The earliest use of the F-word discovered

 

Roger Fuckbythenavel

‘Roger Fuckebythenavel’ as seen in the Cheshire County Court Rolls – TNA CHES 29/23 – photo by Paul Booth

An English historian has come across the word ‘fuck’ in a court case dating to the year 1310, making it the earliest known reference to the swear word.

Dr Paul Booth of Keele University spotted the name in ‘Roger Fuckebythenavele’ in the Chester county court plea rolls beginning on December 8, 1310. The man was being named three times part of a process to be outlawed, with the final mention coming on September 28, 1311.

Dr Booth believes that “this surname is presumably a nickname. I suggest it could either mean an actual attempt at copulation by an inexperienced youth, later reported by a rejected girlfriend, or an equivalent of the word ‘dimwit’ i.e. a man who might think that that was the correct way to go about it.”

Cheshire County Court Rolls - TNA CHES 29/23 - photo by Paul Booth

Cheshire County Court Rolls – TNA CHES 29/23 – photo by Paul Booth

Prior to Dr. Booth’s discovery, the previous earliest use of the word was in them poem Flen flyys, written around 1475. It had a line that read “fvccant vvivys of heli”, a Latin/English mix meaning “…they fuck the wives of Ely”. Historians have come across earlier uses of the word in medieval England, but have doubted that it was being used as a sexual reference. For example, the name John le Fucker appears in 1278, but this likely could be just a different spelling for the word ‘fulcher’ which means soldier.

In his book, The F Word, Jesse Sheidlower explains “fuck is a word of Germanic origin. It is related to words in several other Germanic languages, such as Dutch, German, and Swedish, that have sexual meanings as well as meaning such as ‘to strike’ or ‘to move back and forth’.”

Dr Paul Booth is the Honouray Senior Research Fellow in History at Keele University and Co-Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Project: Gascon Rolls, 1317-1468. He plans on publishing an article about his discovery in the journal Notes and Queries.

See also: By God’s Bones: Medieval Swear Words

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