5.0749 Absolutely the last words on Fword (2/144)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 9 Mar 1992 19:15:10 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0749. Monday, 9 Mar 1992.

(1) Date: Sat, 7 Mar 1992 19:48 EET (44 lines)
From: Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMAN@FINUHA.BITNET>
Subject: Fword noch einmal

(2) Date: Mon, 9 Mar 92 14:14:06 MET (100 lines)
From: Harry Gaylord <galiard@let.rug.nl>
Subject: Fword, earliest known occurence in Britain

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sat, 7 Mar 1992 19:48 EET
From: Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMAN@FINUHA.BITNET>
Subject: Fword noch einmal

Bernard van't Hul (5.0731) and David Hoekema (5.0743) suggest
that the Old/Middle English etymon for ModE _fuck_, in The American
Heritage Dictionary, has been taken out of the blue. It's immaterial
whether the entry is a piece of student humour, or whether it has
been found by looking through the wine bottle. What matters is whether
the etymon is formally correct as a reconstructed item. I haven't
The AHD here right now, so I can't check it out.
But I find nothing objectionable to the idea of reconstructing
an Old or Middle English etymon for ModE _fuck_. After all,
the activity denoted by this verb is not a ModE invention! :-)
In the new edition of the Oxford English Dictionary it is stated
that the ModE verb corresponds to the MiddleE type *_fuken_.
This induction meshes with what can be deduced as the Proto-
Germanic reflex of the ProtoIE root variant *_pug_ 'to prick (&c)'
(see my explication in 5.0616). So, at least the OED etymologist
was both right and brave.
Dutch _fokken_ (Harry Gaylord) will be a moot point, until
somebody explicates its semantic evolution. But I bet on _fokken_:
the semantics of "such" words tends to be rather prolific.
An unequivocal cognate of the ModE fword can be found in
West-Swedish dialects, namely _focka_ 'to fuck'. In common
colloquial Swedish _focka_ means 'to get fired'. (For documen-
tation, see E.Hellqvist, Svensk etymologisk ordbok, s.v. focka.)
In general, if one wishes to find more Germanic cognates for
the ModE fword, one has to (1) dig in dialectal data (I'd
recommend Swiss dialects); and (2) be prepared to do some
semantic weeding.
Navigare necesse est, etymologizare non est necesse.
But most laypersons, in contradistinction to professional
linguists, find etymology quite interesting. But there are
also depreciatory attitudes toward the art of etymology.
Well-educated people like to quote Voltaire's dictum according
to which, roughly, etymology is something where vowels count
nothing and consonants very little. But Voltaire -- if it was
him -- couldn't know the enormous progress which was to take
place in historical linguistics; and this progress still
continues ...
Martti Nyman
Department of General Linguistics, University of Helsinki,
Hallituskatu 11-13, SF-00100 Helsinki, Finland
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------110---
Date: Mon, 9 Mar 92 14:14:06 MET
From: Harry Gaylord <galiard@let.rug.nl>
Subject: Fword, earliest known occurence in Britain

I must correct some misunderstandings in the remarks of Bernard van 't
Hul in 5.0708. Firstly the idea of the association is something I and Alexandra
have held for some years, not that of our colleagues. It was confirmed by
Dr T. Hofstra, senior lecturer in Old Germanic, and reinforced by
Dr. A. MacDonald, professor of Older English and Scots Language and Literature.
I am surprised that van 't Hul's remark comes from the University of
Michigan where the dictionary of Middle English is being produced.
Certainly they must be aware of the evidence. No Old English or Middle
English has turned up for the English. This is not surprising about such
a subliterary word. How often does one find it in print between 1600 - 1900?
The earliest attestation on the British Isles we are aware of is in Scots
(not to be confused with Gaelic). It is in a poem of William Dunbar,
15th/16th century. It is in the penultimate line of the second stanza of
In Secreit Place This Hyndir Nycht, which is attached below. People should
not be so parochial about the languages used in Great Britain, ancient and

Other cognates in related languages have already been discussed exhaustively
here. It is true that the Netherlands and Scotland had close
relations at this time and there are some Dutch loanwords in Scots but
I make no claim that it is one of these. If anyone is interested about the
Middle Dutch usage, I will get the material from the Instituut voor
Nederlands Lexiocologie in Leiden.

I have used the edition of W. Mackay Mackenzie, The Poems of William Dunbar,
Faber and Faber, London 1932 (1970 paperback reissue with corrections). The
notes in the back of this edition are helpful.

<title>In Secreit Place This Hyndir Nycht
<st>In secreit place this hyndir nycht,
I hard ane beyrne say till ane bricht,
<q>My huny, my hart, my hoip, my heill,
I have bene lang your luifar leill,
And can of yow get confort nane;
How lang will ye with danger deill?
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!</q>
<st>His bony beird was kemmit and croppit,
Bot all with cale it was bedroppit,
And he wes townysche, peirt, and gukit;
He clappit fast, he kist and chukkit,
As with the glaikis he wer ouirgane;
Yit he his feirris he wald have fukkit;
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!
<st>Quod he, <q>My hairt, sweit as the hunye,
Sen that I borne wes of my mynnye,
I nevir wowit weycht bot yow;
My wambe is of your lufe sa fow,
That as ane gaist I glour and grane,
I trymble sa, ye will not trow;
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!</q>
<st><q>Tehe!</q> quod scho and gaif ane gawfe,
<q>Be still my tuchan and my calfe,
My new spanit howffing fra the sowk,
And all the blythnes of my bowk;
My sweit swanking, saif yow allane
Na leyd I luiffit all this owk;
Fow leis me that graceles gane.</q>
<st>Quod he, <q>My claver, and my curdodie,
My huny soppis, my sweit possodie,
Be not oure bosteous to your billie,
Be warme hairtit and not ewill willie;
Your heylis, quhyt as quhalis bane,
Garris ryis on loft my quhillelillie;
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!</q>
<st>Quod scho, <q>My clype, my unspaynit gyane,
With moderis mylk yit in your mychane,
My belly huddrun, my swete hurle bawsy,
My huny gukkis, my slawsy gawsy,
Your musing waild perse ane harte of stane,
Tak gud confort, my grit heidit slawsy,
Fow leis me that graceles gane.</q>
<st>Quod he, <q>My kyd, my capirculyoun,
My bony baib with the ruch brylyoun,
My tendir gyrle, my wallie gowdye,
My tyrlie myrlie, my crowdie mowdie;
Quhone that oure mouthis dois meit at ane,
My stang dois storkyn with your towdie;
Ye brek my hairt, my bony ane!</q>
<st>Quod scho, <q>Now tak me be the hand,
Welcum! my golk of Marie land,
My chirrie and my maikles munyoun,
My sowklar sweit as ony unyoun,
My strumill stirk, yit new to spane,
I am applyit to your opunyoun;
I luif rycht weill your graceles gane.</q>
<st>He gaiff to hir ane apill rubye;
Quod scho, <q>Gramercye! my sweit cowhubye.</q>
And that twa to ane play began,
Quhilk men dois call the dery dan;
Quhill that thair myrthis met baythe in ane,
<q>Wo is me!</q> quod scho, <q>quhair will ye, man?
Bot now I luif that graceles gane.</q>