Possible Anachronism in Lincoln

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 3 13:04:51 UTC 2012

There's anachronistic and "anachronistic."

Those expression (plus "Oh, crap!") are "anachronistic"in the sense that no
1860s exx. of their use exist.

However, my (ahem!) discovery of an unimpeachable "fucked up" from 1864
shows that individuals were thinking along those lines at the time. If a
Marine Corps company can be "fucked up," the word must have enjoyed a wide
figurative application, at least in certain circles.

"Go fuck yourself!" and "Fuck you!" are documented unquestionably in the
following generation, making limited currency in the Civil War more likely
than not. (  HDAS evinces evidence that "fucking," adj., was in occasional
use even before 1861.

What would have been objectionably anachronistic would have been to have
F-words spoken repeatedly by  Mary Todd Lincoln.


On Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 12:08 AM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Possible Anachronism in Lincoln
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sun, Dec 2, 2012 at 9:03 PM, Baker, John wrote:
> >
> > In the new Steven Spielberg film Lincoln, at one point a political
> > operator is so surprised to see the President that he says, "Well, I'll
> be
> > fucked."  My impression is that this is an anachronistic or at least
> unlikely
> > thing for someone to say in 1865, but what say the experts?
> In my Boston Globe column on the language of "Lincoln", I note
> (obliquely) that Jesse Sheidlower considers this to be anachronistic.
> There's one other anachronistic F-bomb from the same character (W.N.
> Bilbo): "Fuck you, you son of a bitch!"
> http://b.globe.com/lincolnbz
> Dan Goncharoff wrote:
> >
> > I point out the character is a New Yorker, which may affect the analysis.
> Actually, even though he was part of the Albany-based "Seward lobby,"
> the historical Bilbo was from Nashville, and James Spader plays him as
> a Southerner.
> --bgz
> --
> Ben Zimmer
> http://benzimmer.com/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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