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Check out this video

There the red hair women(Aubrey) asked about how many "freaking" kids does another women(Teresa) have? Is it just an offensive way for someone to use "freaking" when they are talking about someone kids? I found no resentment after the question is asked, and i don't know if i am too sensitive.

edit:updated the link

  • That's a long video. Could you tell us minutes and seconds? – snailcar Nov 4 '13 at 7:00
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    I included a timestamp on the link but sadly it didn't work. It's around 12m53s – user49119 Nov 4 '13 at 8:52
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Some words are taboo; we sometimes refer to them with names like "the F-word" or "the A-word", or even (oh, my!) "the C-word", because we know that they have some potential for offense regardless of context, and if we're polite, we want to avoid violating the taboo ourselves.

Fricking ranks much lower on the profanity scale. It's not really polite, and it can certainly be used in a rude manner, but it lacks most of the built-in potential for offense that makes us avoid saying certain other words. I imagine that for most speakers, whether or not it's offensive depends on context.

In this case, the speaker doesn't intend any offense, and none is taken. Quite the opposite! From her tone of voice and the context of her words, it seems that the speaker is using emphatic swearing:

Here's the thing about Teresa: she has amazing heart, she does give a hundred and ten percent, she has--I don't even know, how many fricking kids do you have?

The idiomatic phrase I don't even know as well as fricking both serve to emphasize the question. She may or may not remember the exactly how many children Teresa has, but the way she phrases her question lets us know that she thinks the answer is a lot.

Out of context, that question might indeed be offensive. But after all that lavish praise, it's hard to mistake her intent: in short, although it's phrased as a question, she's pointing out to everyone else how many children Teresa has and including this fact in her list of compliments. Emphasizing the question with a tame word like fricking can't be offensive, because she's emphasizing a compliment!

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I agree with most of what Snailboat says but I think some cautions are needed on her conclusion.

Yes, "fricking" or "freaking" are basically milder substitutes for the "F-word". They are thus LESS offensive than that word. But this does not make them inoffensive. Listeners will generally assume that you were considering using the more vulgar word but substituted this milder alternative.

Among friends who have a high tolerance for vulgar language, these would be very mild words. But among people who do not use vulgar language, these words could still be offensive. If one gang member said to another, "Then I shot the mother with his own freaking gun", this would be considered very mild language. If a reporter at a press conference asked the president, "Hey, what's with that freaking weird bill you proposed?", this would likely be startlingly offensive.

In general, if you want to avoid offending people and you do not know their tolerance for vulgar language, I'd avoid using words that have any hint of vulgarity. Of course if your goal is to be shocking or you want to offend and insult someone, that's a different story.

  • @snailplane Three years after the fact, I notice that I called you "snailboat" instead of "snailplane". No offense intended! I just got confused about modes of transport. – Jay Aug 18 '16 at 18:43
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Originally, "freaking" was considered a substitute to the more vulgar curse word starting with an 'F', so I would say it is not offensive but the offensiveness also relies heavily on the interpretation of the person hearing/reading it. It has become more and more used in society, and therefore acceptable. Just keep in mind the register and context in which you use it; You wouldn't use this word in the workplace but you would use it when around your friends.

EDIT: @snailboat has a better answer - We were typing ours at the same time.

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I honestly think that “freaking” is not a cuss word. As long as you don’t use it against someone, it’s perfectly fine in my opinion. Like the word “stupid” I wouldn’t consider a bad word unless used against someone, such as calling them stupid, which would be offensive to them. That’s only my opinion, but everybody has their own morals and standards.

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    Welcome to ELL! This question is over five years old and already has an accepted answer (denoted by a ✅ check mark.). To better understand how to contribute here, please read the “Contributor’s Guide to ELL” and keep contributing. – whiskeychief Sep 3 at 23:20

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