“Wan fukkit funling”: as an insult, those phrases would lately land a minor blow at maximum. Now not so in Scotland of the early 16th century, wherein William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy, two of the land’s well known poets, confronted off earlier than the courtroom of King James IV in a competition of rhyme. The development is memorialized within the poem “The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie,” one in every of 400 anthologized in what is referred to as the Bannatyne Manuscript. Compiled in 1568 by way of an Edinburgh service provider named George Bannatyne, caught at house whilst a pandemic swept his town — a situation many can relate to at the moment — it now enjoys satisfaction of position on the Nationwide Library of Scotland as a cultural treasure, now not least as it incorporates what is also the oldest recorded use of the F-word.
The Bannatyne Manuscript and “wan fukkit funling” (whose look you’ll be able to see within the symbol on the best of the publish, within the 6th line from the ground) play crucial section within the new BBC Scotland documentary Scotland – Comprises Sturdy Language. The hour-long program, writes The Scotsman‘s Brian Ferguson, “sees actress, singer and theatre-maker Cora Bissett hint the country’s lengthy love affair with swearing and insults, in spite of the long-standing efforts of non secular leaders to sentence it as a sin.” Ferguson quotes Bissett describing the significance of this actual “flyting” (“the 16th century identical of a rap fight”) as follows: “When Kennedy addresses Dunbar, there’s the earliest surviving report of the note ‘f***’ on the earth.”
“Within the poem, Dunbar makes a laugh of Kennedy’s Highland dialect, for example, in addition to his non-public look, and he suggests his opponent enjoys sexual sex with horses,” writes Ars Technica’s Jennifer Ouellette. “Kennedy retaliates with assaults on Dunbar’s diminutive stature and loss of bowel keep an eye on, suggesting his rival will get his inspiration from ingesting ‘frogspawn’ from the waters of a rural pond.” All extremely fun, to make certain, however given how few people English-speakers will in an instant acknowledge in “wan fukkit funling” the curse with which we’ve got grown so in detail acquainted, does this actually depend for example of utilization in English?
‘To me, that appears extra like Scots than Heart English,” writes Boing Boing’s Thom Dunn, “even supposing each languages had been derived from Olde English.” (He additionally reminds us to not confuse Scots with the separate language of Scottish Gaelic.) Medieval historian Kristin Uscinski writes in to Ars Technica to indicate a definite “Roger F$#%-by-the-Navel who seems in some courtroom information from 1310-11” — previously featured, of course, here on Open Culture. Historians and linguists will no doubt proceed doing their very own roughly fight to resolve what counts as the primary true F-word, making extra discoveries concerning the English language’s heritage of swearing alongside the best way. Something is sure: if any country has made a wealthy use of that heritage, it is Scotland.
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Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and proclaims on towns, language, and tradition. His initiatives come with the e-book The Stateless Town: a Stroll thru 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The City in Cinema. Apply him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.