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government humor

A Concise History of Fuck

Hundreds of years later, James Joyce was not as covert in his use of the word. The 1921 publication of the complete Ulysses was met with book banning and book burning. A New York court ruled the work obscene, even though the word “fuck” appeared just twice—once as noun, once as verb—in 265,000 words.

Juli Weiner of Vanity Fair with a delightful small article reacting to the recent FCC ruling in regards to the expressive and powerful word, fuck

Both verb and noun, infix and interjection, “fuck,” like many chimerical beasts, is of ill repute and unknown genesis. The American Heritage Dictionary, similar to its tweedier brother, the Oxford English Dictionary, is unable to divine the exact etymology of “fuck,” however it does provide information about its first known publication. Specifically, the word initially appeared in a satirical poem composed sometime around 1500 that takes aim at the Carmelite friars of Cambridge. Although the letters F, U, C, and K do not appear in their recognizable, rancorous order, they are expressed in a simple code that “is easily broken by simply substituting the preceding letter in the alphabet, keeping in mind differences in the alphabet and in spelling between then and now,” according to the dictionary. Drained of its cryptic Latin and less cryptic cryptology, “non sunt in coeli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk” begets “they are not in heaven because they fuck wives of Ely [a town near Cambridge].” For what it’s worth, the Online Dictionary of Etymology surmises that “fuck” has roots in the Middle English “fyke,” meaning to “move restlessly.” “Fyke” had sexual connotations, too; it suggested fidgeting as well as flirting, as the wives of Ely might attest.

Hundreds of years later, James Joyce was not as covert in his use of the word. The 1921 publication of the complete Ulysses was met with book banning and book burning. A New York court ruled the work obscene, even though the word “fuck” appeared just twice—once as noun, once as verb—in 265,000 words. Other classics infamous for their embrace of the word include The Catcher in the Rye and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Norman Mailer substituted “fug” for “fuck” in The Naked and the Dead, from which the band the Fugs would later take its name. (One of the group’s founding members, Tuli Kupferberg, passed away yesterday.) “Fug,” a cacophonous cousin, is still an undeserving member of the vernacular. Alternative progeny also include “fink,” “freak,” “feck,” “frack,” and “frig,” the latter regretfully embalmed for pop-culture immortality with the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite. The Wire eschewed euphemisms altogether, embracing the guttural, satisfying “fuck” a total of 38 times in a single scene.

(you should click to continue reading A Concise History of “Fuck” | VF Daily | Vanity Fair.)

 

Words are words, no? The government shouldn’t be in the business of deciding what words are appropriate and which are not.

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