fout(re) > hoot(er)

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Thu Aug 31 14:12:55 UTC 2000

Besides, "hoot" is well-known as an alternative for "poot" (fart) and not
to give one of those is equally well-known. I'm for "hoot" = "fart" (while
we are in the area of speculation).


>At 9:37 AM -0400 8/31/00, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>We know how French 'foutre' appears in English, since about 1585:
>>'fouter'/'foutre'/'foutra', still in the RH dictionary for example
>>(although "archaic").
>Not only does it appear, but it appears in precisely the contexts
>we're discussing (inter alia).  Here's the OED:
>fouter fu.t. Forms: 6-7 footra, footre, fowtre, 7 foutra, foutree,
>foutir, 9 fouter. [a. OFr. foutre:-L. futuere (the inf. used subst.).
>1. In phrases,
>a foutre for, (to care) not a fouter.
>        A. 1592 Greene James IV, v. ii, Jaques..faites bonne chere:
>foutre de ce monde!
>        1597 Shaks. 2 Hen. IV, v. iii. 103 A footra [Q. footre] for
>the World, and Worldlings base.
>        1622 Fletcher Sea Voy. v. i, Therefore footra, When I am full,
>let 'em hang me, I care not.
>        1638 Suckling Goblins iii. (1646) 26 Shall I so?-why then
>foutree for the Guise.
>        1871 R. Ellis Catullus xvii. 17 He leaves her alone to romp
>idly, cares not a fouter.
>2. Applied contemptuously to persons.
>        1780-1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun iii. xxv, The astonish'd
>tailor..swearing he was better stuff Than sick a fouter.
>        1786 Harvest Rig in R. Chambers' Pop. Poems Scotl. (1862) 50 A
>sutor, Most manfully about does lay-A tough auld fouter.
>        1833 Marryat P. Simple (1863) 145 O'Brien declared that he was
>a liar, and a cowardly foutre.
>although there's only one cite (the 1871 rendering of Catullus), the
>OED implies this was a standard use.  Of course, the semantics are
>right--we've already discussed the parallel "not care a fuck" at some
>length.  As noted, the real question is whether "hoot(er)" is an
>alternate form of "foutre" in this or any other context, and by
>extension whether there's any evidence that a French [f] ever turns
>into an English [h], much less any direct evidence that "hoot(er)"
>ever substitutes for "foutre" in other contexts, such as (2) above
>("a tough old hooter") or the interjectional uses in (1) ("a hooter
>for the world").
>>  (The presence of the common word 'foot' /fUt/ will perhaps
>>prejudice one against the
>>  adoption of 'foot' /fut/; possibly 'hoot' /hut/ is 2nd choice.)
>I don't find this argument from homonymy avoidance too persuasive in
>this context, given the difference in the vowels and in the
>semantics, and given the independent evidence for the persistence of
>the obscene borrowing "foutre" (in its various spellings).

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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