Ever Wonder About The History of the “F” Word?
Admit it. We have all either accidentally used this word (before we could catch ourselves), or at least heard it out in public. A few days ago, as I was standing in line at a grocery store and self-distancing from other customers, I couldn’t help but laugh when I overheard a young woman say this dirty word while talking to her husband who was struggling to corral the kids at home while mom purchased groceries. It appeared that something had gone horribly wrong, and something may have broken in the home. I started to wonder how a single word that rhymes with “duck” could make a grown man chuckle when hearing it said by someone who was clearly not having the best of days. I wanted to know more about this devilish word, its origins, and for how long people have been using it to describe despair, frustration, or contempt.
It turns out that we have the Scots to blame for the “f” word. In fact, the earliest use ever recorded of this profanity dates all the way back to 1568 during, you guessed it – the plague! George Bannatyne, a young student who was under quarantine, wrote a collection of poems that would later be referred to as the “Bannatyne Manuscript” out of sheer boredom. Two adversarial poets trade barbs with one another in a poem, and the line that became the earliest recorded use of the “f” word reads as “wan fu**it funling” (with two “k” letters replacing the more modern spelling).
Many people may be shocked to learn that George Carlin did not invent the word, or even come close to being the first person to print the word or record it! It seems that our love for colourful language was born centuries ago during a health crisis. This leaves me to wonder what new words or phrases will be created during this pandemic. If I was to guess, based upon the dozens of memes on social media in response to Netflix’s “Tiger King”, I would think “Carole Baskin” might soon become a figure of speech for years to come.
It is important to find the lighter side in life right now. With stories of economic fallout and families affected by COVID-19, things can become overwhelming and it can be difficult to share a laugh or a lighthearted moment. We will persevere together, and as many health professionals advise, that by staying apart now, we will be able to celebrate together without missing someone. Stay safe and remember that when you hear the “f” word, you now know its history.