The word that dares speak its name

    “Forget” it! I give in.

    For the first time in F****ing decades, I intend to watch the frickin’ Grammy awards.

    Because, for the first time in flipping forever, the Grammys may just be a @$#%! little bit relevant.


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    Now don’t misunderstand. This possible relevance has nothing to do with music. After all, this is the same outfit that continues to build on its legacy of not having a freaking clue. The Grammys’ list of blunders is legion and laughable.

    Take, for example, the 1966 Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording. That category held standout nominees, including The Beatles’ somber, string quartet-backed “Eleanor Rigby” and The Beach Boys’ soaring pocket symphony “Good Vibrations.” The winner was a one-off British Music Hall-inspired novelty tune, “Winchester Cathedral,” by the aptly named New Vaudeville Band. “A Vo De Oh Bo” indeed.

    Driven by the Unplugged fad of the early ’90s, the award for 1992’s Best Rock Song went to Eric Clapton’s incredibly boring remake of a pretty good rock song, “Layla.” (Note: Clapton’s groundbreaking trio Cream never even landed a nomination.) Problem was, the dumbed-down “Layla” beat out Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which even the oldest of farts, even then, recognized as an anthem for an upcoming generation.

    But, probably the best “out of touch” Grammy moment was 1976’s Best New Artist of the Year, Starland Vocal Band, and it’s four-part harmony plea for a satisfying mid-day bleep, “Afternoon Delight.”

    So, it is with no small bit of irony that the musically clueless Grammys, all 109 confusing categories and 500+ nominees of it, has positioned itself to stage a sociological moment of high import.

    Truly mass acceptance of, you know, that word.

    This year, Cee Lo Green has the distinction of being nominated in four categories for his song “F*** You.” Mind you, even though it is asterisked for newspapers and websites, that is the official Grammy-recognized title. You, innocent soul, may have been humming along to the sanitized radio or video version, “Forget You.” Forget that version. I’m paying attention because, for the first time, a song flaunting the mother of all curse words will be center stage.

    Hence the big moment. If the presenters or winners launch a symbolic “eff you” to the FCC and announce the song with its correct title, that word, so despised yet so popular, breaks into a new layer of acceptance. It could be a new dawn for lovers of unfettered speech and vulgar phrases.

    Certainly, the word isn’t new to pop music. John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” brandished it proudly and The Who’s “Who Are You?” tucked it in between other lyrics. Three decades ago, choir boy-voiced Harry Nilsson beat Cee Lo to punch with an identical “F*** You” chorus. Times being what they were, he titled his song ‘You’re Breaking My Heart.”

    It was never a Grammy contender.

    In recent decades, acts ranging from Rage Against The Machine to innumerous rappers have enjoyed nominations for songs with the “F word.”

    The difference is that when the national TV audience heard “The winner is Eminem for ‘Relapse,'” it wasn’t apparent that the word shows up dozens of times on the CD.

    Everyday conversations are no different. Boardrooms to street corners increasingly ring out with the “F bomb.” In the last half-century, this word has grown in popularity and versatility.

    Experts note it is one of the few words in the English language that can be used as a verb, noun, adverb, pronoun, adjective, conjunction, command and exclamation. It can express endearment, sexuality or dismay — sometimes in the same sentence. And you thought learning Chinese was tough?

    Its origins are uncertain, mostly because, while it was often said, it wasn’t often written. The Oxford English Dictionary says it stems from a number of native Germanic words with meanings involving striking, rubbing, and having sex. Rumors it is an acronym for such phrases as “Felonious Use of Carnal Knowledge” are false. However, rumors the Britney Spears song “If U Seek Amy” is a suggestive acronym are quite true.

    What’s a stand-up comedian without “eff”? Imagine “R-rated” movies, gritty books or politicians from Dick Cheney to Joe Biden without recourse to this word.

    Like most twentysomethings, the group leading the charge to legitimize the “F word,” my daughter doesn’t see the big deal. She observed that, in a few decades, hers will be the first generation of grayhairs to pepper their talk with the formerly forbidden linguistic fruit. AARP magazine will probably read like James Joyce.

    One thing is clear: the word continues to gain mainstream acceptance. One thing not so clear: How far with this acceptance go?

    After Sunday night, everyone from etymologists to my dear old mom should all have a much better handle on things. A “fleeting expletive,” as they are called, won’t count. Bono tried that and so did Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. There was no hint of social acceptance in those cases, just some raised eyebrows and an FCC inquiry.

    No, the watershed frackin’ moment for F*** may be at the Grammys. That is, if someone onstage boldly steps up to speak out. I mean, it really is the song title.

    However, depending on what occurs Sunday night, you’re looking at two alternatives:

    Resign yourself – or breathe a sigh of relief – to knowing that there will continue to be places where that word is just un-effin-acceptable.

    Or, head to the Facebook page “F*** the Grammy Awards” and let those expletives fly to an audience that appreciates your candor.

    As Cee Lo himself asks throughout his Grammy-nominated song, “Ain’t that some s**t?”

    Bill Wedo is a journalist and public relations specialist.

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