"flying fuck"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 18 13:32:17 UTC 2008

At 3:28 AM -0400 4/18/08, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
>On Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 01:01:31AM -0400, Sam Clements wrote:
>>  Newspaperarchive has from 1952 a cite for "take a flying jump at a rolling
>>  doughnut" and from 1972 "take a flying leap at a rolling doughnut."  So the
>>  expression no doubt goes back a ways, not that we'll find "flying fuck" in
>>  print very easily.
>I know the whole thing of looking things up in the OED is
>somewhat out of favor, but I do want to point out that in our
>latest update, we published a 1938 example from John O'Hara of
>"take a flying fuck at a galloping rooster".
Nice--but to return to where we started, this doesn't help us make
the connection between the flying fuck as a feat hard to consummate
and the flying fuck as a something of negligible value and hence a
negative polarity minimizer with an implicit "not even ___" as in
"(not) worth a sou/farthing/plugged nickel", "(not) sleep a wink",
"(not) touch a drop", "(not) know squat"...   The flying
leaps/jumps/fucks seem more likely to have originated as members of
the "Go fuck yourself", "Fuck you", "Go to hell", "Go fly a kite"
family of impolite invitations to get lost than of the "not know
fuck/jackshit/squat about" or "not give a shit/fuck/(tinker's)
dam(n)" families of minimizers.


P.S.  I realize that we can now find...let's see, about 2,600
examples of "give a flying leap" (and a small handful for "give a
flying jump") alongside the still dominant "give a flying fuck"
(117,000), but I think these involve some sort of reanalysis and a
lack of profound appreciation of the difficulty of the endeavor.
There are 55,400 hits for "take a flying leap", so it still falls
largely under the impolite-invitation rubric rather than the
indifference-indicator rubric.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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