Recently, January went on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast to discuss her new Netflix series, Spinning Out. At one point in the conversation, she mentioned that her grandfather told her "fuck" is actually an acronym that stands for "fornication under consent of the king."
January and Dax briefly wondered if this was true before basically being like:
While January and Dax were happy to move on, I was not! Is everyone's favorite swear actually an acronym? Does it really have roots in some archaic king's law? I NEEDED ANSWERS, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!
In order to find out the truth, I fired up the old computer and did a little online reading. Here's what I found out (and it's not good news for January's grandpa):
1. There are actually a lot of supposed acronyms for the F-word. "Fornication under consent of the king" is just one of many, such as "for unlawful carnal knowledge" and “fornicate under command of the king.”
These supposed acronyms tend to come with explanatory backstories. For example, according to Huffpost, many will tell you that "fornicate under command of the king" was a proclamation the king made that ordered people to reproduce after the English population was decimated by the plague. That's a cool story, but with so many different acronyms and stories for the F-word, they can't all be true, right?
2. Snopes wrote a piece that specifically debunked Grampy Jones' "fornication under consent of the king" claim.
One of their numerous reasons: "fornication" by definition is sex outside of marriage, and no king would have consented to sex out of wedlock.
3. Another reason gramps is wrong — acronymic words weren't really a thing before the 20th century.
With a few exceptions, most words based on acronyms have their origins in the 20th century. World War II, with its many acronyms (like AWOL), really got the acronym train rolling.
4. But here's the biggest reason the F-word isn't an acronym — it's most likely derived from a Germanic word.
Etymologists think the Old German word ficken/fucken, meaning "to strike or penetrate" is where the F-word came from. So it was a word that made its way into the English language, and not one created by British speakers, like, say, a king making a proclamation.