It’s “one of the most graphic, explicit and vulgar words in the English language,” U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre proclaimed last fall, when the Supreme Court launched hearings on Federal Communications Commission v. Fox. If TV networks have their way, Garre argued in his opening statement on behalf of the FCC, it won’t be long before Americans hear “Big Bird dropping the F-bomb on Sesame Street.”
First printed in a Scottish poem in 1503, the ancient and awesomely powerful F-bomb continues to mystify lexicographers. Rumors persist that legal acronyms spawned the obscenity in question (“Fornication Under Consent of the King” or the Irish police-blotter inscription “booked For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”), though the modern-day phrase has been traced to a number of etymological origins: Middle Dutch (fokken), Germanic (ficken), English (firk), Scottish (fukkit). Even the Latin terms futuerre (“to copulate”) and pungo (“to prick”) bear a striking resemblance to the four-letter word. Of course, its original definition linking sex with violence and pleasure with pain has broadened considerably in the past 500 years.
Link to Time article.