Swearwords Originating as Acronyms

James_H

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#1
On another forum, I was reading a thread about the origins of the words Fuck, Shit and Cunt. Not being such a learned board as this all sorts of bizzarre explanations were given (rather than a direct link to wikipedia ;)). The most pervasive of these seems to be:
'Fuck' was apparently from Fornicate Under the Command of the King'. Or some such thing....
my teacher told me it was Fornication Under Consent of the King
The story I was told involves puritan america,

Appartantly a punishment for adultery, or some such sex crime back in the day earned you a day in the stocks.

The letter F.U.C.K. stood for the phrase "For Unlawfull Carnal Knowladge"

That's what I heard.
Apparently, the word fuck was, at one point, an acronym. Forced Unwanted Carnal Knowledge. If, in the Middle Ages, you raped a woman, you'd have the word FUCK branded on you. Not the sort of trivia that you bring up in polite conversation, but interesting nonetheless
I thought it was Found Using Carnal Knowledge, and there was a FUCK list during the colonisation of America. I think something to do with soldiers and native americans.
!! I find it quite alarming that people think the word is this new.

As for Shit:

Shit apparently comes from when they were shipping manure, it would have SHIT or Ship High In Transit stamped on the container. Could be true.
Yep. It expands when wet and would make ships explode if shipped below the waterline.
i'd also heard that was the case with shit. Apparently the manure would get moldy under the deck, or some such thing.
Shit, as said earlier, stood for Ship High In Transit. Manure was often transfered via ship over long distances. When stored below deck, the methane gas emmitted from the product would build up in large amounts in the confined areas. When sailors would go below deck they would take a lamp with them to see in the otherwise unlit cargo space. The open flame coming into contact with the concentrated methane caused the ships to explode.

And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.
I may be wrong in assuming that this is, well, a load of shit. But it's interesting, it takes on all the classic aspects of a legend.
 

chockfullahate

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#2
FUCK came from "for unlawful carnal knowledge" which was the phrase used for rape trials in the 17th century, i seem to recall being told when at school.
 

WhistlingJack

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#4
WHERE DO TODAY'S SWEAR WORDS COME FROM?

MARK P:
Swearing actually provides a perfect introduction to the etymology of English. Most swear words originated with Middle English, the English that began to be written and spoken as the country gradually lost its ties to France, between about 1100 and 1500. English, in both language and grammar developed primarily out of the languages of our previous conquerors, specifically Germanic, Scandinavian and Romance (the language of Rome).

So, a quick poke around the Oxford English Dictionary reveals that "shit" comes from the olde English for diarrhoea, scitte, which is itself Germanic in origin, from scheissen, possibly via the Danish shitjen. So it's one that's been with us for some time. Shite too goes back along way, and was even used to describe a whole range of birds in the heron family during the late 18th century: shitepokes were allegedly so called for their habit of crapping themselves when disturbed. Good to see twitchers had a sense of humour back then.

Cunt is also of Middle English origin, traceable via the Middle Dutch and Danish word kunte, and the Norwegian and Swedish, kunta. All meant much the same thing that they do today.

Bugger is an interesting one, being a Middle English term, deriving from the French, used to describe enemies of the Catholic Church, specifically the Bogomils. This large and influential religious sect, who preached across in Eastern Europe, were particularly popular in Bulgaria and Serbia, and Bogomil became the state religion of Bosnia and Hungary until the Muslims invaded the Balkans in the 14th century.

The Bogomils were a major influence on the Cathars, or Albigenians (named after the Languedoc town of Albi where they were based), a powerful Christian movement that became large enough to pose a serious threat to the Catholic Church. At least the Catholics saw it that way. When the Cathars refused to submit to Church authority, Pope Innocent III had these peaceful, enlightened, Gnostic, vegetarian ascetics brutally annihilated in the Albigensian Crusade of 1209-1229. One of the most disgraceful moments in Catholic history, this saw the slaughter and torture of tens of thousands of men, women and children for no good reason at all.

