Thanks, Joan...I appreciate your loyal readership and kind comments. Writing or speaking a language involves an infinitude of choices, which means a multitude of ways to be "wrong," whether you're a foreign language speaker putting words in the wrong order or you're a native speaker trying to navigate the confusing paths to "correctness."
And the standards keep changing. In the 19th century, people were debating about a new verb phrase, the progressive passive ("The house was being built."). Today, sentence fragments and (horrors!) dangling modifiers are getting more and more common.
When dictionary makers become moralists and exclude a word, it blossoms: to wit, "fuck".
They provide job security for future dictionary makers.
During all of my dictionary-purchasing years, I bought only those whose makers included "the word".
With the New Oxford American, I hit pay dirt.
BTW, the Brits do it right(ly?) when they put a full stop (period) outside a quoted expression that concludes a sentence.
BTeffingW, I found the above usage of "to wit" in Merriam-Webster's Concise Dict'y of English Usage. "...blossoms. To wit, fuck." would also have been proper usage.
Also BTFW, I recently needed a term for effusive sentiment and coined the word "sentimentalia". If enough others use it, a future dictionary maker will include it.
What fun I'm having.
Here's a coinage to describe dictionary makers (whether they're prescriptive or descriptive): "dictionarians".
And I'm like you: the first test I'd give a dictionary is whether it acknowledged the existence of "fuck". I was delighted to find that my first "real" dictionary, that I'd received as a present, The American Heritage Dictionary, passed. No lacuna between "fuchsia" and "fucoid". It showed me that a dictionary could recognize the word, while giving fair warning that it was likely to offend parents, teachers, and other adults.
There already is a name for it: lexicography. Took a grad course in it. Dictionary making was regarded as prescriptive until 1960, when the new Webster's created furious controversy by reporting what people said and attaching usage guides that reflected actual usage.
Of course fuck should be in the dictionary, along with all the appropriate caveats. You could write a whole book on how the word is used as an intensifier ("your fucking brother said...") and even an infix, as in your example. It's un-fucking-believable how many uses the word has.
A lot of people don't want to hear it, but usage determines acceptance. There are many words we should have (and other languages have, like Schadenfreud), but we don't. Generally, if the phenomenon has staying power (e.g., "helicopter parents"), so does the term for it.
Alan, more than most of us you know the illogic of the English language.
We have fiction and the non-analogous faction. We have facts and no ficts.
We have prenatal; move one letter and get the resulting parental.
We have marital; reverse the i and the t and get the coincident martial.
We have nicest; reverse the n and the i and get the illicit incest.
Is such more common with Latin-based words?
Tom, These are only coincidences. Mostly when you change a letter or letter sequence, you get nonsense. Only the other hand, there are plenty of strange irregularities if you know where to look. George Carlin, who says he would have been a linguist if not a comedian, used to collect these, e.g., how come you can be hard of hearing but not hard of seeing? Idioms taken literally raise questions: when you take a shower or a shit...where do you take it to?
My favorite: "evil" spelled backwards is "live." What do religious folks make of that?
I see the word "fuck" in written material as saying the following is in all caps, boldface and underlined as in, " your fucking sister is" .... becomes "YOUR SISTER is ..."
Years ago when I was living in Virginia (in 1952 - 53 ) I found, in the local library, a dictionary called "The Dictionary of Slang and Un-convectional English. It had every word and its usage of the whole Anglo-Saxon lexicon of "dirty words". It was fucking great.
I regularly scan slang dictionaries in bookstores.
In one I saw the importance, in American English, of "drunk": a full page of synonyms
Moralists have messed with some recent slang dictionaries.
Authors I've met who self-published said some printers see themselves as duty-bound to keep certain words out of print.
Nate Gagnon opines that a dictionary shouldn't be a "fictionary", in his "Print Campaign for the preservation of the English language":
From a man in Phoenix who published an alternative newspaper: Freedom of the press belongs to people who own presses.
That's a perfect example of prescriptionist vs. descriptionist dictionaries. Some people think that the language should not change, and are very reluctant to include new terms, even when they fill real needs. Others think that the more we play with it, and invent new things, then those that stick need to be accepted as real and included in dictionaries. I tend to have the second view, even though evolving usages sometimes make me grit my teeth, ("I've took English classes many times") and especially when I see them in print. But I think each of us feels that we ARE using the language properly -- we have our own idiolects, and it FEELS right to us, even if not so to others. If we were REALLY prescriptionists, I think we'd still be communicating in "ughs" and we wouldn't have such a colorful way to express ourselves! :-)
Natalie A Sera, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am so grateful!. As I remember you have pulled me out of other holes in the past. That is a test of a good friend. I think of you every time I overgeneralize the Abrahamic religions. You are an excellent teacher.
By-the-way, my "Reply" button works only intermittently.