Earliest Known Use of the "F Word" Discovered in 500-Year-Old Scottish Manuscript
The Scots are well known for their myriad useful inventions: the steam engine, the bicycle, the first practical telephone, the television, penicillin and insulin, the flushing toilet, and the fridge, among many many others.
Scotland is also, apparently, the home of a medieval manuscript that contains the first record of the F*@$ swear word. Even though the proud nation spawned some of the world's most revered and intellectual thinkers, they also like to keep things real.
Under lockdown during the plague
The curse word's first known appearance was written in a poem, and recorded by a bored Scottish student while on lockdown in Edinburgh during the plague — ring any bells? Who knows, maybe one of us will unknowingly create the next century's most common swear word while under the current lockdown.
Now focusing back on the 500-year-old matter at hand. The poem was brought back to the limelight as BBC Scotland's upcoming show documents the country's proud tradition of swearing in "Scotland — Contains Strong Language."
The manuscript in which the poem was discovered is the Bannatyne Manuscript, which is housed in the National Library of Scotland and dates back to 1568. The Manuscript is an anthology of Scottish literature that George Bannatyne, the bored Scottish student, put together and shows 400 poems written by his fellow countrymen.
The first recorded use of the F word has been discovered. Oddly, it was used by a student during a plague.— James R. Harrigan (@JamesRHarrigan) April 6, 2020
Some things never change.
"It has long been known that the manuscript contains some strong swearwords that are now common in everyday language, although at the time, they were very much used in good-natured jest," said a National Library of Scotland spokesperson.
In the BBC Scotland documentary, Dr. Joanna Kopaczyk, a historical linguistics professor at Glasgow University explained "In the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy, when Kennedy addresses Dunbar, there is the earliest surviving record of the word 'f***' in the world."
"It might never quite make the tourist trail, but here in the National Library, we have the first written 'f***' in the world. I think that's something to be proud of." To which we say, "Och, aye!"
To further prove the point that Scots are not averse to swear words in the slightest, in 1994 author James Kelman's novel How Late It Was, How Late, which won the Booker Prize and was written in a low-brow Scottish accent, used the F*@$ word a casual 4,000 times. Something Bannatyne's legacy would be proud of.