Anyway, I digress. Bugger clearly comes from the French bougre, referring to the Bogmils. While it's fairly standard behaviour to accuse your enemies of "unnatural" acts, it's interesting to speculate on how bougre, or bugger, may have come to mean specifically the noble art of buggery. The Cathars are often linked to another mighty Christian offshoot of the time, the Knights Templar, who sprung up during the Crusades and returned to Northern France very rich, powerful and secretive indeed. What it was they that they discovered in the Holy Land, nobody is quite sure, though there are hundreds of ideas, some dafter than others, filling hundreds of books. One of the key accusations that the Church made about the Templars was that they worshipped the head of a bearded god known as Baphomet - said by some to be the head of Jesus himself, or perhaps John the Baptist. Part of this worship was alleged to involve the kissing of another knight's buttocks, perhaps an act of earthy spiritual humility, perhaps a total fabrication on the part of the Church. So it's possible that such rumoured arse-kissing behaviour may have turned the straightforward insult bougre or bugger, into the act buggery that some people know and love today.

Back to swear words then...where were we?

Fuck! This seems to be a bit later in origin than most of the other words, tracing back to the early 16th century, though again of Germanic origin, via the Swedish focka and the Dutch, fokkelen. It's thought to originate in an Indo-European root word meaning to strike. However, according to one reader anyway, the word was used in the old days to describe a woman who openly enjoyed sex, and the word stood for "full of carnal knowledge". These lovers of sex were then known as "fuckers". This is certainly puts a nice folkloric spin on plain old etymology. Can anyone suggest any others?

Jaysun: I remember reading that "fuck" originated with monks--who used "fvccant" back in their time--and, sure enough, after performing a web search using "fvccant," here's what I found in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

"The obscenity fuck is a very old word and has been considered shocking from the first, though it is seen in print much more often now than in the past. Its first known occurrence, in code because of its unacceptability, is in a poem composed in a mixture of Latin and English sometime before 1500. The poem, which satirizes the Carmelite friars of Cambridge, England, takes its title, "Flen flyys," from the first words of its opening line, "Flen, flyys, and freris," that is, "fleas, flies, and friars." The line that contains fuck reads "Non sunt in coeli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk." The Latin words "Non sunt in coeli, quia," mean "they [the friars] are not in heaven, since." The code "gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk" 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: i was then used for both i and j; v was used for both u and v; and vv was used for w. This yields "fvccant [a fake Latin form] vvivys of heli." The whole thus reads in translation: "They are not in heaven because they fuck wives of Ely [a town near Cambridge].""

Reference to an earlier mention, a 'John Le Fucker' listed in 1250, is made in John Ayto's Dictionary of Word Origins. He was probably so-called in mockery, or as a parody. It seems a little odd then that Chaucer, who clearly knew a few rude words, doesn't use the term in his Canterbury Tales, begun in 1385. The earliest reference cited in The Oxford English Dictionary is 1503.

J: I was under the impression that the word "fuck" was derived from the acronym for "fornication under carnal knowledge". I suppose that if you were caught screwing around before marriage this is what you were charged with under some legal system somewhere.

Fuck is an acronym from Dante's Inferno For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Do more research.

[What a cunt! MOP]

Some other suggestions (mostly unlikely) include:

Fornication Under Consent of the King: suggesting one needed the King's permission to shag out of wedlock. Soldiers were said to be automatically granted the right when out raping and pillaging in foreign lands.

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge: For those held in prison for sex out of wedlock.

File Under Carnal Knowledge: allegedly marked on Scotland Yard rape files.

For a more detailed examination of this sticky issue, visit the ever-reliable snopes.com


bizarremag.com
 

Rrose_Selavy

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#5
http://www.answers.com/shit&r=67

Middle English shitten, probably from Old English -sciten (as in besciten, covered with excrement), past participle of *scītan, to defecate.
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_268b.html

This passion for preposterous acronyms seems to be peculiar to Anglo-Americans, and some believe it started around World War I, about the same time many acronyms began popping up in government. Others I've come across include P.O.S.H. ("port outward, starboard home"), said to have been stamped on the tickets of first class passengers on India-bound British ships who wanted their cabins on the shady side of the boat during the passage through the tropics; C.O.P. ("constable on patrol"); and T.I.P. ("to insure promptness"). All are rubbish. The best guess is that "fuck" comes from the Middle English fucken, to strike, move quickly, penetrate, from the German ficken, meaning approximately the same thing. A related word may be the Middle Dutch fokken, to strike, copulate with.
 

mossy_sloth

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#6
I find it interesting that the etymology of "fuck" is consistent with its usage today in violent language. What a harsh image of copulation as "striking"!

I do remember reading somewhere (a credible source, but seeing as I can't remember what it was you'll have to take my word for it) that the acronym F.U.C.K was a load of nonsense, and the etymology given above seems to support that.
 

TonyLaMesmer

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#8
It's not exactly a swear word, but apparently the word "nonce" (for those who don't know, a term mainly used in prison for a paedophile) comes from:

"Not On Normal Courtyard Exercise"

Some time ago, this phrase would aparrently be pinned on the cell doors of pederastic inmates in order ensure the guards correctly segregated them from the "normal" prisoners..
 

James_H

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#10
I dispute the idea that "Fuck" come from an acronym - Chaucer uses "Thacked" in the same context. I had never heard this legend before though, and it was interesting to hear it cropping up all at once.
 

WhistlingJack

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#11
James H said:
I dispute the idea that "Fuck" come from an acronym - Chaucer uses "Thacked" in the same context.
The source I quoted earlier seems to concur with you: -

Reference to an earlier mention, a 'John Le Fucker' listed in 1250, is made in John Ayto's Dictionary of Word Origins. He was probably so-called in mockery, or as a parody. It seems a little odd then that Chaucer, who clearly knew a few rude words, doesn't use the term in his Canterbury Tales, begun in 1385. The earliest reference cited in The Oxford English Dictionary is 1503.
 

James_H

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#12
or, it doesn't concur with me. But I'm sure I saw it! (this same story had the word "Queint" in it, which is about as far removed as "Thack" but more genereally accepted)
 

WhistlingJack

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#13
Sorry, I thought you were making the same point (ie: Chaucer never used 'fuck' so perhaps it didn't exist at that time) - unless you're saying that 'Thack' or 'Thacked' is an acronym, in which case, I'm unaware of its meaning (having never read Chaucer...).
 

James_H

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#14
what I mean is, I think it's the same word, therefore an old instance of it, and disproving the idea that it's an acronym.
 

WhistlingJack

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#15
Ah, right... Well, a quick Google shows 'thack/thacker' as being an synonym of 'thatch/thatcher' which I think is barking up the wrong tree entirely, although a Robert Burns site has 'thack' as a shorter version 'of thack and rape' (meaning 'the covering of a house'), which could have been used as a play on words, if it weren't many centuries after Chaucer himself used it... :?
 

_Lizard23_

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#16
In my humble opinion, these tales of everyday obscenities deriving from unlikely acronyms are generally Because Of Low Levels Of Common Knowledge Sense, ie the inability to tell 'common knowledge' from anything resembling fact.
 

GNC

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#18
What about the Austrian town of Fucking? The one you hear about always getting its roadsign stolen? How old is that? (I don't want to type "fucking" into Google!).
 

Anome

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#20
I think the whole acronym thing is a back formation by people with too much time on their hands. Or possibly people making a joke, then being taken seriously (happens to me all the time).

For instance, I don't know if this brand of lingerie is known outside Australia, but it is claimed that the brand name Hestia for bras stands for "Holds Every Sized Tit In Australia". A load of what Liz said above. But people believe it.

By and large all the rude words (and many others) have much more sensible derivations from other languages.
 

rynner2

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#22
Shakespear had a lot of fun with rude words, but not having the Collected Works to hand I can't quote chapter and verse.

But one example that sticks in my gnarly old brain involves some characters discussing a woman's handwriting, and someone says something like "Yes, this is her C, U and T" - and the actor would no doubt abbreviate the and to 'N'!

No doubt some literary types out there can fill in the details for us!
 

gellatly68

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#23
another is in Henry V, where catherine is trying to learn English with her maid. When she asks what the English is for a dress and a foot, her maid responds with 'coun' and 'fou' (gown and foot), which are pretty rude in French, apparently!
 

Timble2

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#24
rynner said:
Shakespear had a lot of fun with rude words, but not having the Collected Works to hand I can't quote chapter and verse.

But one example that sticks in my gnarly old brain involves some characters discussing a woman's handwriting, and someone says something like "Yes, this is her C, U and T" - and the actor would no doubt abbreviate the and to 'N'!
Twelfth Night: Act II, scene V.

MALVOLIO:
By my life, this is my lady's hand these be her
very C's, her U's and her T's and thus makes she her
great P's. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.
 

GNC

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#26
And Adidas stands for After Dinner I Did A Shit. Probably.
 
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