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Oh, the fracking you'll see

One of my spies forwards an article in which a member of a public relations firm looking at attitudes about hydraulic fracturing of shale to produce natural gas observes, “Fracking has become almost a dirty word.”

Well—recent concerns about the volume of groundwater consumed by hydraulic fracturing and the potential for contamination of the rest aside—fracking was already almost a dirty word. As followers of Battlestar Galactica ought to be able to attest, fracking and the more common freaking and the fugging Norman Mailer adopted for The Naked and the Dead are all substitutes for a more vigorous verb that needs no introduction.*

Hydraulic fracturing is a cumbersome term, unlikely to capture the popular imagination, so the advocates of this form of extraction are going to have to learn to live with less than savory overtones of the word in common use.


*To that list should be added frigging, which a current generation—it appeared once in a comic strip in The Baltimore Sun—is apparently unaware of its history as a term for manual stimulation.



Posted by John McIntyre at 4:25 PM | | Comments (14)


The creators of the new Battlestar Galactica actually respelled it frak because they wanted it to be a traditional four-letter word.

And don't forget fricking.

I believe it's freakin'.

Most of these euphemisms are in accord with tradition. Others include: Land sakes, gosh, gad, gadzooks, darn, heck...the list goes on. The problem is that sometimes the original euphemism is too-thinly veiled and falls into regular use, gaining a legitimacy it properly shouldn't deserve.

On alternatives to the F-word, see the posting here (and the comments on it):

Marc Leavitt, you've reminded me of one of my favorite euphemisms, zounds! It is obscure and has the added bonus of being a lot of fun to say out loud, and loudly, to boot.

Cheers (and zounds!),


Your affection for the word "zounds" immediately transported me back to one of my mid-'90s labors of love----drawing backgrounds for probably my all-time favorite Warner Bros. Animation cartoon serial franchise, "Pinky & The Brain".

Particularly, memories of the odd, yet catchy chortles and sputterings of the terminally dimwitted snow-white Acme Lab rat, Pinky------ from his priceless "zoit', to the classic "narf", "poit", and finally his most puzzling "troz". All delivered in his signature Cockney accent, as his brainiac partner-in-global-espionage, The Brain's melon-esque head is about to explode from churning pent up frustration at his loopy cage mate's utter cluelessness.



So the gas companies are getting Frak'd by by their frakking?


Re. Frigging: The "current generation" doesn't know the sea shanty "Frigging in the Rigging"? What will become of our youth?

Re. Zounds: It derives from "God's Wounds," and harks back to an age when most English swear words were of religious origin. Stephen Pinker wrote a lovely essay for the New Republic on why cursing works the way it does; you can find it here:

Another for the list is firetrucking, popularized in Trinidad and Tobago by columnist BC Pires.

Tom Mangan,

I'D say frickin' fitting!

Those frickin', frakking flakey fossil fuel frakkers, (friggin' gasbags), got me all firkin' flummoxed. Flagrant frakkers never prosper!

What the F?


Egards! Gadzooks!

J.D. Considine -- alas, the full text of that article is available only to paid subscribers. Zut alors!

Scrapiron: Sorry. There is a "free" version online as well, but the url spells out the last part of WTF, and I assumed it would not pass muster on the Sun website. Google will lead you to it. (And, of course, there's always the library for the New Republic version.)

But your "Zut alors!" reminds me of my favorite Quebecois oath: Tabernac! A truly Catholic expletive...

Last time I was in the working-class wing of the large building we insist on calling the Annapolis Mall, there was for young girls a clothing store called Gadzooks. That amuses me. Just think. In less than another century there will be for young people a garment store called G_dd_mn.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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