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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: February ::
Shakespeare's F Words

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0075  Wednesday, 17 February 2010

 

[1]  From:     William Proctor Williams < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:     February 16, 2010 9:44:53 PM EST

     Subj:     Re: SHK 21.0071  Shakespeare's F Words 

 

[2]  From:     Eric Johnson-DeBaufre < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:     February 16, 2010 11:14:16 PM EST

     Subj:     Re: SHK 21.0071 Shakespeare's F Words 

 

[3]  From:     Peter Groves < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:     February 17, 2010 1:49:08 AM EST

     Subj:     Re: SHK 21.0071  Shakespeare's F Words 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:         William Proctor Williams < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 16, 2010 9:44:53 PM EST

Subject: 21.0071  Shakespeare's F Words

Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0071  Shakespeare's F Words

 

John Drakakis observes, "but there are occasions where in words ending with double 's' you get a combination of long 's' and modern 's'" I think there are not occasions but always long 's" short 's' if the word does not retain its final 'e'. The rule was long 's' in initial and medial positions (kerning and ascenders produced variations ) and short 's' in final positions. So, when "businesse" was still spelt that way it would be --long 's' long 's' 'e' since both those 's' letters were medial. But during the 17th cent. as such words lost their final 'e' the words would indeed have been spelt --long 's' short 's' because that last 's' had become final. All that ended in English-speaking lands suddenly around 1800.

 

I know of no instance where readers and writers before 1800 took the slightest notice of the similarity between long 's' and 'f'. That, I think, is a modern problem. A very distinguished colleague says that proper young women in the southern US were still being taught to write long 's' in their formal handwriting as late as the turn of the 20th century.

 

William Proctor Williams

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Eric Johnson-DeBaufre < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:        February 16, 2010 11:14:16 PM EST

Subject: 21.0071 Shakespeare's F Words

Comment:     Re: SHK 21.0071 Shakespeare's F Words

 

I agree with Chris Baker that long s/miniscule f confusion, if such typographical punning was a practice among early modern readers, makes more sense in Donne's "The Flea"--where the poem's fictive occasion is a man's effort to convince a woman of the lawfulness of pre-marital coitus--than in "Where the bee sucks." However, I also agree with John Drakakis that my argument may well be more presentist than materialist. The materialist in me would love to know what early moderns made of the long s, but I suspect that we are unlikely to turn up hard evidence that settles the question.

 

As to how common the modern form of fuck was, we are on somewhat firmer ground. The OED gives several examples of its appearance in print from the early to the mid sixteenth century, my favorite being from Lindsay's somewhat anti-clerical?? "Satire of the Three Estates": "Bischopis...may fuck thair fill and nocht be mareit."

 

Since print (generally) lags behind speech, It seems likely that the modern form of the f-word enjoyed fairly wide circulation in 16th and 17th c. England. 

 

Cheers,

Eric Johnson-DeBaufre

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Peter Groves < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 17, 2010 1:49:08 AM EST

Subject: 21.0071  Shakespeare's F Words

Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0071  Shakespeare's F Words

 

It seems prima facie implausible that Daniel could have intended any ambiguity at "Complaint of Rosamond" 175 (1592):

 

    "Let none for feeming fo,thinke Saints of others,

     For all are men,and all have fuckt their Mothers."

 

Peter Groves

 

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