UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 30, 2009

SOME FUCKING HISTORY

Time - First printed in a Scottish poem in 1503, the ancient and awesomely powerful "F-Bomb" continues to mystify lexiconographers. Rumors persist that legal acronyms spawned the obscenity ("Fornication Under Consent of the King" or the Irish police blotter inscription "booked For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge"), though the modern-day phrase has been traced to a number of etymological origins: Middle Dutch (fokken), Germanic (ficken), English (firk), Scottish (fukkit). Even the Latin terms futuerre ("to copulate") and pungo ("to prick") bear a striking resemblance to the four-letter word. . .

Comedians, perhaps not surprisingly, have led the way in broadcasting profanity. "Four-letter comedian" Lenny Bruce took part in some of the nation's first indecency trials by saying things like: "Take away the right to say "f---" and you take away the right to say "f--- the government." Such adult language has tongue-tied even the most articulate attorneys. In 1963, one Chicago prosecutor opened his case against Bruce with, "I don't think I have to tell you the term, I think that you recall it . . . as a word that started with "F" and ended with "K" and sounded like truck." Another judge in Maine declared during a 1981 indecency trial that "no obscene words should be uttered in court," stipulating instead that the sexually charged phrase should be referred to as "The Word," lending the entire trial, according to The New Yorker, a sort of Biblical ring.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Mairead said...

Everything but the Germanic origins (fokken, ficken) amounts to "folk etymology" at best.

Small wonder that the word is so often used in the context of violence and violation: it's known to come originally (for some value of "originally") from Proto-Indo-European peig meaning hostile/evil.

April 30, 2009 5:58 PM  

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