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The Origin of the F word

By silent lotus, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. silent lotus

    silent lotus _-_== Loiterer ==_-_


    So Long as It’s Words


    On the Origin of Fuck

    Posted on February 12, 2014 by Kate
    One origin story for fuck is that it comes from when sex was outlawed unless it was permitted explicitly by the king, so people who were legally banging had Fornication Under Consent of the King on their doors, or: F.U.C.K. But obviously that’s wrong. As are all of the other nonsensical acronyms floating about (anything ending in Carnal Knowledge uses words which wouldn’t be used until AFTER the contents of this blog post). So if you do believe any of that, stop it. Stop it right now.

    But right now there’s a post going round with a lovely image of a manuscript from Brasenose College, Oxford, proudly declaring it’s the earliest instance of fuck in English (although, it notes, that is apart from that pesky one from Scotland and that one that says fuck but is written in code). But even if we DO agree to discount those two little exceptions, it’s still not the earliest instance. I think the Brasenose fuck was considered the earliest in 1993, and that’s quite out-dated now.

    So, for your enjoyment and workplace sniggering, here’s a potted history of fuck.
    Instances of fuck before the fifteenth century are rare. Despite it commonly being classed as one of the Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, Jesse Sheidlower (author of an entire book on fuck, and past editor of the OED so he knows what he’s talking about) suspects that it came into English in the fifteenth century from something like Low German, Frisian or Dutch. While ‘fuck’ existed in English before then it was never used to mean rogering, instead it typically meant ‘to strike’ (which was, way-back-when, related to the word that became fuck because it’s a kind of hitting…). Anything that appears earlier is most likely to be the use of fuck to mean ‘to strike’. If you wanted to talk about making whoopee in a dirty way, the Middle English word to use was swive. [ETA: @earlymodernjohn asked if it's related to Modern English 'swivel' as in 'go swivel' and it is! The more you know...]
    Another theory for why there’s hardly any written record of fuck before the fifteenth century is because, if it was around before then, it was just too darn rude to write down. The coded example might have been an early way around actually writing it.

    Another theory for its late arrival is that it’s a borrowing from Norse (the Vikings) via Scottish because several early instances are found in Scottish writing (such as the fifteenth-century one discounted in that other article). However, this is generally believed to be unlikely, in part because the Scottish weren’t considered influential enough for English to borrow words from them. Perhaps there were more early written examples in Scottish simply because they were less prudish about writing it.

    There are lots of instances of the word fuck from before the fifteenth century drifting around, some of the most notable of which are, chronologically:

    John Le Fucker (supposedly from 1278) – While excellent, this name is probably apocryphal. Since it was first written about no-one’s been able to find it and it’s generally assumed to be a mis-reading, perhaps of Tucker, or a variant on fulcher, meaning ‘soldier’. Disappointing.

    Fuckebegger (1286/7) it appears as part of the surname of one of Edward I’s palfreymen. Marc Morris posted this excellent photo on Twitter:

    However, this is generally assumed to mean ‘to strike’ and can be compared with the Anglo-Norman surname Butevilein meaning ‘to strike the churl or wretch’ (‘vilein’ being related to the English villain which originally meant a person of a lower status).

    The place-names Ric Wyndfuk and Ric Wyndfuck de Wodehous (which sounds like a brilliant place to live), both of which are found near Sherwood Forest in a document from 1287. These use the bird-name Windfucker (first cited 1599) which may or may not have something to do with making the beast with two backs. The OED veers towards yes, probably, it’s a kestrel which majestically mounts the wind. So the place-names here kind of have fuck in them by a circuitous route and are possibly the earliest instance of fuck in English.

    Simon Fukkebotere and Willm’i Smalfuk (Ipswich, c. 1290). Simon’s ‘fuck’ is almost definitely being used to mean ‘to strike’ and describes his trade, which, I know, is hugely disappointing. Who wants ‘hit-butter’ when you could have ‘fuck-butter’?? William’s ‘fuck’ is a new one and it’s probably related to a fukke, a type of sail first cited in 1465. Sorry.

    Fockynggroue – Another place-name, from Bristol in 1373. This was shown in 2007 quite persuasively to be the earliest instance of fuck in English used to mean doing the funny downstairs business. It’s a name akin to Lovegrove rather than one which uses the Old English personal name Focca which appears in the place-name Fockbury, or from Old English Folca as in Folkestone. While the instances before this are possibly to do with getting down and nasty, this one’s pretty conclusive, and predates the Fucking Abbot by 155 years.

