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I was just having a discussion with a friend, and we were wondering about appropriate grammar usage when one says For fucks sake.

In my opinion, there are three candidates:

  1. for fucks sake
  2. for fuck’s sake
  3. for fucks’ sake

My money is on (2), assuming that being a "sake" is possessive.
(3) seems a bit plural and (1) kind of random.

Which one is best, and why?

I’d just like to add, this is not a joke question — I am genuinely interested as to the right way to do it. If you’re going to write out coarse profanity in full, you may as well do it right.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Jul 16, 2021 at 18:55

2 Answers 2

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I have always written it as 'for fuck's sake' when I have needed to.

Definition of 'FFS'
in British English
slang
ABBREVIATION FOR the taboo expression 'for fuck's sake': used esp in social media, text messages, etc to indicate irritation

FFS (Collins Dictionary)

Also Lexico and possibly others

I don't know if the unabbreviated FFS counts as a minced oath, exactly, but it seems to be used where more pious ages used for Christ's sake, for Jesus' sake, for God's sake etc. I firmly believe 'fuck' is a noun capable of possession in the exclamation. When I was a schoolboy we had to join the school's section of the Combined Cadet Force and go to drill training once a term at the Grenadier Guards barracks. I distinctly remember a drill-sergeant shouting at me 'What in the name of fook do you fooking think you're fooking doing?' at my attempt at presenting arms.

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  • How is this not general reference? Jul 16, 2021 at 18:10
  • @EdwinAshworth - are you saying I should not have answered? It's an entertaining topic, and I've got three votes out of it so far. Jul 16, 2021 at 18:11
  • You should have close-voted because easy research was not shown by OP. Answering off-topic questions (these include LMGTFY questions) does little to enhance ELU's standing. And I'm afraid those upvotes are worse. FWIW, other dictionaries omit the apostrophe. Jul 16, 2021 at 18:17
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It probably doesn't make a lot of sense to analyze an interjection according to typical grammatical rules. These sorts of interjections, or exclamations typically are not used as parts of complete sentences.

For example, how would you analyze the exclamation, "whatever", as in:

Person A: You should be more careful.
Person B: Yeah, whatever.

It might be possible to see "whatever" as a highly abbreviated expression of the thought: "Whatever you say, you can't make me care." But realistically, that is not what's going through the speaker's head. It's really not an abbreviation, though historically it may have started out that way.

The most compelling argument (maybe the only compelling argument) for the correct spelling on this interjection would probably be based on the accepted spelling of similar expressions.

For fuck/s/'s/s' sake closely resembles
For God's sake
For Christ's sake

Which would favor "for fuck's sake".

But there's also

For goodness sake

This seems to suggest that "for fucks sake" might be correct, or possibly even "for fuck sake." I know that I, for one, do not pronounce two distinct s's. Perhaps the only s I'm pronouncing is the s in sake.

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    I've seen a very convincing explanation of odd or grammatically nonsensical profanity as substitution of sexual profanity in phrases of (formerly more taboo) religious curses. In addition to "for fuck's sake" there are "fuck you" and "I don't give a fuck" (and "I don't give a shit") from "damn you" and "I don't give a damn." But then "I don't give a damn" is also a bit nonsensical. But shouldn't it be for goodness' sake? It's just that there are so many S's in there that the possessive form is completely obliterated by phonetic considerations.
    – phoog
    Jul 16, 2021 at 17:57
  • The analogy with God's/Christ's sake favours 2 in the question over 1, but it does not favour 2 over 3. Given that the expression, taken literally, is nonsensical, there is no way of knowing whether it is supposed to be about a single fuck, or a multiplicity of them.
    – jsw29
    Jul 16, 2021 at 18:51
  • My Brigade of Guards NCO would say it's about Fuck. Jul 16, 2021 at 18:54
  • @jsw29 I've always thought that it was about 'fuck' as a concept or, perhaps an archetype. That is there is one archetypal fuck that stands for all the trillions or zillions of actual individual ones that have taken place over time. This is related to goodness's sake which is about goodness as a concept, not an individual or set of specific ones.
    – BoldBen
    Jul 16, 2021 at 19:46
  • @BoldBen No one actually says for goodness’s sake, adding an extra syllable there at the end of goodness; they say only for goodness’ sake. Same with conscience.
    – tchrist
    Jul 16, 2021 at 23:46

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