Historian Finds Oldest Use Of F-Word Hidden In Medieval Court Papers

It could be "fourteenth-century revenge porn."

14/09/2015 7:09 PM AEST | Updated 14/09/2015 7:09 PM AEST

A researcher has found what is believed to be the earliest written example of the f-word

(Caution: a certain four-letter word is used ahead, and used repeatedly.)

Paul Booth, a historian at Keele University in England, found three examples dating from 1310 and 1311 of a man known in legal documents as Roger Fuckebythenavel. 

Booth said he believes Roger was not the bearer of a very unfortunate family name, but rather it was given to him derogatorily.   

"This surname is presumably a nickname," Booth told "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.” 

If Roger actually tried to do it in the navel and someone told the world about it, the name could be "fourteenth-century revenge porn," Booth told Vice.

Booth noted that Roger was before the court three times over a nine-month period, and each time his last name was spelled differently: Fuckebythenavele, Fukkebythenavele and, finally, Fuckebythenavel. 

"On the first two occasions he was 'exacted' (solemnly summoned to attend court to answer a serious criminal charge, which is unspecified) and on the third he was outlawed," Booth wrote in an abstract, titled "Roger the incompetent copulator," that he posted online. "He was probably never heard of again."

As Booth told the Daily Mail, an outlaw could be "executed without trial if caught."

Until now, the oldest known written example of "fuck" was a coded use of the word in the poem "Flen flyys," which was dated to around 1475. 

Once decoded, the line read "fvccant vvivys of heli," a mix of Latin and English that meant "they fuck the wives of Ely," as noted by  

There were some earlier appearances of the word "fuck" in texts, however none were known to be used in the current context. 

 A 1278 text, for example, referred to someone who appeared to be named "John Le Fucker." However, medievalist and linguist Kate Wiles wrote in The Huffington Post last year that it was believed to be a misreading of "Tucker" or a variation of "fulcher," meaning "soldier." 

The Oxford English dictionary currently lists "fuck" with its current meaning as a word of Germanic origins dating to the 16th century.  Booth told Vice he informed the dictionary of his discovery, but doesn't know if the publishers plan to update the listing.