Philology Phriday–F***

8 Jul

Warning: This post may not be suitable for kids under the age of whatever your parents think is suitable to read about the history of the word that has become probably the most uttered word in the whole English language. You know what I’m talking about. So consider this a contractual waving of your right to feel a little a) grossed out b) creeped out or c) just downright offended.

The word actually has rather unknown specific origins. This is mainly because something that sounded like the word was used in four different European languages. Here’s just a short gloss of the different languages that used something like f*** in what I can only assume was everyday use. We need to make it quick and snappy, because I’m all business today. No f***ing around. Also, I’m driving to Knoxville. And we all know what a f*** in the car is like. Eeesh. Anyway, enough foreplay.

The early Dutch used “fokken” for the English equivalents (I can’t make this up) “to mock, to strike, to fool, to beget children, to grow, to cultivate”. It was only later in the languages evolution, in the 15th century, that “fokken” meant “to have intercourse with”. Mocking and fooling, these are definitely both connected to acts of f***ing. Am I right or am I right? But the striking; this bothers me a little. It just seems so violent and so unconnected with anything but maybe somehow connected with everything. I guess I’ll accept that.

However, Norwegians somehow always used it in association with copulation. I will not comment on this comfortably premature phenomenon. Well, only that premature makes me giggle a little inside.

Some have tried to connect the word to Old Icelandic words “fjuka” and “feykja”. I however think this is a really strange connection to try to make, simply because they mean “to be driven on or tossed by the wind” and “to blow or drive away” respectively. Can anyone make the connection for me? Or, actually, never mind. I think I get it. No wait. Keep waiting. Hold on. Almost got it. No wait. Aww f*** it, just undo this yourself…

Last of the supposed ancestors to the modern curse word of choice is the German “ficken,” which meant simply (and fittingly, at least I think) “to rub, to make short fast movements, or to hit with rods.” The only part I don’t get about this is the hitting with rods. What are Germans doing? Whatever it is sounds painful. In fact, f*** would be what I would say after I was brutally fickened. It seems that the Germans took a page out of the Dutch playbook.

But what I really wonder is whether or not these words were actually used as expletives. For it seems like the general conception of language in the days of yore is that it was always proper and rather mundane. I couldn’t find anything on the Oxford English Dictionary that said these ancestor-words were used in any of the tones we use the word f*** today (as in, for example, cursing  the edge of a desk that your toe catches, or a drunken invitation to uncouth and most likely uncoordinated act that is as old as sin), but I have a feeling that they had to.

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One Response to “Philology Phriday–F***”

  1. Ashley Hagaman July 9, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    I f***ing love this post.

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