‘ve mentioned numerous times how reading really opens your life. Suddenly you can start to see the weave of civilization. In your mind, you can live in the banks of the Mississippi in the 1840s, in New York in the roaring twenties, or even in ancient Tyre before the time of Christ (shameless plug – check out the link below).
So today, another factoid entered my head.
No doubt you’ve heard the word “effing”. I’ll be you assume that its a recent word, perhaps developed in the last century-turn as a counterbalance against the F-bomb. And why not – the F-bomb is everywhere. Remember being in a restaurant and sitting next to four (presumably) Baldwin Park punkies, with them playing with the word like it was their shiny new toy. It’s now used so casually you’ll even hear middle-class men in public tossing it back and forth. And, admittedly, after some of my bike-commuting adventures, I’ve been provoked into using it (actually, I have a very salty vocabulary and need to learn to tone it down).
So I thought that the word “effing” sprang up as a defense against this, an e-cigarette of cussing. If you really wanted to rip off a sharp work, one with the bite of tabasco, well, what word better than the F-bomb? But if you have some sense of decorum, you might grip your smashed thumb and hiss “Effing hammer slipped”. Or watch your boss give away your effing promotion. Or even have your effing publisher die (true story). I never recall hearing it before 2000 or so, so I figured it was a laugh-track way of going foul-mouthed.
While reading Hemingway’s Across the River and Into the Trees, I came across the line, “But what the effing security is there better than I can give them?” (yeah, I know – a bit of a cluttered sentence). But I blinked at the word – what was that doing in a book written in 1950?
Read a little further and got a second, conclusive sighting – “eff-off”. So there it was again. Thus it appeared that that word has been around a lot longer than I assumed. In fact, since it’s used casually, perhaps it existed even further back than that. I don’t know. I could wiki it, of course, but I’d rather not. Sometimes it’s better to leave a bit of the weave unresolved, to look for hints in my later days. Who knows what I’ll find.
So, doesn’t that just beat effing all?