“Technically, “fuck” appeared two times before this. In 1500, it was used in a satirical poem to describe some friars. In that case, nothing like “fuck” was actually written out. Instead, the word was hidden in a code. And in 1513, it appeared in a Scottish poem as “fukkit,” writes Katharine Trendacosta at i09.
But for English’s first use, we’ve got a dissatisfied 1528 monk. He’s written “O D fuckin abbot.” Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, says this “fuck” could be either literal or metaphorical:
It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended “fucking” to mean “having sex,” as in “that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate,” or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.
So, either this monk was recording his abbot’s sex life or he was the first person to be so angry that only “fuck” could convey it’s scope.”
Stolen from IO09
The Great Language Game challenges you to distinguish between some eighty or so languages based on their sound alone. In each game you’re allowed three mistakes, which are kept for you to study at the end. If you’re feeling competitive, share your score with some friends and compete for some serious bragging rights.
Initial samples were sourced from SBS Australia, reflecting Australia’s rich migrant culture. Since then they’ve been supplemented from Voice of America, and linguistic samples collected to preserve languages. Many are common to international cities throughout the world – they might even be spoken in a neighbourhood near you. Others remind us how vast and varied the world truly is.
Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase is complied and written by James Redding Ware, the pseudonym of Andrew Forrester the British writer who created one of the first female detectives in literary history in his book The Female Detective (1863). In this posthumously published volume Forrester turns his attention to the world of Victorian slang, in particular that found in the city of London.
From the Preface:
HERE is a numerically weak collection of instances of ‘Passing English’. It may be hoped that there are errors on every page, and also that no entry is ‘quite too dull’. Thousands of words and phrases in existence in 1870 have drifted away, or changed their forms, or been absorbed, while as many have been added or are being added. ‘Passing English’ ripples from countless sources, forming a river of new language which has its tide and its ebb, while its current brings down new ideas and carries away those that have dribbled out of fashion. Not only is ‘Passing English’ general ; it is local ; often very seasonably local. Careless etymologists might hold that there are only four divisions of fugitive language in London west, east, north and south. But the variations are countless. Holborn knows little of Petty Italia behind Hatton Garden, and both these ignore Clerkenwell, which is equally foreign to Islington proper; in the South, Lambeth generally ignores the New Cut, and both look upon Southwark as linguistically out of bounds; while in Central London, Clare Market (disappearing with the nineteenth century) had, if it no longer has, a distinct fashion in words from its great and partially surviving rival through the centuries the world of Seven Dials, which is in St Giles’s St James’s being ractically in the next parish. In the East the confusion of languages is a world of ‘ variants ‘ there must be half-a-dozen of Anglo-Yiddish alone all, however, outgrown from the Hebrew stem. ‘Passing English’ belongs to all the classes, from the peerage class who have always adopted an imperfection in speech or frequency of phrase associated with the court, to the court of the lowest costermonger, who gives the fashion to his immediate entourage.
a little diminutive Fellow.
very thick, hanging down, or turning over.
to talk pertly, and (sometimes) angrily.
a Top-man or Prince among the Canting Crew.
when there’s but little Money in the Pocket.
a Fulsom, Beastly, Nasty Woman.
a silly Fellow, a meer Cods-head.
a Maggot-pated Fellow.
one that Maintains a Mistress, and parts with his Money very generously to her.
any ill-cookt Mess.
Napper of napps:
haughty because Rich.
a poor decayed Gentleman; also a lean, thin, half Starved Fellow.
an old blunt Fellow.
Urinal of the Planets:
Ireland … because of its frequent and great Rains.
One that plays with Words.
a wither’d or dry Stock or Stub of a Tree.
“It’s the most frequent word in the English language, accounting for around four percent of all the words we write or speak. It’s everywhere, all the time, so clearly it must be doing something important. Words have meaning. That’s fundamental, isn’t it? So what does “the,” a word that seems to be supporting a significant portion of the entire weight of our language, mean? It must mean something, right?”
Why Is the Word the So Difficult to Define? – Article by Arika Okrent over at Slate
Screenplay: Karl Eccleston and Brian Fairbairn
Directed by Brian Fairbairn
Starring: Karl Eccleston and Fiona Pepper
Sound and lighting: Thomas Jordan
Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston are a London-based filmmaking duo.
Made for Kino Sydney #47.
Invisible Oranges had a look at the amazing art of howling and grunting in Death Metal English:
“Like other forms of English, Death Metal English is a tool kit. (…) You can employ Death Metal English in other realms, but it’s designed to make death metal lyrics sound more brutal. Why do DM bands write this way? Perhaps because a few early tastemakers chose to, and everyone else just followed along. Perhaps because all those lengthy words resonate nicely in the front of your face when you utter a death growl. Perhaps because its ponderous diction mirrors the blocky nature of the music.
