Thursday, June 29, 2006

Freaking, eh?

I just sent an e-mail to Jayson Stark, a columnist at He wrote this article, in which he used the phrase "Unbe-freaking-lievable." As anyone under-27 who went to college could tell you, that's just the plain wrong usage of the word. But Mr. Stark isn't under 27 (though I suspect he did go to college), so I'm not too surprised he came out with the wrong formation. For his edification, I sent him the "Freaking" rules. Here's what the e-mail said:

Dear Mr. Stark -

I want to begin by letting you know that I greatly appreciate your continued growth as a writer. Your willingness to use the word "freaking" as a modifier in your latest column is a perfect example this growth. ("Unbe-freaking-lievable" in response to the Cardinal's losing streak). Unfortunately, your editors failed to catch an improper modification.

There are, in fact, strict rules about the usage of words such as "freaking", particularly when they serve as modifiers. As a 25-year-old student and
blogger, I have become quite experienced in this usage, and actually underwent much of my formative education as these rules were "developing".

The first, and most essential rule, is that the modifying word "freaking" should always follow the first syllable. Examples include "ri-freaking-diculous," "in-freaking-credible," "fan-freaking-tastic," and "stu-freaking-pendous".

The one exception to this rule has two parts. First, when the second syllable ends in a vowel sound. This means strictly a vowel sound, completely devoid of the consonant sound. It doesn't matter if the consonant does double duty and starts off the next syllable as well - so long as there is any consonant sound at the end of the second syllable, "freaking" follows the first syllable. The second part of the exception is that there also must be at least four syllables in the word. In those cases only does the "freaking" follows the second syllable. Examples include "Abso-freaking-lutely" and "Posi-freaking-tively". You might expect to find your word "Unbe-freaking-lievable" here as well, but there is actually another rule, which trumps this exception.

That rule, trumping the exception, is that in all words with a prefix, freaking immediately follows the prefix. So "Un-freaking-believable" would have been the proper usage. Other examples include "im-freaking-possible", "Radio-freaking-active" and, somewhat appropriately "pre-freaking-fix."

Another important rule is that you should be absolutely conscious about which "freaking" you are intending to use. There are two uses of the word: "freaking" and "freakin'." The distinction between the two comes in their level of stress. If you wish for the modifier to draw the primary emphasis, it is appropriate to use the "freaking". This alerts the reader to the full pronunciation of the word "freaking" and thusly informs them that they should give the modifier the utmost attention. In speech it would sound significantly slower and more deliberate than its counterpart.

If instead you mean to stress the underlying word, and only want to add the modifier to further explicate the "freaking" nature of the fact, it is appropriate to use the "freakin' " variation. This alerts the reader that they should essentially cram the modifier into the middle of the word, mashing it in among the more important idea of the otherwise uninterrupted sentence. Another alternative is to use the word "frickin' ", but this should be limited in usage, and only utilized when you mean to express an aggressive or angry tone. It should also be noted that "fricking" is not even a word, and so should never be used, and under no circumstances should you use the word "friggin'." That's just stupid.

Finally, I would also recommend a couple of other words that you might find useful in similar situations in the future. These are all modified versions of words that help increase the emphasis of the underlying word, much like "un-freaking-believable":


I'd recommend using any and/or all of these words frequently. After all, the sooner they become wide-spread, the sooner Microsoft will have to improve its spell-freaking-check.

Matt Novak

She's super-freaky


emnovak said...

nice. sorry i haven't been commenting a lot, i haven't even really been checking blogs. oops.

Thinking Fool said...

Well, did he write you back?

Lady said...

i want to know that too, what happened after you wrote it...?