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  3. ^ McCarty, James F. (March 26, 2010). "Comments linked to judge's e-mail discussed cases Saffold says she didn't post thoughts about attorneys and trials on Web site". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio: Accessed via NewsBank). p. A1. (subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ Hansen, Ronald J. (November 15, 2005). "Cox hires justices' wives for staff". The Detroit News (Accessed via NewsBank). p. 1B. (subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g McConnell, Kitty (July 15, 2010). "Professor takes on word taboo". The Other Paper. p. 46. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Harden, Mike (September 27, 2006). "In scholarly pursuit of the 'Queen Mother of dirty words'". Washington, D.C.: Accessed via NewsBank. Scripps Howard News Service. (subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ "Law Review Digest: Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Learning". Journal of Law & Education 36 (4): 567. October 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
  8. ^ The Columbus Dispatch staff (September 24, 2006). "Curses: Treatise on taboo word a tough sell". The Columbus Dispatch (Accessed via NewsBank). (subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ a b c d Hopkins, W. Wat (December 2011). "When Does F*** Not Mean F***?: FCC v. Fox Television Stations and a Call for Protecting Emotive Speech". Federal Communications Law Journal 64 (1). Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
  10. ^ Sheidlower, Jesse (2009). The F-Word. Oxford University Press, USA. p. xxviii. ISBN 0-19-539311-2. 
  11. ^ Fairman, Christopher M. (March 2006). "Fuck". Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 59; Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper Series No. 39 (Social Science Research Network; Date posted: April 17, 2006). doi:10.2139/ssrn.896790. Archived from the original on May 21, 2006. Retrieved April 2, 2013.  alternate link
  12. ^ Fairman, Christopher M. (2007). "Fuck". Cardozo Law Review 28 (4): 1711–1772. OCLC 123736997. Archived from the original on June 27, 2010. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  13. ^ Fairman, Christopher M. (April 2007). "Fuck and Law Faculty Rankings". Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 91 (Social Science Research Network). doi:10.2139/ssrn.971103. Archived from the original on March 24, 2007. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f American Library Association (March 2010). "Book Review – Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties, by Christopher M. Fairman". Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries (Chicago, Illinois). 
  15. ^ a b c Campbell, Patty (May 1, 2007). "The Sand in the Oyster: The Pottymouth Paradox". The Horn Book Magazine (Boston, Massachusetts). pp. 311–315. ISSN 0018-5078. 
  16. ^ Jay, Timothy (2009). "Do offensive words harm people?". Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 15 (2): 91–93. doi:10.1037/a0015646. Retrieved March 16, 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  17. ^ a b c d Publishers Weekly staff (August 31, 2009). "Nonfiction Review: Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  18. ^ Fairman, Christopher M. (2009). Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties. Sphinx Publishing. ISBN 978-1-57248-711-6. LCCN 2009016762. OCLC 262433445. 
  19. ^ Fairman, Christopher M. (2009). Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties. Sphinx Publishing. ASIN B00348UN8E. ISBN 1-57248-711-9. 
  20. ^ Eaton, Nick (July 29, 2011). "The F-word: Why can't we just effing say it whenever we effing want?". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on September 20, 2011. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  21. ^ Lobel, Orly (Fall 2006). "Editor's Symposium: Reflections on Equality, Adjudication, and the Regulation of Sexuality at Work: A Response to Kim Yuracko". San Diego Law Review 43 (4): 899. ISSN 0036-4037. Retrieved March 16, 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  22. ^ a b Orme, Marianne (August 21, 2009). "Xpress Reviews: First Look at New Books". Library Journal. ISSN 0363-0277. OCLC 36096783. 
  23. ^ a b c Crouch, Ian (September 2, 2010). "How Should We Put This?". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on September 5, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  24. ^ Park, Madison (September 27, 2010). "Congress eliminates the R- word". CNN Wire. p. Section: Med. Archived from the original on June 24, 2011. Retrieved June 11, 2013. 
  25. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (March 7, 2012). "Ending the R- word : Ban it or understand it?". CNN Wire. p. Section: Living. Archived from the original on March 10, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Rich or poor, women juggle family balance". St. Petersburg Times (Accessed via NewsBank). February 21, 2010. p. 6P. (subscription required (help)). 
  27. ^ Liptak, Adam (May 1, 2012). "A Word Heard Often, Except at the Supreme Court". The New York Times. p. A16. Archived from the original on May 2, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 

External links[edit]