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The "F" word - Totally non-offensive question

 
 
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 03:13 pm
When one hears the "F" word, it is often described as "Anglo-Saxon". Why are some words unaccceptable, when other words (with exactly the same meaning) OK? For example a school biology teacher might say "sexual intercourse", but would probably be dismissed for using the passed tense of the "F" word. Is it anything to do with the Norman French trying to suppress the early English language, after their arrival/invassion of England? Also, the Normans were of Viking blood (not French), and had more in common with the English (shared Viking blood)?
 
Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 04:25 pm
While it is true that there was a strong element of Danish ancestry in England in 1066, it would be specious to claim that the Normans were, therefore, closely related to the Anglo-Saxons. There had already been a good deal of commerce between the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans in the century before the invasion. The word f*ck probably comes from Dutch, or Frisian. The English language was heavily influenced by Frisian, it is an ancestor language to ours. The notion, however, that the word somehow is evidence of an elitist suppression of Anglo-Saxon forms just won't stand up. The language we speak today directly descends from Old and Middle English, with a heavy French influence, introduced by the Normans, and French who followed in their wake. Our verb forms, our formation of plurals, our basic vocabulary owes more to Anglo-Saxon than it does to French. In fact, we don't conjugate verbs at all as is done in French. Our plurals are formed just as they were in Old and Middle English, not at all as they were/are in French. Some words, such as children, are an ancient relic of Anglo-Saxon plural forms. Crude words such as f*ck were disdained by the "upper classes" of the Anglo-Saxons just as much as they would some day be by the Norman French.
Shapeless
 
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Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 05:55 pm
@Germanicus,
Quote:
For example a school biology teacher might say "sexual intercourse", but would probably be dismissed for using the passed tense of the "F" word. Is it anything to do with the Norman French trying to suppress the early English language, after their arrival/invassion of England?


No, it's not for any reason as elaborately conspiratorial as all that. It's simply because curse words, like basically every other aspect of life, are subjected to social codes. Suits and Hawaiian shirts are both valid forms of dress, but wearing one rather than another to a funeral (or a luau) would elicit praise or criticism because of the social codes governing both events. It's really not any more complicated than that.
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tsarstepan
 
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Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 06:53 pm
@Germanicus,
Why the academic curiosity about felching?
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Germanicus
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 06:59 am
@Setanta,
Thanks Setana, I envy you your intellect. Your feedback is helpful to thid "Dummy". Can you kindly think of any books about the history of how early English morphed?
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Setanta
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 07:10 am
I make no claims for my intellect, nor do i have any reason to consider ou a "dummy." One learns by asking questions. I have read quite a bit about European history, and especially the history of England. Apart from that, though, i would recommend to you two books which are written for the non-specialist public, and which are very informative, without being an academic presentation. They are both by Mario Pei:

Story of Language, 1949, Lippincott

The Story of English: A Modern Approach, 1962, Premier

You should be able to find them at any large library, or get them rhrough inter-library loan. Pei got his doctorate at Columbia University, and was a professor of Romance languages (the European languages which derive directly from Latin) at Columbia for many years. He wrote dozens of books on language. I recommend them to you because they are very readable.
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 07:19 am
@Setanta,
Btw: Frisian is an official language in the Netherlands and officially recognised in Germany (In Germany, we have about 10 different Frisian dialects).

A dual-language sign at a police station in Germany:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ee/Bilingual_signs_German-Frisian%2C_police_station_Husum%2C_Germany_0892.JPG/275px-Bilingual_signs_German-Frisian%2C_police_station_Husum%2C_Germany_0892.JPG
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Setanta
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 07:24 am
The Frisians were an extremely important people in the development of culture and commerce in the area of the North Sea, once called the German Ocean. They were constant coast-wise traders, and wreckers and pirates when they could get away with it. They influenced many languages, notably Norse and Old English. It would not be unreasonable to say that they introduced the Norse to a wider world, and combined with the fine ship-building skills of the Norse, helped to launch the Norse across the northern world.

By the way, viking is an activity, not a people.
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