There is an essay whose title is Screw motivation, what you need is discipline. I can understand its main idea, but can not figure out the exactly meaning of Screw motivation in the title.

Could you mind explaining Screw motivation in plain English?

My some surmise:

  • Don't care about motivation
  • In order to strengthen motivation


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  • 6
    "Screw" means "disregard" or "forget about" in that context. So, to restate the title, "Forget about Motivation, What You Need is Discipline" – Kristina Lopez Feb 10 '15 at 16:06
  • @KristinaLopez That's a needed answer. Comments don't last forever. – bib Feb 10 '15 at 17:39
  • It's an expression of firm disagreement with the idea of emphasizing enthusiasm as a basis for achievement—but not with the ethos of achievement itself. – Sven Yargs Feb 10 '15 at 21:21
  • @EdwinAshworth Thank you for correcting my grammar. – Jodoo Feb 11 '15 at 2:17
  • possible duplicate of "Screwed" vs. "nailed": why is the slang so different? – Mari-Lou A Feb 11 '15 at 11:12

"Screw" means "disregard" or "forget about" in the context of the title. It's actually a slightly more sanitized version and has the same basic meaning as "fuck" - as in "Fuck Motivation,..."

So, to restate the title, "Forget about Motivation, What You Need is Discipline"


As referenced by MW — see meaning 9 — screw is an explicit word for the act of copulation.

It is, however, deemed less explicit than the more common fuck.

So screw motivation is a bit of a euphemistic way of saying, in plain English: fuck motivation.

As Kristina mentions in a comment, it means "disregard this", not "destroy this" or literally, "engage in sex with this". However, saying "screw this" is a lot stronger, a lot more informal and can be seen as a lot more vulgar than "disregard this".

Roughly (very roughly) you can think of the three options sounding as follows:

Disregard motivation => Oh, please, don't pay too much attention to motivation.
Screw motivation => hey guys! Don't even think about motivation! It means nothing!
Fuck motivation => hey, motivation? to hell with it!

It is important to realize the context and audience at all times!

  • 1
    Nothing to do with the life of the harem then? – WS2 Feb 10 '15 at 16:33
  • 6
    I don't disagree, but the use of "screw" or "f**k" isn't literal, it's a replacement for "disregard". – Kristina Lopez Feb 10 '15 at 16:52
  • 2
    True as far as it goes, but there is a matter of emphasis. In contemporary American English, saying "Screw this", while synonymous with "Disregard this", is a much stronger exhortation. While perhaps slightly less emphatic than "Fuck this", it also (and for the same reason) is slightly less offensive. – WhatRoughBeast Feb 10 '15 at 19:01

How the use of the word screw (or f**k) came to mean forget about it or disregard it or treat it with contempt, I do not know. I find it unfortunate that what is meant to be an act of love within the confines of a committed relationship has become a curse word. If copulation is such a disgusting thing, why don't we say, "Rape it!" which is truly disgusting and worthy of contempt.

In rhetoric, there is a figure called procatalepsis, which is a way for a rhetor to anticipate an objection his audience might have and then deflate the objection before going on to the point the rhetor wants to make. For example,

"Those in favor of capital punishment point to it's being a deterrent to crime. This is patently true in that the murderer whom the state kills will never kill again. What these people fail to realize, however, is that if the state somehow got it wrong, and the "murderer" turns out to be innocent--not guilty, then there is no way to undo the tragic and premature ending of a life."

In the essay to which you refer us, "Screw Motivation, What You Need Is Discipline," there is what might be called a mini-procatalepsis. The argument (or line of reasoning) which is being debunked with two short words (viz., screw and motivation) could be summarized as follows:

"Discipline, some folks say, is too harsh a word, and it conjures up something unpleasant and hard to bear. They say we should rather use the word motivation to express how a person gets something done. I say poppycock. Claiming that one has to wait until he or she is motivated to do something is merely an excuse for not doing it, not to mention causing disrepute to a word which used to convey backbone and stick-to-it-iveness in the absence of motivation. In other words, don't wait for motivation, just dive in because something needs to be done--NOW, not later."

At this point you likely see how economical "Screw motivation, what you need is discipline" is. Seven words sum up very well what took me over 100 words to explain discursively. (By the way, the word poppycock is a less shocking expression than "screw it.")

I applaud economy of expression, because sometimes, in some circumstances, that is the way to go. It can also be a lazy person's way of deflating an idea without real proof, logic, and persuasion. Any rabble-rouser can scream, "Screw the establishment." A person who is interested in true, lasting, and ethical change, however, will take time to formulate the best possible arguments to support his or her point of view.

  • All true, of course, but it's a title...where brevity and provocative words get the much-coveted attention. – Kristina Lopez Feb 10 '15 at 20:08
  • @KristinaLopez: True enough, an a pretty apt title given the content of the essay! Don – rhetorician Feb 11 '15 at 0:10

Lots of history lessons there, but motivation is the recipient of the epithet 'screw' here as a more polite variation of the American curse word that rhymes with muck. It means disregard, or a direct command to send away.

(ps - Motivated -to-, or motivated -from-? Just a question to assess intent.)

  • Well, I thought it was funny. At the time. – lonstar Feb 16 '15 at 21:21

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