What's the worst word that can appear in the newspaper?
OK, not that one. The other one.
No, I shouldn't put it like that, because now you're wondering which one I mean, and you're angry I made you think of it.
I'm sorry to say it's only going to get worse.
No, the word will not be printed. I won't do that strange thing where the word is printed with an asterisk replacing a letter, as if people would look at a word like, well, w*rd, then scowl, and ask Pat if they could buy a vowel.
I will not imply the word with a rhyme or a description of its usage. But it's going to pop up in your head a dozen times or so, unless you do not know the word at all. Which I doubt.
There. Now that we've winnowed out the offended and confused, let us address an online social media campaign for a newly launched product: Aguas Frescas. It's flavored sugar water. It has two slogans. One is straightforward: "Drink It In." OK. I guess "Drink it up" was taken. They wouldn't use "Drink it down," because that sounds like you're being counseled on the best way to ingest some foul medicine.
Now we come to the bothersome part. The second slogan. This liquid, you see, is "Refreshing AF."
Many of you just thought "So?" Or perhaps "What?" And many thought "Oh, no. They didn't."
For those who don't spend a lot of time on Twitter or other social media platforms where language is regularly reduced to abbreviations that make telegrams look like Tolstoi, "AF" means ... well, the A is for "As." Let me put it delicately: You know how someone says it's hot "as hell"? That would be AH. So, the stuff is "refreshing as (BIG, LOUD BLEEP IF THIS WAS A LIVE NEWS BROADCAST IN 1983.)
This may be the first implication of the effenheimer by a major company in the history of advertising.
People on Twitter have been responding to the ad with rolled eyes and tut-tutting, but the person who runs the social media account for Aguas Frescas and interacts with other Twitterers on a molecular level probably parries every objection with a look of utter innocence: "AF stands for the Aquas Frescas! Whatever are you objecting to?"
It's pure GL. (Gaslighting.) Of course we're supposed to think of the F-bomb here, and think: "My, that is a cheeky, paradigm-shattering campaign: I must pour this liquid down my throat to reward their ingenuity."
Oh, so what, you say. It's an ad on Twitter or Facebook. Who cares about a small act of implied vulgarity? Dump the faux outrage and get with the 21st century, pops. People swear.
That they do; yes. I do! Gosh, yes. I'm not particularly bothered by cussing, just bored. A saucy word can spice up a movie script, but nowadays screenwriters just pour this aural Tabasco sauce on everything, because they only have 16 words in their vocabulary.
Now the surprising part: The AF beverage is a product of Minute Maid. The wholesome juice brand! How did that work when the ad agency unveiled the campaign to the client?
Presenter: "Our AF campaign will appeal to what we call the 'edge' demographics, the people eager to break norms. Of course, if that was truly the case they wouldn't be drinking corporate water, but the implication of the F-word assures them they stand outside of tiresome bourgeoise paradigms."
One member of the Minute Maid board, who has been in the juice industry since 1968, and wears several medals won in the Anita Bryant wars of the late '70s, would raise his hand.
"We have built a brand based on healthful beverages, vitamins, beaming kids and happy moms, sunny breakfast nooks and Florida sunshine, and you want to pour 50 years of brand building down the sink so you can say the F-word to people on this Tweater?"
"It's Twitter, and I wouldn't say the core brand is affected at all."
"Young man, a child curses in church, and eyes eventually wind up on the parents."
"Well, we're not actually saying the word! People are responsible for thinking it. Really, it's on them if they're offended."
It's hard for me to criticize the company when I've made you think of the word, as well. But I wish Minute Maid hadn't contributed to the endless and incremental coarsening of absolutely everything.
That's all. I've said for years that the day would come when you'd see the word on a billboard, and we'd all be the poorer for it. Let that word into polite society, and a thousand finer ones lose their jobs.