    The coded poem mentioned above from 1475 called Fleas, Flies and Friars in which ‘fucking’ appears as follows:
    Non sunt in celi
    quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk
    Which, decoded reads: ‘fuccant uuiuys of heli’
    ‘They [the friars] are not in Heaven because they fuck (the) women of Ely’ (which might be interpreted as a pun on ‘Hell’).
    The following are the earliest citations in the OED:
    1513 – W. Dunbar Poems, Scottish, ‘Be his feirris he wald haue fukkit’.
    The Fucking Abbot (1528) isn’t even the earliest citation that’s widely talked about, predated by ten years by Dunbar, which the link discounts as not being in English, despite appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary.

    1663 – Richard Head, Hic et Ubique: or, The Humors of Dublin. A comedy, ‘I did creep in..and there I did see putting [sic] the great fuck upon my weef.’ I’ve included this even though it’s quite late because I really like saying ‘the great fuck upon my weef’. And because it’s written by a man called Richard Head. RICHARD. HEAD.

    And in 1680 by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester in a book of what sounds like LOVELY poems: ‘Thus was I Rook’d of Twelve substantial Fucks’.

    So, I think we can definitely say there’s at least three, possibly four earlier instances of fuck in English before the Fucking Abbot. Sorry dude.

    Keith Briggs, ‘Two Thirteenth-Century By-Names: Fukkebotere and Smalfuk’, Nomina (2012), 141-43
    Richard Coates, ‘Fockynggroue in Bristol’, Notes and Queries (2007), 373-76
    Marc Morris, @Longshanks <https://twitter.com/Longshanks1307/status/432856212363694080>
    Jesse Sheidlower, The F-Word (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
    Edward Wilson, ‘A “Damned F—In Abbot” In 1528: The Earliest English Example Of A Four-Letter Word’, Notes and Queries (1993), 29-34

  2. Scott Douglas

    Scott Douglas Nice poems, keep writing

    I thought a carpenter invented it after hitting his thumb with a hammer
  3. maggie flanagan-wilkie

    maggie flanagan-wilkie Well-Known Member

    Every bird I see will now be a windfucker, first.
  4. silent lotus

    silent lotus _-_== Loiterer ==_-_


    Historian Finds Oldest Use Of F-Word Hidden In Medieval Court Papers
    It could be "fourteenth-century revenge porn."
    Ed MazzaOvernight Editor, The Huffington Post
    Posted: 09/14/2015 05:09 AM EDT

    A researcher has found what is believed to be the earliest written example of the f-word.

    (Caution: a certain four-letter word is used ahead, and used repeatedly.)

    Paul Booth, a historian at Keele University in England, found three examples dating from 1310 and 1311 of a man known in legal documents as Roger Fuckebythenavel.

    Booth said he believes Roger was not the bearer of a very unfortunate family name, but rather it was given to him derogatorily.

    Roger Fuckebythenavele from a Chester court roll dated 8 December 1310 found in @UkNatArchivesby Dr Paul Booth! pic.twitter.com/rI6q3RUtFX

    — Aine Foley (@AineMedievalDub) September 12, 2015
    "This surname is presumably a nickname," Booth told Medievalists.net. "I suggest it could either mean an actual attempt at copulation by an inexperienced youth, later reported by a rejected girlfriend, or an equivalent of the word ‘dimwit,’ i.e., a man who might think that that was the correct way to go about it.”

    If Roger actually tried to do it in the navel and someone told the world about it, the name could be "fourteenth-century revenge porn," Booth told Vice.

    Booth noted that Roger was before the court three times over a nine-month period, and each time his last name was spelled differently: Fuckebythenavele, Fukkebythenavele and, finally, Fuckebythenavel.

    "On the first two occasions he was 'exacted' (solemnly summoned to attend court to answer a serious criminal charge, which is unspecified) and on the third he was outlawed," Booth wrote in an abstract, titled "Roger the incompetent copulator," that he posted online. "He was probably never heard of again."

    As Booth told the Daily Mail, an outlaw could be "executed without trial if caught."

    Historians have uncovered the first use of the F-bomb in a 1310 court case http://t.co/2ATSoqUKkipic.twitter.com/dlk27kURvo

    — Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) September 12, 2015
    Until now, the oldest known written example of "fuck" was a coded use of the word in the poem "Flen flyys," which was dated to around 1475.

    Once decoded, the line read "fvccant vvivys of heli," a mix of Latin and English that meant "they fuck the wives of Ely," as noted by Medievalists.net.

    There were some earlier appearances of the word "fuck" in texts, however none were known to be used in the current context.

    A 1278 text, for example, referred to someone who appeared to be named "John Le Fucker." However, medievalist and linguist Kate Wiles wrote in The Huffington Post last year that it was believed to be a misreading of "Tucker" or a variation of "fulcher," meaning "soldier."

    The Oxford English dictionary currently lists "fuck" with its current meaning as a word of Germanic origins dating to the 16th century.  Booth told Vice he informed the dictionary of his discovery, but doesn't know if the publishers plan to update the listing.

  5. Anna Ruiz

    Anna Ruiz I have the same religion as that tree over there.