Lexicon Valley

Want to Call BS? Use This Fun Derivative of the F-Word Instead.

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing.

I wrote a book about words for bullshit this year, but I missed some words. I think my most egregious omission was fuckery. That’s a damn popular word for unadulterated bullshit.

Fuckery has been around for more than 100 years, and Jesse Sheidlower’s The F-Word records several meaningsThe first two are pretty literal—a fuckery has been a brothel since at least 1901, and the act of making sweet whoopee since at least 1961. But the third meaning is the one that’s in the realm of bullshit: “despicable behavior; (also) treachery.” The first known use, from Stephen King’s 1978 novel The Standhas more than a whiff of BS: “That was an act of pure human fuckery.” A 1998 use in Colin Channer’s book Waiting in Vain is even closer to malarkey and hooey: “He’d even asked her to marry him … and she’d said no. Said some fuckery like, Only if we’re allowed to see other people.”

A major spreader of the word seems to be Amy Winehouse’s 2006 song “Me & Mr. Jones,” which included the word in lines such as “What kind of fuckery is this?” and “What kind of fuckery are we?” Green’s Dictionary of Slang lists fuckery as meaning nonsense since at least the late 1990s, sometimes in plural form as fuckeries. He also records examples of it as an adjective: “some fuckery social study” and “all that fuckery stereotyping and media shit.”

While fuckery as BS seems to have evolved from the treacherous sense of the word, I wonder if it was influenced by a variation of mindfuck: namely, mindfuckery. Mindfuckery sure sounds like come kind of Jedi malarkey trick.

Here are some recent examples of fuckery in use, showing the range of this useful word. As you’ll see, fuckery can describe professional wresting shenanigans, ghastly hair choices like the man bun, holiday horseshit, and online dating. Everything is fuckery to someone.

“John’s mother says, ‘It’s a funny story born of tragedy,’ and filmmakers Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel nimbly tell this tale of what one interviewee calls, ‘fuckery and shenanigans.’”
Dec. 11, Salon

“There’s also this intense responsibility I feel to make sure the other person has a good time when I ask them to do something. Otherwise, I’m like, we could’ve stayed in the house. And I feel guilty for subjecting them to fuckery.”
Dec. 9, Madame Noire

“Wear the perfume, because it’s fun, and it washes off easy, unlike that ill-advised tattoo or the shock of blue you put in your hair after a crying jag but before you go to bed. Wear it as a safeguard against fuckery, as an olfactory shield against the horror of the world.”
Dec. 9, the Frisky

“This is starting to get really dangerous and not the least bit funny. Kids are now starting to attack schoolmates for their religious affiliation because of this poor excuse for a man. The fuckery needs to stop NOW.”
Dec. 8, the Daily Banter

“I get what they did there, they want it to look like Reigns can win heading into the PPV and further prove that Sheamus won only because of fuckery.”
Dec. 7, 411mania

“We’d touch on celebrity deaths and the tragedy of them – we’d talk Robin Williams – Whitney Houston –  James Gandolfini – and Casey Kasem – you bet we’d talk about the clusterfuck of fuckery that surrounded that poor sap’s end.”
Dec. 4, Chicago Now

“ ‘Love For Breakfast’ is kind of a shout out to the new dismal dating environment brought on by dating apps. So much fuckery—just tell me you love me, right?”
Dec. 3, Thump

“Because it’s the damn holidays and in a world filled with infinite, everlasting fuckery, I’m lucky enough to write about records for a living.”
Nov. 25, Nashville Scene

“At one point Rae chides how Fif’s ‘haircut game is fucked up’; this was a time long before the widespread fuckery of the man-bun.”
Nov. 23, the Concourse

Shameless plug alert: If you’re looking for more words for “infinite everlasting fuckery,” check out Bullshit: A Lexicon, 100% hooey and poppycock, guaranteed!