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Samuel L. Jackson reads the book “Go the F*ck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach.

Not in my parents’ generation, and not among some of my brothers’ families, but I do think “what the f*ck” and other similar phrases using “the fuck” as an intensifier are very prevalent indeed even in everyday family talk. I had an interesting conversation with a housemate here in Potsdam last week who said our next-door neighbors, who are from the States and have a great big yard, so we get an earful of their life through the garden fence, yell at each other a lot and use expletives. My response was, well, I frankly hadn’t noticed, but yes, that just might happen among American couples, sure. It’s sort of like saying “verdammt” in German, except of course nobody says that. Every region here in Germany has its own colorful language. Take Bavaria – and take the Schimpfwörter-Quiz.

But Mansbach’s book has in fact been translated into German by Jo Lendle, and the title translation is perfect: “Verdammte Sch*e, schlaf ein!” It’s sparked controversy among German parents, as summarized in the Atlantic Wire (with sample translations.)

Would I teach the various uses of “the f*ck”? We’ve discussed this before, but I’m revisiting the issue.  In my EFL classes, the most popular phrase, WTF, is generally acquired correctly anyway and learners won’t really have much occasion to use the other phrases until they are deeply enculturated and using them would be appropriate, by which time they’ll be acquired. I generally react to the way learners use language in class, so of course if students used incorrect phrases like “I’m not going to the f*ck do this!” I would correct to “I’m not the f*ck going to do this”, to get at least the grammar cleared up. LOL. But learners don’t, you see, so I haven’t! Thinking through acquisition and learning, I get the sense that even a long chunk like “Where the f*ck do you think you’re going (e.g. with my bicycle)?” will be acquired seemlessly if the affective filter is low enough. So the chunk will be acquired, but its appropriacy – who thinks what is ok, and where and when – must be taught. So, yes, “the f*ck” should most definitely be a part of the curriculum.

Putting this stuff out there is what blogs and Moodles are for! Many thanks to Eamonn for posting the link.

PS: Ash just posted that an Englishman would say “go to f’cking sleep.” Really? Not “Will you f*cking go to sleep”?