New discovery in English historical lexicography

« previous post | next post »

A retired lecturer in medieval history, Dr Paul Booth, has discovered a reference in a 1310 court record to a man named Roger Fuckebythenavele, and he believes it really does mean that the man was known as Roger Fuck-By-The-Navel, the surname (possibly a nickname given by enemies) actually meaning "fuck via the belly button", so this may be the earliest known use of the verb fuck in its sexual sense.

I'm sorry: I know that this is Language Log and you're expecting me to say something witty or revealing about this, but I'm sort of speechless. I think what I'd better do is give you the link to the Daily Mail write-up of this story, and you can make of it what you will.

I will say just one thing about it: after telling you roughly what I just told you in the first paragraph, the Daily Mail wanders off into some random remarks about the swearword sense of fuck, where it doesn't mean "copulate" at all, it just conventionally implicates that the speaker is annoyed or in some other heightened emotional state and wishes to signal that. It drifts from there into other miscellaneous facts about cursing, frequency of swearing, social class and swearing… In short, the Daily Mail (definitely one of the trashiest of the right-wing tabloid newspapers in the UK) doesn't know what the fuck it is talking about.

For those who are truly interested in antedating of word occurrences (not really a hobby of mine), I guess you're now looking for an occurrence of fuck meaning "copulate" dated 1309 or earlier. Good luck.

Comments are closed.