If you’re easily offended, then I suggest you fuck off. Now.
Now after that rude introduction, on to the post.
Swearing has been around for aeons, and was probably uttered before writing evolved. Bad language was rarely written down because, well, it’s offensive. My English teacher once told us that he had to cross out the word ‘bloody’ in his Shakespeare text because it was rude. I, however, have been known to utter the word in public and not suffer any reprisals.
We swear for all sorts of reasons, but mainly when we’re frustrated or stressed. Studies suggest that our brains process swearing differently than other words. It’s believed that we process words like ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’ in the lower section where we process emotion and instinct. I can relate to that.
But where do these words come from? The origins of most swear words have been lost because they weren’t recorded, but here’s what I’ve found out.
Fuck is one of those very useful words to describe a whole host of situations such as ‘I fucked up big time’ (made a big mistake) or ‘fuck you’ (go away) to ‘I’ll be fucked if I know’ (having no idea) ‘let’s fuck’ (to fornicate) or even ‘fuck the fucking fuckers’ (not happy). The general consensus is that it stands for ‘Fornication Under Consent of the King’ or ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, however, this website believes these acronyms are wrong and that this old word was likely to have Germanic origins.
I know we shouldn’t believe everything we read on to Wikipedia but as a Bexhillian, I had to include this:
“An Anglo-Saxon charter granted by Offa, king of Mercia, dated AD 772, granting land at Bexhill, Sussex to a bishop, includes this text in a mixture of Anglo-Saxon language and Latin:
Þonne syndon þa gauolland þas utlandes into Bexlea in hiis locis qui appellantur hiis nominibus: on Berna hornan .iii. hida, on Wyrtlesham .i., on Ibbanhyrste .i., on Croghyrste .viii., on Hrigce .i., on Gyllingan .ii., on Fuccerham 7 and on Blacanbrocan .i., on Ikelesham .iii.;Then the tax-lands of the outland belonging to Bexley are in these places which are called by these names: at Barnhorne 3 hides, at Wyrtlesham [Worsham farm nearBexhill ] 1, at Ibbanhyrst 1, at Crowhurst 8, at (Rye? The ridge north of Hastings?) 1, at Gillingham 2, at Fuccerham and at Blackbrook [may be Black Brooks in Westfieldvillage just north of Hastings ] 1, at Icklesham 3.”
Who’d knew that Bexhill is connected to the third most offensive word in Britain?
For more information about the usage of fuck view this video here.
Shit is another word with many uses such as ‘getting shit faced’. You can also smoke, sell or buy shit. Once believed to be an acronym for ‘ship in high transit’, its now accepted as a myth. Acronyms weren’t commonplace until after the Second World War (the word acronym didn’t exist until 1943) and the word can be traced back to 1526. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘shit’, again, is likey to have German origins. It states:
“Old English scitte ‘diarrhoea’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch schijten, German scheissen (verb). The term was originally neutral and used without vulgar connotation.”
I also found out that ‘tits’ and ‘fart’ were used as long ago as the Anglo-Saxon times. I have visions of King Offa walking around his castle asking: “Now, who the fuck has farted? It’d better not be the one with the fucking big tits.”
Here’s a great comic strip on swearing by Tom Gauld.
This post was brought to you by those who replied to my Facebook thread about tits and farts. I would like to thank Bill Bryson for his book Mother Tongue from which I have learnt some very enlightening facts about the English language. I suggest you look at Chapter 14 for the inspiration.