The recent launch of the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary (AND) gave me a chance to indulge in my long-time hobby of looking up the swear words. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my favourite home-grown colourful language in a future post, but I want to start with an entry that gives me the kind of pride that others expended on the Olympic Games last month.
The entry for fuckwit (p. 647) includes the note:
Used elsewhere but recorded earliest in Australia
That’s right. Australia is the home of the fuckwit. The earliest citation in the AND and the Oxford English Dictionary is from Alex Buzo’s 1970 play The Front Room Boys. The earliest non-Australian citation in the OED is from a 1992 article in Making Music magazine from America.
The second edition of the AND expands the citations for fuckwit, makes a clearer distinction between nominal and adjectival use, and (most importantly) adds an earlier citation for fuckwitted. Here are the entries, along with the earliest few citations:
A. N. A fool, an idiot
1969 A. Buzo Front Room Boys (1970) 89 ooh, temper! Well, ta-ta for now, fuckwit.
1970 D. Williamson Coming of Stork (1974) 5 ‘I’m a trainee marketing executive…’ ‘You’re a fuckwit’
1977 Southerly i. 48 I object to trendy words like fuckwit and avoid it even in Scrabble.
1980 F. Moorhouse Days of Wine & Rage 79 The present government consists of the finest set of fuckwits seen since federation.
B. adj. Stupid, foolish, idiotic
1979 Meanjin 464 It sounded like a load of fuckwit shit to me
1993 Picture (Sydney) 27 Oct. 25/5 An interesting Seppo has taught his pet… to roll over, play dead, walk up a ramp, and stand on a barrel. Big fucking deal, you say, any fuckwit dog can do that.
Derivative: fuckwitted adj.
1972 J. Hibberd Stretch of Imagination (1973) 20 you two-timing, fuck-witted mongrel of a slut.
1973 D. Williamson Coming of Stork (1974) 152 That fuckwitted agent of yours is really driving me right off my brain.
Another change that the AND have made to the entry is to label fuckwit as derogatory. These labels were omitted from the first edition based on the very Australian logic that:
There is a danger that using labels to indicate register can be overinterpretative and over-restrictive. This seems particularly true of Australian English, which allows easy movement between formal and informal usage. It should be clear from the citations if a word belongs mainly in colloquial use or to the slang of a particular group, and equally clear if it is for some reason taboo in some contexts. Labels like coarse, colloq., derog., slang, and vulgar, which tend unnecessarily to categorize, have therefore been omitted.
The labels Offens. and Derog. have been added to entries in the second edition of the AND in case you’re too much of a fuckwit to tell if something is offensive.
[Update: If you were wondering why Coming of Stork is given the date 1970 in the noun entry and 1973 in the derivative entry (and I know you were), I got in touch with the AND team to ask. The derivative entry is actually from the play What if I Died Tomorrow (performed 1973); these two plays were bundled in the same book, with different performance dates, which is where the confusion of the texts comes from.]