Some common traits of Death Metal English below:
Big, polysyllabic words: You don’t have to use them correctly; you just have to use them. Bonus points for Greco-Latinate words that end in “-ition,” “-ation,” “-ution,” “-ous,” “-ized,” “-ism,” “-ance,” “-ial,” “-ity,” and variations thereon. Double bonus points for words ending semi-inappropriately in “-ment,” as in “Torn Into Enthrallment.” These words don’t even have to be real. Is Wormed’s “Multivectorial Reionization” a real thing? Who cares?
Adjectives: In Death Metal English, they’re like guitar solos. You aren’t using enough. Add more.
Prepositional phrases: Same is true here, too — the more prepositional phrases, the better. “(-ation word) of the (ominous word)” is perhaps the most brutal of all grammatical constructions, which is why “Procreation (of the Wicked)” is one of the best song titles ever. It also has parentheses, which are a less common but still valued component of Death Metal English.”
Oxford Dictionaries recently named selfie its word of the year. The announcement was greeted with derision from some quarters and approval from others. Indeed there have been few neutral parties in the war over the word selfie.
But away from the investigations of the word’s more troubling implications of an increasingly self-involved and narcissistic culture, I found myself thinking that the entire decision was really quite fitting. In fact, I had cause to look it up myself recently on the Oxford Dictionaries website: I ended up proofreading/editing some advertising copy for a German auto manufacturer, which referred to “Taking a selfy.” “Selfie with a Y,” I thought, “that can’t possibly be right.” Over I went to Oxford Dictionaries, which confirmed that the correct spelling was indeed the version with an “ie” at the end of it. I made the appropriate changes and thought little more of it, but upon reading Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement I was surprised to learn that the “y” version of the word had once also been in circulation before being eclipsed by the seemingly inescapable “ie” variant of the word. So I guess my friends in the auto industry weren’t completely making it up when the spelled selfie as “selfy.”
However, as the Oxford Dictionaries article implies, a firm pattern for usage has now been established. They are not alone in this: The American Heritage Dictionary website too provides a definition of selfie. The Associated Press also joined the action recently, with its Stylebook team answering a question on the use of the term. They advised using the term “without quotes now that it’s understood.” So there you have it: Love it or hate it, selfie has made it into the English-language establishment.
The Global Language Monitor has announced that ‘404’ is the Top Word, ‘Toxic Politics’ the Top Phrase and Pope Francis the Top Name of 2013 in its 14th annual global survey of the English language. 404 was followed by fail, hashtag, @pontifex, and the Optic. Rounding out the top ten were surveillance, drones, deficit, sequestration, and emancipate. 404 is the near-universal numeric code for failure on the global Internet, augmenting its original use as ‘page not found’. The single word fail is often used together with 404 to signify complete failure of an effort, project, or endeavor.
“404 has gained enormous attention the world over this year as systems in place since World War II, which many see as the beginning of the contemporary era, are in distress or even failure.” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. ”The recent ObamaCare launch debacle in the US is only a representative example of a much wider system fail, from the political deadlock in the US Government, to the decline of the dollar, to the global web of intrigue and surveillance by the NSA, to the uncertainty regarding the European Union, and the on-going integration of China and other rising powers, such as India and Brazil into the global economic system.”
Our top words, phrases and names this year represent some five continents, which continues to confirm the ever-expanding nature of the English language.”
“The word “shitstorm” was institutionalized in the latest edition of Duden, the most-respected German-language dictionary, which was published in July,” writes Karina Martinez-Carter at Slate. “The English profanity had previously spread through the ranks of German society, even working its way into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s vocabulary. She employed the word in a public meeting—Germanized in pronunciation to “shitschturm”—to describe the eurozone crisis.
The English compound word “flashmob” also was given its own listing in the Duden earlier this year. With terms like “flashmob” and the newly adopted “shitstorm,” the German language society Verein Deutsche Sprache criticized the German language bible for diluting the language and incorporating too many Anglicisms. The society awarded Duden its “adulterator of the language” title, with the society’s chairman stating, “Whoever suggests the ridiculous and phoney Anglicism soccer as a replacement for Fussball richly deserves this [award].”
In today’s globalized world, languages freely borrow from each other, and with German and English stemming from the same family of languages, cross-pollination occurs with particular ease, both in adopting full words into the lexicon and creating hybrids. In fact, a language term exists for this blending of English words into German words, phrases, or sentences: “Denglisch.”
Photo by TORSTEN SILZ/AFP/Getty Images