How can you describe something as fucked up or messed up? Specifically talking about a bunch of pictures. A better way of saying “These pictures are fucked up.” A picture like this would be fucked up or disturbing or mentally challenging enter image description here

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    try being more descriptive in terms of how they were 'fuсked up'. 'Fuсked up' really does not say what was wrong at all, simply that something was wrong. – Lee Leon Apr 23 '18 at 9:28
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    Do you mean the subject matter is disturbing? Was the lens cracked so they all have a crack in them? Did the hardware malfunction and corrupt the files? More details, please? – Pam Apr 23 '18 at 9:35
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    @Mitch after spending four or moreso years on this site, it's my impression that many non native speakers get this slang from off the net, such as YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter and think that it is perfectly normal, acceptable and "lit" (?) to say something or everything is fuсked up. The problem is that those native speakers who spiel this type of dilge continuously are, more often than not, semi-illiterate. There! I said it. Somebody lock me up! – Mari-Lou A Apr 23 '18 at 19:41
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    I quite like those images truth be known, they seem reminiscent of the Scream by Edvard Munch, or the Screaming Pope paintings by Francis Bacon – Mari-Lou A Apr 23 '18 at 19:44
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    Fuсked up in a photograph means that you took a bad photograph -- cut someone's head off when you didn't mean to, or overexposed the photo or in some other way made a serious error. It does not mean the photo Is emotionally disturbing. I happen not to like the photos of Diane Arbus, but no one who understood English well would call the photos fuсked up. – ab2 Apr 23 '18 at 20:43

Taboo warning: a lot of profanity in what follows.

Taboo words can have lots of nuances. They're hardly ever written and little thought is given to how to properly explain all the nuances, because of the very fact that they are taboo. They are avoided by standard speakers in standard, higher prestige situations and explanations tend not to come outside of those more accepted situations also.

You are primarily asking about 'fucked up'. It is fairly taboo; it should never be used in official writing, will make your mother embarrassed (if you say it), and may raise an eyebrow by your friends if used too much. It has a lot of semantic overlap with entirely non-taboo (but still informal) 'messed up' but is not identical. 'Fucked up' can mean a lot of related but distinct things. Mostly they have something to do with things being wrong in a bad way. A painting can be fucked up because it has been damaged badly, or because (very differently) it has a very strange perspective or has three eyes. A person can be messed up because they have drunk a lot. There's no good single adjective to replace all these different instances. 'This painting is damaged', 'This painting is bizarre', 'This person is very drunk (or high)'. Sometimes tiny grammatical nuances can distinguish them and sometimes all you have is context.

For example:

That's fucked up

primarily means that 'that' is disturbing or bizarre. That pregnant lady just tripped a little boy because he accidentally opened a door on her? "That's fucked up". It seems crazy that she would do that.

But if you're referring to a person.

He's fucked up

could mean various things. It could mean that he is really, really drunk or drugged "He had too many tequila shots, he's totally fucked up", or it could mean he has been injured badly "He drove his dad's car into the ditch, he's totally fucked up (badly injured) and the car is fucked up too (also badly damaged)".

As a verb it means to make a terrible mistake: 'He left out two zeroes on the check due yesterday. He fucked up'. Note that this is as a verb, the previous ones were adjectives (as past participles). Note also, because of this verb thing, you might say "He has fucked up". Properly formed in the informal register it would be "He's fucked up" which is ambiguous. It could mean either he has fucked up (made a mistake), or he is fucked up (injured or drunk), or, as often as not, both.

As to 'messed up', it can fit in all these instances with the same grammar and potential for ambiguity that often doesn't matter. It's just not at all taboo. It is still informal, just not taboo.

An alternative for 'fucked up' for made a mistake is

fouled up,

as in the hidden euphemism for SNAFU: "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up". 'Fouled up' is at about the same (lack of) taboo level and informality as 'messed up'.

Now, to answer your question directly, the choice of non-taboo term depends on the intention and register. 'messed up' works for all but may not be the right register; it's still a bit vague and informal.

  • If the painting has been torn badly, say

It's damaged.

or for people

They are injured.

  • If the painting is of a scene that makes you uncomfortable, say

It's disturbing.

(or some other descriptive adjective).

  • If the person is inebriated, say

They are drunk (or high).

or other versions.

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