Swear words occupy a unique role in language: the same word can often be used to express anger, to offend, to emphasize, and even for comedic effect. Of all words, swear words have perhaps the most limited range of circumstances in which they are considered acceptable. This range can be stretched using substitute or, in written form, with asterisks. Do recent initialisms have same effect as the word or have they lost their impact with substitutes?
Finding a similar word
Earlier the words used for substitue were mostly for those that were related to god or something similar to them. Like- golly and gosh for God, Dickens and deuce for devil, crikey and crumbs for Christ, and heck for hell.
Later the derivatives used were for the word ‘fuck‘. This word is the F-word or even the explosive F-bomb, and rather than deploy it in polite company, we might prefer feck, or frack, or eff, or naff; for fucking we might say fracking, freaking, fricking, or frigging. These alternatives are generally considered merely informal rather than vulgar. These substitutes offend people less as compared to the orginal word.
The F letter
But what about when the word is reduced down to a single letter in a string? Recent communication has seen a rise in informal initialisms, and swear words have not been left out of this equation. Our ever-productive fuck has found its way into DTF(down to fuck), FML (fuck my life), GTFO(get the fuck out), WT[A]F (what the [actual] fuck), STFU (shut the fuck up), and af (as fuck).
When you use one of these abbreviations, does it carry the force of fuck or is it like the gentler feck et al? Nothing is totally sure here so while these new initialisms settle into place in our language, it is safer to treat them with the same caution as you would a fully spelt swear word.