Truncated what the fuck

In a Details (April 2013) interview of Matthew McConaughey (by Adam Sachs), this unlikely passage describing McConaughey’s interaction with a red songbird in New Orleans:

They’re staring at each other now. Then a flash of rencognition seems to pass across the songbird’s glassy features and he chirps out an excitable tune that, to my untrained ears, translates roughly as:

It’s him! Mr. all right all right j.k. livin himself! The bongo-banging, chisel-chested playboy philosopher king inexplicaby here among the vines and branches of my garden paradise on the grounds of this crumbling old Treme mansion! The fuck is he doing here?

The fuck, indeed.

That’s the fuck standing for what the fuck.

(Background: j.k. livin — for just keep livin — is the name of a foundation founded by McConaughey.)

I don’t recall having seen or heard this truncation before, and it’s hard to search for without picking up lots of occurrences of the full idiom. (Similarly for the hell as a truncation of what the hell.)

Note that we need to distinguish the emphatic interrogative use of the fuck (as above) from the emphatic exclamatory use in things like:

A: Clean up this mess.  B: The fuck I will!

(where B’s response conveys ‘I won’t’).


5 Responses to “Truncated what the fuck

  1. AJ Says:

    See also: dafuq.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Éamonn McManus on Facebook:

    Re “it’s hard to search for without picking up lots of occurrences of the full idiom”, you could always subtract out everything else, even if that’s a bit tedious. I googled
    “the fuck” -“what the fuck” -“why the fuck” -“where the fuck” -“who the fuck” -“how the fuck” -“shut the fuck” -“get the fuck” -“go the fuck” and found for example

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    From William Salmon on Facebook:

    This is used occasionally in James Hynes’s novel The Lecturer’s Tale (2001). The novel spoofs a contemporary English Department, and the macho chair of the department, Anthony Pescecane, who I think is supposed to resemble Stanley Fish, says things like this with some frequency. Here are a couple:

    “So, Nelson, these new fucking syllabi”, said Pescacane, “the fuck’s up with that?”

    “The fuck’s up with you, Mort?”

    I have in fact read the book, but I didn’t catch these examples.

  4. Randy Alexander Says:

    I first consciously noticed this in 2009, coming from a black woman, late 20s, from Chicago. LIked it and have since adopted it as an exclamation. My kids have picked up on it and have naturally branched it out into “the hell” and “the heck”, but we haven’t been able to expand it into something like “the hell is that”.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: