etymology of f**k ??

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Dinosaur, Feb 1, 2015.

  1. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    A friend recently asked me to find the etymology of this word when he disagreed with my version. From Wikipedia (
    When I was a teenager (circa 1945), there was a discussion & somebody came up with the following (paraphrase, not exact quote)
    The person was circa 60-70 & claimed that his grandfather told him this etymology, which seems very reasonable.

    I remember reading an article which claimed that the word did not appear in any printed literature for a period of circa 150 years or more (Do not remember when this period occurred).

    In view of the absence of the word in printed literature for 150 years or more, the above etymology seems likely to be valid in spite of the Oxford English Dictionary claim of an uncertain etymology. Does anyone here know of the use of the word as per the above claimed Anglo Saxon etymology?

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  3. mathman Valued Senior Member

    It seems to be quite old. There is a German equivalent "ficken" as in "Ficken sie sich!" (Go fuck yourself!)
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    24,690 is a great source that I always check. It reminds us that the word "fuck" has cognates in the other Germanic languages, including Dutch and Swedish. The German word ficken is also often presented as a cognate, but linguists are not sure that it is not simply a coincidence.

    If its source is Old Norse (the ancestor of Swedish), it may have come into English via the Viking settlements in the northern regions. But if it goes back to the Anglo-Saxon invasion, then it is simply derived from Old High German like most of our words that are not borrowed from Latin or French.

    In either case, I am reasonably sure that it is a native Germanic word that our language inherited by completely unremarkable means.
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  7. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Fucked if I know.
    sideshowbob likes this.
  8. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I also heard that it came from a legal charge "for unlawful carnal knowledge". I don't know if there is any truth to this?
  9. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Seattle: From your Post #5
    I am almost certain that this was made up long after the word was in common use.
  10. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    The support for the "plow" etymology could be popularized by Carl Jung between 1912 and 1956. I won't call it a true etymology, but this argument might have reached the category of a popular notion in the timeframe described by the OP.


    Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido 1967 printing, footnote 2 on page 142.
    Psychology of the Unconcious, 1916 edition, endnotes 13 and 23 for Chapter III on page 513.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  11. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    "Carnal knowledge" is a euphemism which is probably much younger than the word "fuck".
  12. Robert Schunk Registered Senior Member

    My highly educated (University of Wisconsin BA Linguistics) guess is that it eventually derives from PIE *peuǵ-, *peuḱ- (“prick, punch”), and is related to the Latin-derived word "pugilist".
  13. Robert Schunk Registered Senior Member

    English is derived from Proto West Germanic, not from Old High German (another PWGmc derivative), which didn't begin its existence until about AD750, long after the Anglo-Saxon settlement of "thaem maesten dael Bryttenes"
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is impossible. It identifies the word as an acronym, but acronyms are a recent phenomenon. They only work in a population with near-universal literacy.

    The word "fuck" dates back to the Middle Ages (if not earlier!) when only scholars, priests and the wealthy were able to read and write. The invention of the printing press changed this. There was so much written material that even the poorest people had a reason to learn to read. Schools for the common people began to be built; universal education was possible because of the printing press.

    Today, in the prosperous countries, literacy is nearly 100%. Even blind people learn to read and write in Braille.

    The internet is filling in the gaps in the less prosperous countries, as e-mail and educational websites become available to the poor. Of course, it is also providing us with an entire new family of abbreviations like LOL and BRB.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2015
  15. Robert Schunk Registered Senior Member

    This was going to be an edit to my first post to this thread, but apparently you can't edit after a certain amount of time has elapsed, or something. (Or at least I can't!) But PIE *p > PGmc *f and PIE *g > PGmc *k via Grimm's Law.


    One thing Grimm's and Verner's Laws do quite well is turning Classical Latin into Old English.

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    Edited by Fraggle Rocker, Moderator, as indicated by Robert Schunk.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2015
  16. Robert Schunk Registered Senior Member

    I made a typo above. PIE *g > PGmc *k, not p. Sorry.
  17. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    It would amaze me if the word is not from Anglo Saxon.

    The German etymology seems doubtful to me. Ficken to f**k does not seem reasonable.

    The Oxford English Dictionary claiming unknown etymology is obviously due to the word not appearing in print for 150 or more years.
  18. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    I've noted very similar words, all related to plowing.

    Furragh and furgh come from Ireland and Germany (I think), both look a lot like the English fork. I also believe the first two words are cognate with farrow.

    And I think the etymology of the word in question hasn't been settled by the scholars (could be wrong). But, you know, fuck it . . .
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Sorry, I did not mean to suggest that the word was borrowed from Modern German. I meant that both the English word and the German word descended from Proto-Germanic. Modern English evolved from Anglo-Saxon, which was an amalgam of several members of the dialect continuum of West Germanic, spoken by the people of the various Germanic tribes who sailed to Britannia after the collapse of the Roman Empire, marginalizing the original Celtic inhabitants. The name Anglo-Saxon was chosen because of all the Germanic tribes represented in the migration from the mainland, the Angles and Saxons seem to have had the greatest influence on the language and culture, judging from the plethora of place names such as East Anglia, Sussex and Wessex (i.e., "South Saxony" and "West Saxony").

    West Germanic is one of the three branches of the Germanic group that splintered after the Germanic tribes migrated from the east into Scandinavia, and later some crossed into the main body of Europe. The other two branches are North Germanic, which we usually refer to as Norse, and East Germanic, which we usually refer to as Gothic. The Gothic languages are long extinct (due to the subsequent arrivals of the Romans, Slavs and Huns who brought newer Indo-European technology with them), although enough writings survived to identify their major differences from the other branches.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2015
  20. Robert Schunk Registered Senior Member

    You seem to ignore the lateral ("l" or "r") between "f" and "k" in all of the words related to plowing (Old English isn't THAT far removed from PIE) as well as the fact that the Celtic languages are not Germanic, and are therefor not susceptible to Grimm's Law.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2015
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    We don't call it "Old English" anymore, since it is not just an older dialect of the modern tongue. We now call it "Anglo-Saxon" because it was in fact a dialect of the Western Germanic language that coalesced after the migrations from Scandinavia across the water to the northern region of the European continent. The Angles, Saxons, Jutes and other tribes spoke dialects that were more-or-less mutually comprehensible, so when they arrived in Britannia after the Romans left, they merged their dialects into a new Western Germanic language--which of course was not standardized.

    When the Normans conquered Angle Land, Anglo-Saxon (or "Anglisc" as its speakers called it) was buried under an avalanche of French vocabulary, grammar and phonetics. Speakers of the resulting language, Middle English, could not easily read the old Anglo-Saxon texts.

    But back on topic, Anglo-Saxon is separated from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) by 3,000 - 4,000 years of migration of the Indo-European tribes. Modern English (as more-or-less standardized in Shakespeare's era) is only separated from Anglo-Saxon by one millennium. So yes, it is indeed THAT far removed. A well-educated native speaker of modern English, who also has some serious study of German on his resume, would be able to puzzle out a considerable portion of a text in Anglo-Saxon. The grammar, especially, would start to make sense after a while.

    But I'd call it inconceivable that a speaker of West Germanic in 400CE could divine the meaning of more than a few dozen root-words of PIE.
    Well sure!

    Since most of the surviving Celtic languages are spoken in the British Isles (with only Breton on the continent, and ironically the Breton-speaking community came from Britannia to avoid the Anglo-Saxon invasion and are not direct descendants of the continental Celtic people), it's not surprising that people assume that Gaelic, Welsh, Manx and Cornish are related to English.
  22. Kajalamorth The Doctor Registered Senior Member

    Say that to the Roman Republic.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Well okay, you've found one counterexample. In the most compulsive record-keeping society in the classical world.

    And I hate to mention this, but SPQR is not a true acronym because it can't be pronounced as a word. It's an abbreviation. Today laymen use the terms "acronym" and "abbreviation" interchangeably, but linguists and other scholars do not.

    Radar, Cobol, laser... these are true acronyms. So is Taser: Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle.

    And of course in Hungary, USA is an acronym, because they read it as OO-sha.
    Kajalamorth likes this.

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