Big F-Word breakthrough. Or...

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Aug 5 21:25:10 UTC 2006

The only plausible alternativethat comes to mind is that the handwritten specification of charges records "b--------d up," which Sullivan may have misread as "f---------d up," then filled in the blank with the wrong word. It would still be a valuable citation, though for a different term. A holograph "f-------d up" could equally be "frigged up"; good too, even if ambiguous.

  Jesse promises to check out the original, so we should know soon.

Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Dave Wilton
Subject: Re: Big F-Word breakthrough. Or...

I'm not completely convinced (although it looks promising). With the
tendency of authors (even historians, unfortunately) to make up probable
quotations, I'd check the JAG records to be sure the quotation is actually
there and is not a bowdlerized description of what was said.

--Dave Wilton
dave at

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Wilson Gray
Sent: Friday, August 04, 2006 11:40 PM
Subject: Re: Big F-Word breakthrough. Or...

Well, I'm convinced. There was many a time when I wanted to say much
the same thing, but I didn't care to suffer the probable consequences.
It's quite surpising that, back in those days, McKnight was merely
docked a month's pay. That reads like twenty-lashes' worth of
insubordination to me.


On 8/4/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Jonathan Lighter
> Subject: Big F-Word breakthrough. Or...
> Or too good to be true ?
> Well, it certainly seems to be the real McCoy.
> David M. Sullivan's four volumes on _The United States Marine Corps in
the Civil War_
> (Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane, 1997-2000) is the standard work on that
subject. Volume 3 contains the following information (267):
> "After being relieved from guard duty on Folly Island on October 31,
1863, Pvt. Robert McKnight did not report himself with his detachment for
inspection by the orderly sergeant as required by standing orders....When
Sgt. Thomas Buckley called McKnight to fall in...there was no response.
Buckley called a second time, and a third. Finally, McKnight emerged from
his tent and, in a loud voice, said, 'What the bloody Hell is wanted now?
This is a fucked up company anyhow, and always has been since the guard came
on shore. To Hell with such a company and all connected with such a damned
> Not surprisingly, McKnight was soon standing trial at court-martial,
charged with "disobedience of orders and scandalous conduct tending to the
destruction of good morals." The court found him guilty on the charge of
disobeying orders but not guilty on that of subverting good morals. His
otherwise sterling record, including volunteering for hazardous duty during
operations against Battery Wagner (an Army assault on which features in the
film _Glory_), saved McKnight from a brig sentence, and he wound up with no
more than loss of a month's pay (268).
> The surly question, "What the bloody Hell is wanted now?" suggests that
McKnight may have been a British or Irish immigrant, many of whom fought in
the Civil War. (" wanted..?" provides the hint rather than
"bloody," which HDAS 1 shows, perhaps to an extreme, to have been a
transatlantic cuss-word for a long time.)
> "Fuck up/ fucked up" reappears in the known lexical evidence not till
1929, in Australian Frederic Manning's largely autobiographical novel of the
British army in the Great War, _The Middle Parts of Fortune_ (Hemingway said
he read it once a year). The U.S.A. provided the Reconstruction Era
specimen of the vaguely related "fuck out of" (swindle out of), also in HDAS
along with one metric ton of previously uncollected and/or uncollated
related material.
> Sullivan cites "Records of the Judge Advocate General (Navy), Case 3401,
Pvt. Robert McKnight" as the contemporaneous source of McKnight's remarks
> JL
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