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a four-letter day: a short essay on discovering the most versatile word in the english language

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Do you remember the first time you felt free? The first time that you realised that while external factors, like your parents, teachers, money, the fact that you’re a 10-year-old child and don’t have a license to do, well, anything, doesn’t mean you have no control? I do. I remember distinctly and I relish the memory.

I was sitting in the backyard of my best friend Grace McKenzie’s house in East Maylands, WA, under the lemon tree. It was early spring as the tree was full of lemons, but they were all still firmly attached to the branches and still at the start of their journey. New growth, new life, the future was brimming with possibility as they fought for the best spot amongst the leaves to soak up precious sunlight.

Grace and I were bored. Or maybe bored wasn’t the right word: we were restless. It was another Saturday afternoon at Grace’s house, doing what we did most weekends; hanging out aimlessly, no agenda. As far as kids go, we were fairly well-behaved: we got good grades, we didn’t steal things, we predominantly did what our parents told us. But when we got together, we had the tendency of most 10-year old girls to get rather silly. Lately at school, we’d been hearing some of the actual bad-ass kids starting to swear. We were curious and they perplexed us. Residing in the far-off corners of the bitumen court at lunchtimes, we’d hear snippets of their vulgar conversations and we wondered what they were talking about. We could ask, but our social circles precluded us from doing so. As we talked to each other about this new foreign concept of swearing and its increased presence on the playground Grace said the most peculiar thing to me.

‘You know we could just try it?’

‘Try what?’ I retorted.

‘Swearing!’ she exclaimed.

‘Fuck. We can do that?’ My hand shot up to cover my mouth instantly.

‘You did it!’ Grace screamed at me.

‘Oh my god, I just did! Should I stop?’ I answered.

‘No way! It’s done now. I wanna try!’

She paused for a second, anticipating the moment before everything would change forever.

‘I can fucking swear and no one can stop me,’ she said slowly, eyes lighting up with glee.

‘Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck fuck!!’ I yelled at the top of my lungs. Kate, Grace’s mum, was somewhere at the front of the house and I was confident she couldn’t hear us and our newfound pastime.

‘What will our parents think of us doing this?’ Grace suddenly whispered to me.

‘It actually doesn’t fucking matter.’ I whispered back to her, ‘We just won’t say it in front of them.’

By this point we had worked ourselves up into a point of near hysteria, drunk on the power of our new discovery.

‘This word is amazing!’ I yelled, and while at the time I wasn’t completely solid on the difference between adjectives, verbs, nouns and adverbs, my 10-year old eyes lit up when I realised the magnanimous versatility of this one four-letter word.

‘This word is the best! You can use it when you’re angry, when you think something is cool, when you hate something, or if someone has done something wrong! You can use it in, like, a million ways! And it even refers to…’

I trailed off. We’d only just started our sex-ed classes at school and I wasn’t quite sure after the last 20 minutes of blatant misbehaving that I wanted to bring another taboo subject into the equation as well.

‘Haha, I know what you were gonna say!’ teased Grace as she got up and then did a handstand letting out a huge “Fuuuuuuuck” as she did it.

I followed suit, then got up and started running around looking at everything around me and telling it I fucking loved it.

‘I fucking love you pot plant! I fucking love you sky! I fucking love you, you big dumb stupid fucking tree!’

I continued to do this for a good 15 minutes, until I was utterly exhausted and fell to the ground with a stitch. My heart was beating and my mind was racing at a million miles an hour at the possibilities. This was exhilarating! I felt like I’d done something wrong but there was no consequence, no victim, no repercussions. I started laughing, a new-found power coursing through my veins. I knew it couldn’t be abused. I knew I had to reserve this special power for the right occasions. But my mind was already ticking over. While I knew I couldn’t swear in front of just anyone, I’d have to pick my audience, no one could stop me from thinking swear words.  In fact, no one could stop me from thinking whatever I wanted.

Grace was still practising handstands as her mum walked out the back door and asked if we wanted a snack and what we had been doing all afternoon.  I smiled sweetly and thought in my head, ‘You have no fucking idea.’

Krystal Maynard is a musician, writer, emerging podcaster and serious museum fan. Her music criticism has been published in Big Issue, Mess and Noise, Beat and Vice Magazine and she co-hosts and produces a podcast called First Time Feelings. She can also be found playing in bands around town, tending to her plants, eating laksa and trying to reduce her ‘to be read’ pile. She’s also a communications professional working in the best sector: arts and culture! Krystal is fascinated by human behaviour and learning about this weird and ever-changing world.

To listen to the First Time Feelings episode that features ‘A Four-Letter Day‘, click here or here.

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