So one morning this week, I was online, scrolling through the latest breaking news in order to keep up on the issues and events that shape our lives:
- “Russia Positioning Tanks at Syria Airfield.”
“Rare Lung Disease on the Rise in the U.S.”
“Kentucky Clerk Who Denied Same Sex Marriages Back on Job.”
“U.S. to Roll Out Red Carpet for Pope.”
“Historian Finds Oldest Use Of F-Word.”
“North Korea Restarts Nuclear Bomb Fuel Production Plants.”
Each day I try to select one story to read in its entirety and then expound upon it in this blog to provide my readers with a thought-provoking point of view on a subject that is important and relevant to their lives.
So evidently, an historian named Paul Booth has uncovered references dating from 1310 and 1311 to a man named Roger Fuckebythenavel, which, for the purposes of this post, we will assume is pronounced to rhyme with “Hookbythenavel.” Booth believes this
is the earliest recorded use of the f-word. An earlier text, from 1278, referring to someone named “John Le Fucker,” pronounced, we will suppose, like the beginning of Foo Fighters, has been debunked as a misreading of “Tucker” or a variation of “fulcher,” meaning “soldier.”*
Booth revealed his discovery on Medievalists.net, a website for fans of 700-year-old pop culture. I visited this site, and the lead story was, I kid you not, “Medieval Weather Report. What was England’s Weather Like 746 years ago?”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say “rainy,”** but that’s got nothing to do with 14th century cursing.
So getting back to Roger Fuckebythenavel, Booth theorizes that “Fuckebythenavel” was likely not his family name because, if it was, the Fuckebythenavels would have left England for the continent long before that and taken up residence in France under an assumed name like Nombrilbaise.***
Instead, Booth believes the name Roger Fuckebythenavel was given to him derogatorily. Gee, you think? I mean, I’m no expert in Middle English, and I’ve never even read Canterbury Tales, but I’m pretty sure Fuckebythenavel wasn’t a term of endearment in any era.
Booth says, “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.”
So, basically, Booth is saying that calling someone Fuckebythenavel is the equivalent of me calling Booth “Obvi McObvious,” only dirtier. Either that, or the girlfriend invented revenge porn.
To make matters worse for poor Roger, “Fuckebythenavel” was not a name given to him by some foul-mouthed kids in the schoolyard while playing Knucklebones, which was a game like jacks that was played with actual knuckle bones, which is one reason why 14th century England was really gross.
No, Roger Fuckebythenavel was so named by His Majesty’s court, before which Roger was hauled three times in a nine month period, with his name being spelled differently each time: “Fuckebythenavel,” “Fukkebythenavele” and “Fuckebythenavele.” Apparently, they had not yet established a standard spelling for “Fuckebythenavel.”
It’s unclear what Roger’s crime was, but I’m guessing it must have been pretty serious for him to earn that moniker. After all, people were pretty religious back then, so I would think being potty-mouthed, particularly in official court documents, would be frowned upon, although the monarch, King Edward II, was off invading Scotland so that Mel Gibson could, some time later, make Braveheart, so maybe the folks back home got into all sorts of shenanigans.
And who knows? Maybe Roger’s name was the crime, and that’s how they meted out punishment in those days. “Roger Jones, you are convicted by this court of misdirected love-making attempts and sentenced to hereafter be known as Roger Fuckebythenavel. Or Roger Fuckebythenavele. Or Roger Fukkebythenavele. Please see the Royal Printer immediately to order new business cards.”
Roger was probably happy about the sentence; he may even have plea-bargained for it. It certainly beat ball torture, which, although horrible, was not what you may think it was.****
Instead, the renamed Roger went off to live in special housing set aside for criminals, where he resided next door to Edythe Unfaythfullwyfe and Henry Homicydallunytick.
See you soon.
**After I finished this post, I read the story, which discusses a 1269-1270 calendar with notations mentioning the weather: “From 3rd of August to the 10th there was continuous cold and often rain.” So I was right.
***Look it up. I dare you. (Put a space after the “L.’)
****It involved iron balls hung from the arms.