Letters: F-Word On Monday, Robert Siegel talked to Jesse Sheidlower, author of The-F Word, about the history of that word and its meaning. Responses ranged from the amused to the outraged.

Letters: F-Word

Letters: F-Word

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On Monday, Robert Siegel talked to Jesse Sheidlower, author of The-F Word, about the history of that word and its meaning. Responses ranged from the amused to the outraged.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block. The election isn't the only thing on our minds, or yours. Our interview yesterday about the F-word got your attention, and it brought in a lot of comments from the humorous to the outraged. My co-host Robert Siegel talked with Jessie Sheidlower, editor at large for the Oxford English Dictionary. He wrote a book called, "The F-Word." We spoke with Sheidlower because the Supreme Court heard a case today about the use of the F-word on TV broadcasts, and we asked him to explain how the word's meaning has changed over time.

Throughout the interview, since we can't say the F-word on the air, we used the word floss instead. Tim Weisaki(ph) of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, wrote simply, I will never approach dental hygiene in the same manner ever again. And John Fallstaff(ph) from Hot Springs, South Dakota, also told us we had destroyed a perfectly usable word. He writes, next time the dentist tells me that I should floss at least once a day, most assuredly the wrong thought will run through my mind. Will this word have to be banned now from the airwaves also? For what it's worth, I can't remember what the floss you were talking about. I was so distracted by your use of the F-word - that is floss. Thanks for the distraction.

Well, not all of you were thankful. This is from listener Audrey Ferreger(ph). She writes, now I know why people send you comments. I can't believe you wasted your and your listener's time. Jessie Sheidlower needs to find something better to do with his knowledge of our language. The use of the F-word, and pretty much any other curse word, is just plain lazy speech.

And finally Gordon Danning(ph) from Oakland, California, took issue with one point we made in the interview. He writes, Robert Siegel asserted that the F-word would never be permitted in some venues such as classrooms. Never say never. I do permit said word in my high school classroom as long as it is not addressed to another person, because to paraphrase roughly the Supreme Court, freedom of speech doesn't disappear at my classroom door. Thanks for your willingness to speak freely with us. You can send us your comments at npr.org. Click on "Contact Us" at the top of the page.

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