I’d mentioned something in this blog awhile back in terms of what is the classical vulgar tongue. I feel very passionately in regards to language and it’s origins. Particularly the more interesting parts, aka The Filthy Bits. I had a friend who was a bonified linguist. and he knew several different languages and a variety of dialects and slang. I asked him once, when he stubbed his toe, what his immediate reaction was to curse with. He said English, without hesitation. We’ve got a kaleidoscopic variety of slang, cant, and colloquial patter in each generation that affords us the ability to cuss the way we do. Because there is a certain amount of joy in swearing, it serves us well to know the origins of where some of our favourite swear words and phrases. But where do they come from?


While everyone knows what it means (fornicate) we don’t all know where it comes from. It was banned in the Oxford English Dictionary, but despite that fact, it’s been around since 1475 roughly, and she still gets a rough ride and no respect. For a word that has been used as a noun, adjective, verb, and adverb it is a stunning example of spoken word surviving generations because for the longest time it rarely ever appeared in written language. It would pop up in both Lyndsay (1540) for Florio’s definition of ‘fottere’. It appeared in William Dunbar’s 1503 poem “Brash of Wowing” and John Florio’s 1598 Italian-English dictionary, A Worlde of Wordes as well. It made an appearance again in print in 1690 in Burns. But where did she come from?

Throughout Europe it ran the gamut from Germanic languages, such as German ficken (to fuck); Dutch fokken (to breed, to strike, to beget); dialectal Norwegian fukka (to copulate), and dialectal Swedish fokka (to strike, to copulate) and fock (penis). In Latin-based languages it starts in Latin itself as futuere (almost exactly the same meaning as the English verb “to fuck”); but it would have to be explained how the word reached Scandinavia from Roman contact, and how the t became k. From f?tuere came French foutre, Catalan fotre, Italian fottere, Romanian futere, vulgar peninsular Spanish follar and joder, and Portuguese foder. All which mean the same thing at the end of the day and tend to fall under the linguistic umbrella of the single universal, FUCK.

While most people, when asked if they know where it came from will answer England, and that not totally true… as this word was passed down from tongue to tongue, it made it tricky to nail down where she travelled and came from though conventional etymologically since she didn’t appear often in written form except for the examples I could round up above. Some of these urban legends are that the word fuck came from Irish law. If a couple were caught committing adultery, they would be punished “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge In the Nude,” with “FUCKIN” written on the stocks above them to denote the crime. A similar variant on this theory involves the recording by church clerks of the crime of “Forbidden Use of Carnal Knowledge.” Another theory is that of a royal permission. During the Black Death in the Middle Ages, towns were trying to control populations and their interactions. Since uncontaminated resources were scarce, many towns required permission to have children. Hence, the legend goes, that couples that were having children were required to first obtain royal permission (usually from a local magistrate or lord) and then place a sign somewhere visible from the road in their home that said “Fornicating Under Consent of King,” which was later shortened to “FUCK.” While hard to prove, the story has circulated to the point of being accepted knowledge and is in the realm of urban legend because of it. I know for a fact because a sewer alligator told me so.

So now, when anyone asks you where the fuck, the fucking word fuck ever came from, you can give them some fucking examples. Maybe along with some examples of the usage of the word itself.


Little Miss Risk

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2 Responses to Phrasing…

  1. The explanation of its derivation was always explained to me as being Norman (the Normandy place, not some Norman guy). Somewhere buried in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is the use of it, possibly, making that one of the first purported uses of it, which puts paid to the suggestions of anything in 16thC Italian being the source. I’ve also heard it was derived from fricken in one of the northern European languages like Norse or something, which would make sense with the German, Dutch, and Norwegian.

    Really, who cares? It’s an awesome word, very flexible, and very useful. In addition to the grammatical purposes you stated, it’s not only a gerund but an highly efficient exclamation of a multitude of emotional states.

    FUCK! Use it proudly!

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