In 1991, Van Halen released the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and a bullshit origin of the word “fuck” was popularized. And while Sammy is no Diamond Dave, “Right Now” is still a kickass song.
Fuck is about as grammatically versatile a word as you can imagine, and it is a word, not an acronym. One of the myths of the word’s origin relates to the aforementioned Van Hagar album. Allegedly, in centuries-gone-by England, adulterers got more than a scarlet letter “A,” they got put in the stocks—that contraption where you’re locked into a wooden thingy with head and hands exposed and people threw shit at you, including actual shit—with a sign reading F.U.C.K. to tell the assembled mob of shit-throwers that this fucker was a filthy fornicator.
But that’s not the only alleged acronym. There is also Fornication Under Consent of the King, meaning that it was only legal to bump uglies within the confines of marriage performed by the Church of England, of which the monarch was “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor.” Speaking of said church, it was started by Henry VIII because the pope wouldn’t let him annul his marriage so he could fornicate some other women before decapitating them. The church founding was a fuck you to Catholicism for telling the king who he could fuck.
Besides, “fornication” literally means fucking someone you’re not married to, so it contradicts the whole legally married and the king said it was okay for us to play couch rugby bullshit narrative.
Anyfuckingway, it’s not a goddamn acronym, and the clearest evidence for why is that acronyms are a relatively new thing. To begin, “initialism” first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1899. The fuck is an initialism? It’s a class of acronym where you pronounce each letter, like CPU or GTFO. Acronyms, where you make a word out of it, didn’t enter the popular vernacular until World War II with words like radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) and snafu (Situation Normal: All Fucked Up).
Another myth is that it comes from “pluck yew” to refer to shooting arrows via longbows made of yew at the French during the Battle of Agincourt, but that was a joke that for some caught on as the actual etymology.
So, where the fuck does it come from? It’s probably Germanic in origin, but Germanic doesn’t necessarily mean German. The modern German word for fuck is “ficken,” and if you type that into your favorite adult website you’re gonna find some freaky horny hausfrau kinda shit.
Where was I?
Ficken and fuck likely share a common root. The Dutch used fokken to describe both thrusting and fucking, often in relation to breeding livestock. Probably cattle and not “fuck a duck” type of animal husbandry though. Norwegians said fukka to describe fucking, and for the Swedes it was focka.
How did English-speakers begin using fuck? We’re absolutely certain that we’re just not fucking sure. It appears to have filtered down from the Scots or Northern English, which lends credence to the idea that the word is of Scandinavian origin because if you know anything about British history, the “Danes” did a heap of conquering and colonizing of that region in the late first millennium.
What is the first known instance of “fuck” appearing in the English language? It dates to 1310, as a name: Roger Fuckebythenavele. That’s almost certainly not a real name, but a nickname because ol’ Roger was not so good at rogering and he stuck it in the belly button. Maybe. The name appeared a few times in the Chester County court rolls because Mr. Tummy Fucker was an outlaw.
It didn’t show up in English writing again for over a century and a half in a poem written in pseudo-Latin. The relevant words in this poem were in a cypher to indicate that they were taboo. Upon deciphering it translates to talking of how some brothers weren’t going to heaven because “they fuck the wives of Ely,” Ely being a town near Cambridge.
Since then, English speakers have been pretty fucking uptight about the use of the word fuck.
Author D.H. Lawrence left England for mainland Europe because they didn’t like his writing style, including his repeated use of fuck in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which he published in Italy in 1928. Lawrence died two years later and two years after that the book was published in England with all the fucks edited out, including the scenes describing fucking. Penguin finally published the original version in 1960 and the publisher was put on trial for violation of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, but they got off because readers were getting off on the “literary merit” of the book.
Between 1795 and 1965 the word fuck did not appear in a single English dictionary. And in the United States in 1948, when Norman Mailer was only 25 and publishing his first novel titled The Naked and the Dead, his publisher said yeah we want you to change the word to “fug,” and he did. The book is about fighting in the Philippines during WWII and it’s okay to describe the resulting death and dismemberment but don’t say fuck, k?
Time to bust another myth. Allegedly the band Blink-182 took its name from the number of times Tony Montana says fuck in the movie Scarface. The reality is that the band had been called “Blink” and they received a cease-and-desist order from another band in Ireland who was already using it, so the boys said fuck it and pulled 182 out of a posterior orifice.
Speaking of posterior orifices, some folks still get theirs all clenched up over the use of the word fuck. They need to lighten the fuck up.
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Interesting history on that most versatile word. I don't know the origin, either; but I do have a sort of cartoon and poem that was printed in 1799. It shows a bare-assed woman on a horse with a man seated behind her and his penis in her. The poem is titled "NEW FEATS OF HORSEMANSHIP", and two lines in the poem reads:
"Corrina and her favorite buck
Are pleas'd to have a flying fuck"