J. Robert King


In Defense of WTF

I’ve never been a fan of the F-bomb.

It goes back to my roots. Not only was I raised a middle-class evangelical fundamentalist, but also I’m now a member of Plymouth Congregational Church. It’s named after Plymouth Rock. I’m a direct decendent of the Puritans.

But it’s not like I’m unaquainted with the F-bomb, either. When I was a stay-at-home dad and my second son fell down the thirteen wooden stairs that I had built and I gathered him in my arms at the bottom and was certain he was a quadripelegic, and my first son kept poking me in the shoulder saying, “Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!” I replied with the only reasonable response: “Give me a second. Your brother just fell down the F-ing stairs.”

I felt I had made my meaning quite clear until my wife arrived home and my four-year-old met her at the door and said, “Guess what, Ma? Aidan fell down the F-ing stairs!”

I was then subjected to a lecture about being a writer and selecting the right word for each situation. I assured my wife that when confronted with the possibility of a quadripelegic two-year-old, the right word is F-ing.

I have since then become a fan of WTF. Why? Because the people I find using it are dissillusioned idealists. When they say WTF, they are saying that reality does not hold up to what they were expecting.

Which makes me love them. They were expecting something. They had ideas about what they expected. They wanted it all to mean something. And when their expectation and their ideas and the meaning doesn’t pan out, they say WTF.

So, the expression WTF means “I’m not satisfied with the way things are.” And that’s an idea I can get behind. Every day, I ask, WTF, and I encourage everybody else to ask the same question. It’s the question of an idealist facing a universe that does not make sense.

Bravo. Keep asking WTF. Keep requiring the world around us to make sense. And hold on to that disappointment. For six thousand years, we’ve been shaping the world through WTF. I hope that in my lifetime, we extinct that expression and we have a world that, at last, we can believe in.

December 2nd, 2009
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