Fuck an A

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Mon Jan 20 16:59:33 UTC 2003

This makes a lot of sense to me on the whole, particularly the idea that
"John" got added as a "nonsense elaboration." Indeed, at the level of the
hearer (rather than some hypothetical creator of the phrase), the "A" also
can be just a "nonsense elaboration." What I meant by "full phrase" was
simply that, when we said this as kids, we often used "John" but never any
other name.

The phrase was ALWAYS used as a rejoinder, frequently beginninng with "You,"
so the isolated context of overhearing someone say "Fuck-n-idiot" in
isolation is totally irrelevant. My parsing--"You fuck an A" (whether
followed by "John" or not)--as a rejoinder--is certainly plausible (cf. "You
got that right!"), though of course the use of "fucking" as an intensifier is
a plausible interpretation, as well, for the "clipped" phrase, at least in a
contemporary setting. I don't think that "fuckin' " as an intensifier (e.g.,
"You are fuckin' crazy") was nearly so prevalent in the 1950s as today. The
rise of intensifier "fuckin'" might explain in part why most people interpret
"-n-" as "-ing" rather than "an."

Just for the record, I tried this out on my students, all linguistics majors
in a capstone seminar, and all nine native speakers liked "-ing" rather than
"an." And all nine had never heard the phrase prefixed with "you" or suffixed
with "John" or anything else. It had never occured to them to speculate about
what "A" could mean.

In a message dated 1/20/03 11:27:29 AM, douglas at NB.NET writes:

> Ron Butters:
> >Thinking about it a little more, I remember that the FULL phrase was "You
> >fuck an A John!"
> I don't think this is the 'full' phrase in general (although it may be in
> some milieu); I think the "John" is a nonsense elaboration. By analogy, I
> don't think that "F*ck you, Charlie" is the 'full' form of "F*ck you" ...
> although "F*ck you, Charlie" has some currency (far more, by Google, than
> does "f*ckin' A[,] John") and was immortalized in the "Harvard Lampoon"
> about 30 years ago (in the character Charles Ulmer Farley [Chuck U.
> Farley]).
> >... Since "Amen" is not a taboo word, one would expect that there would be
> >recorded instances of "Fucking Amen!" ....
> Google shows several instances of "f*cking amen" in exactly the correct
> sense. These are of course not old enough, but WW II era printed citations
> may be expected to be sparse because of the unacceptable F-word.
> I can't say exactly why I interpret this "f*ck'n' A" as "f*cking A" rather
> than "f*ck an A", but just about everybody else seems to also. Picture
> yourself walking down the street and seeing a man coming out of a doorway
> muttering "F*ck'n' idiot!" The context is unknown to you. Is he saying
> "F*cking idiot!" or is he saying "F*ck an idiot!"? In isolation, knowing
> only the phonetics, one perhaps cannot tell, but ....
> Also: why abbreviate the "asshole" and not the "f*ck'n'" (which I think is
> more strongly taboo usually)? Why wouldn't "F*ck 'n' asshole" > "Eff 'n'
> A"?
> -- Doug Wilson

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