Magazine article The Spectator

MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Fracking

Magazine article The Spectator

MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Fracking

Article excerpt

62 ' F rankly, my dear, I don't give a frack, ' replied my husband unwittily when I asked how he'd feel if shale gas was discovered at the bottom of our garden. But he did illustrate why the word has proved so good for campaigners.

Someone at Balcombe had painted a sign saying: ' F rack off.'

The word enables the debate.

Quibbling about hydraulic fracturing would hardly have had the same impact.

I n this way, fracking serves the same purpose as did bonking in the 1980s, when it purported to supply a nonmoralistic term for the act.

I am not sure the illusion lasted, for the parallel case of bunga bunga in I taly soon enough suggested dirty old men.

However, fracking positively benefits from its taboo associations.

I t is as if the oil companies frack you up, like Larkin's mum and dad. Only the tiniest change to that taboo term admitted it into print.

I n 1948, when Norman Mailer published The Naked and the Dead, his publishers persuaded him to use the word fug, which led Dorothy Parker (or Tallulah Bankhead) the spectator to exclaim: 'So, you're the young man who can't spell fuck!'

Hemingway preferred frig:

'We do not let the gypsy nor others frig with it' (For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940). …

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