Wednesday, 30 November 2011

F****** on Amtrak

A couple of months ago, I took a train from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano. Two friendly-faced young black men were talking quietly in their seats across the aisle. At some point the not so young white woman who sat in front of me called across the aisle “excuse me, please do not use that word.” And just in case it was not clear, she called out the letters “F-U-C-K”.

The word fuck was not even used as a swear word in their conversation and the black young men looked at her with some bemusement.

"Why do you object to the word?” I asked. “I am an English teacher” was her response. “Yes?” I said. “This is not a nice word” was her explanation. “Fucking is a word for something rather nice, actually” I said “don’t you think?” This was too much for the lady; she got up and said, “I am getting the train supervisor.”

A few minutes later, she returned with the ticket collector who asked the black men to refrain from using blasphemous language on the train. “You must also tell him,” the white moral authority said pointing at me and the ticket collector told me to please behave on the train. Blasphemous language should not be used on the train, I was told, not even in private conversations. I asked about my rights under the First Amendment, and whether they do not allow me to say fuck on the train. But the ticket collector said no, adding that she did have the authority to instruct me.


  1. You were moving in God´s Own Country.
    One doesn`t "fuck" there - that`s why it´s blasphemous.

  2. I see nothing there about blasphemy, America, skin 'colour' or trains. Just wondered if you yourself are completely happy using that particular foul language in a place where others must listen to it & can't move to somewhere else? So that you would be bemused and surprised if some one asked you not to?

    Are you absolutely sure that only 'white' people would thus ask?

  3. Francis - I do not consider the F word to be foul and as described, it was not used in a foul context.

    I did feel that the situation had a white versus black undertone. This does not mean that a black person could not have come up with a similar line.

  4. Political correctness is a formidable weapon for the prejudiced- say it's incorrect and speaker and content are disgraced. Most bystanders (except David) would stay silent, moral apostle gets a boost, culprit is shamed.

    Thinking about the last american books I read I fear those poor moral authorities have to abstain from reading newer novels, and movies?!? Seems to me fuck has become pretty colloquial. The same can be seen in Germany, where "schei├če" has conquered the covers.