the meaning of''developed from''

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Apr 29 21:24:27 UTC 2005

Purely as conjecture, the mystery might be resolvable by a (partial) origin in (undocumented) contexts such as the following (if frequently heard) :

"Wot shall I do with this then ?"

"I don't give a damn. Fuck it."

The nature of the direct object might have eventually been expanded to include human beings and evrything else, with "you" becoming possible as soon as the verb became recognizable  as effectively equivalent to "damn," "blast," and of course "bugger."

I believe that the suggestion that "I" is the "true subject" of a declarative rather than an imperative verb was first made by Gershon Legman in _Rationale of the Dirty Joke_ (1968).

Of some interest is Joyce's use in "Ulysses" (written 1914-21), set in 1904 Dublin, with "God" as the subject : "God fuck old Bennett."  In my experience, this collocation is virtually unique.


Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Laurence Horn
Subject: Re: the meaning of''developed from''

At 12:26 PM -0400 4/26/05, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>In a message dated 4/26/05 12:53:08 AM, wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM writes:
>> The English of persons like those who used to spell it "f--g" because it
>> was dirty. Maybe Grant or Jesse have access to some extra exx.
>> One might compare 19th C. "Take them away and frig them!" in HDAS, spelled
>> in full because _The Pearl_ was that kind of publication.
>> JL
>It is not easy to conclude from the HDAS citations for "frig" or "f--g" that
>very many of them have to do with masturbation rather than as euphemistic
>references to "fuck"--or as simply a synonym for "fuck." Many of
>them have to do
>with manual stimulation of the vagina or anal cavity, rather than the penis.
>The noun "frig" is listed as apparently not a US use at all. None of the cites
>is of the relevant form (Go) frig you(rself!)."
>I just don't understand how, given the relative paucity of "frig" cites
>(vis-a-vis the enormous popularity of "fuck" in American English) AND the
>questionable nature of most of the cites, one can conclude that
>"(Go) frig you(rself!)"
>is a significant source--in any meaninful sense--of (Go) fuck you(rself!)"
>I do not deny the possibility that someone, sometime, might have uttered the
>phrase "Go frig yourself!" and meant it to be taken as an insult parallel to
>"Go spank your monkey!" But that does not support the hypothesis
>this particular
>relatively rare form, "frig" = 'masturbate', should be given any special
>status as the form from which (Go) fuck you(rself)" developed. Why
>not "flog" or
>"fag" or "flick" or "prick" or "pluck"? Why not "hang" ("Go hang yourself")?

I agree with all of this except for the citations of "(Go) fuck
you(rself)", which implies (if not asserts) that these are variations
of the same form. We're agreed that "(Go) fuck yourself" is a true
imperative, as the reflexive object indicates, and I've made the
additional empirical claim that it does *not* propose an anatomically
impossible activity (and that hence we need not invoke Jon's frig >
fuck chronology), since detached instruments are implicitly (or
explicitly--"Go fuck yourself with a (rusty) X") invoked to
consummate the act. But I think the analysis of "Fuck you" is still
up for grabs (even once we've ruled out the traditional, but
mindless, "Pluck yew" etymythology). I believe it was the late Quang
Phuc Dong of the South Hanoi Institute of Technology who argued, in
his "English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subjects", against
various proposals for the subject of such drecatives. In any case,
the lack of reflexive marking and the strong stress on that object
rules out any imperative derivation with second person subject. My
colleague Barbara Abbott informs me that Carl Sagan proposed an
underlying first person subject for the construction--

"Sagan (The Dragons of Eden (1977), p. 54) points out that in many
species, sex and aggression are peculiarly intertwined, and says of
"Fuck you" that the undersubject is "I" and that it "and many similar
expressions seem to be human ceremonial mountings".

---but while this might be argued for as a mythopoeic allusion, I
don't see how it can work as an underlying syntactic structure in the
synchronic grammar, given the possibility of "Well, fuck ME
(*myself)"., Quang actually proposed that a sentence
of the form "Fuck/Goddamn you" is not only not an imperative but does
not have a subject at all in underlying form.


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