Let it never be said that historians don’t have a sense of fucking humour.
When a blog post started to circulate this past week erroneously describing the earliest use of the word fuck in the English language, linguist and historian Kate Wiles took it upon herself to set the fucking record straight.
Wiles explains that the word likely has Low German, Frisian or Dutch roots and was adopted into the English language with the meaning “to strike.” This is how it eventually developed to how we know the word today, since fucking is a kind of striking (usually involving genitals, appendages or related objects).
She points out that there is the case of Simon Fukkebotere (Ipswich, c 1290). “Simon’s ‘fuck’ is almost definitely being used to mean ‘to strike’ and describes his trade, which, I know, is hugely disappointing,” Wiles writes. “Who wants ‘hit-butter’ when you could have ‘fuck-butter’?? William’s ‘fuck’ is a new one and it’s probably related to a fukke, a type of sail first cited in 1465. Sorry.”
On the subject of “fuck” in regard to bumpin’ uglies, Wiles cites records from Bristol, dated 1373, that refer to a field named Fockynggroue. “It’s a name akin to Lovegrove rather than one which uses the Old English personal name Focca which appears in the place-name Fockbury, or from Old English Folca as in Folkestone. While the instances before this are possibly to do with getting down and nasty.” This, she says, predates the original blog post’s claim by more than 150 years.
Fucking language history: so interesting!