Commentary | Life Lines: Breaking our profane Morse code

Surveying the colourful spectrum of newspaper writers, you’ll come across everything from self-aware critical essays to flamboyant, roller coaster-type pieces, and it’s often hard to tell which styles and forms work best. But there’s that one kind – the I-do-what-I-write-walking-the-talk kind – that soars above the rest. This breed of writers are the ones who take up some sort of crazy task and then document it. Anything from immersing themselves into a war-ravaged area to reading the encyclopedia through from A to Z. These guys and gals are the real deal.

And so, since I find myself in the middle of The Daily below the guy who connects birthday party games with politics, I thought this is as good a place as any to take on my very own enterprise: my addition to the journalist’s mission.

But what to do? I considered measuring people’s reactions by running wildly everywhere I go screaming “THEY’RE COMING!” but that was bound to get spoiled by McGill Security. I also thought about saying “Yes” to everything offered to me but Jim Carrey stole that idea for his upcoming film. Finally, in one miraculous moment of columnistal inspiration, it hit me.

I’ll give up the most subtle, most convenient habit of the majority of university students. The habit that infiltrates discussions ranging from last night’s bar fight to our country’s environmental policy. That is of course the use of the f-word. Brilliant, no? What could be more daunting than removing the very backbone of our urban conversation? And the goal? To use other, varying, eloquent ways of expressing myself in English. Ways that would make Shakespeare – and my mom – smile with bard-like approval.

In this mindset, I woke up on day one, ready to show the world the vastness of language. If anger struck, I would not be effing pissed, but irreversibly irate. If sorrow visited, I would not be effing sad but drearily melancholic. If joy stopped by, I would not be effing happy, but hopelessly ecstatic. All this turned out to be effing difficult.

I quickly realized the f-word is not only an adjective, but a verb, noun, adverb, and pronoun. And it’s zany how often we use it in all these forms. My venture suddenly became very clear to me. It was up to me to save the human race from utter language destruction. Imagine a place where whole sentences are composed of only one word: the inevitable f-word. Where one had to discover meanings by listening to the length and inflections of how this word was used. A profane morse code, if you will.

As time passed, I made note of how my vocal vocabulary increased to better express what I wanted to say. I saw that you can speak the way you write. The English language is indeed a treasure chest full of literary gems. Using only one sparkling jewel to convey our many intricate thoughts seems like silly ignorance of resources.

Don’t get me wrong, the f-bomb is certainly a jewel that is aptly used during tight sports games, and when you drop large objects on your toes. But it certainly isn’t the only one.

No self-respecting columnist would stick his mission for any less time than a month, after which I’ll have a bounty of linguistic experiences that no doubt would fascinate a waiting world. Maybe I’ll write a book about it.

Johanu’s column appears every Monday. Send your fucking ideas to lifelines@mcgilldaily.com.


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