On January 8, attendees at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting, in Washington, D.C., selected they — a “gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, as a non-binary identifier” — as the word of the year for 2015.
You can read good arguments for singular they in the blog of Dennis Baron, a professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and in an explainer that Strong Language contributor Gretchen McCulloch published in The Toast.
But here at Strong Language we’re more interested in the WOTY undercard, which this year was replete with sweary words … and even a naughty emoji. It was, according to our research, the first time in four years that a sweary word made it onto the ballot — assholocracy was voted the “Most Outrageous” word of 2011 — and the first time in ADS history that any variant of fuck was nominated.
October already? You know what that means: It’s decorative gourd season, motherfuckers.
Mug via McSweeney’s Store.
A retired lecturer in medieval history has found what appears to be the earliest use of fuck. It’s in a 1310 court record, and it’s a surname: Roger Fuckebythenavele. “Experts say name refers to lack of sexual prowess, or gross stupidity.” – Daily Mail. “I’m sort of speechless.” – Language Log’s Geoffrey Pullum. “The Middle English dictionary needs a fucking update.” – medievalist Piotr Gąsiorowski.
“The search for the first ‘fuck’ may be both fascinating and futile — even when we find it, we might not have the context to know what it means.”
Some months back on the blog, Stephen Chrisomalis counted how many swears we can give. Quite a lot, it turns out. We can give a fuck. We can give two fucks. We can even give a million fucks. We can especially give three fucks, based on Stephen’s numbers. And this doesn’t even begin to account for all the shit’s and damn’s we can give – or, really, don’t give. See, when it comes to giving a fuck, we’re ultimately playing a zero-fucks game.