I’ve been thinking about the headline of the Scoble post I addressed last week: “What do the freaking tech bloggers want?”
Specifically, does the periodic cuss word (or derivative) enhance storytelling or at the very least command attention?
I think the power of a cuss word can come from the element of surprise. If Martha Stewart drops an f-bomb while she’s baking brownies that’s going to grab your attention.
But the words “freakin” and “freaking” tend to be so overused today that they’ve lost their ability to jar. Rather than depend on gut feel, I turned to the wonders of the Factiva database to chart usage over the past five years.
You can see the two words have been gaining traction to the point that we’re projecting – I know the polls haven’t closed but go with me on this one – 7,122 articles will carry them in 2008. For context, Steve Jobs, who can hold his own with the likes of Britney Spears when it comes to media captivation, won’t show up in as many articles this year at the current pace.
Furthermore, I think it’s fair to say the words enjoy even greater use in the blogosphere. I couldn’t figure out how to search postings employing “freakin” or “freaking” by year, but a quick IceRocket search resulted in 122,923 hits.
Talk about overexposure.
Then again, with the right context the repetition of a cuss word can become a story in itself. For Exhibit A, look at Lee Elia’s meltdown back in 1983 when he was the manager of the Chicago Cubs. His profanity-laced tirade after the Cubs lost another game lives on in infamy thanks to the Internet.
It was so over the top for a public figure to spew expletive after expletive.
And yes, like all good stories it rang with authenticity.