How good is this?
An image is spotted on FaceBook and a little research finds so much more.
So, where did it all begin and where does that image come from?
The sources quoted are worth reading in full!
The first recorded use
The first instance of use of the word “fuck,” came from a satirical poem, written in Latin, in the year 1500. The line is referring to a group of friars, and runs like this: “Non sunt in coeli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk.” If it suddenly starts looking like Kryptonian instead of Latin after the word quia, it’s because it had to be written in code. Each letter of the word was swapped out for the letter following it in the alphabet. Remember that the alphabet was in a different order back then, and that Latin conjugates verbs differently, but gxddbov translates as “fuccant.” The overall line states, “They are not in Heaven, since they fuck the wives of Ely.” That is one racy poem!
Those early scibes were a clever lot. We learn to read and write but how many of our modern educated people could code like this, knowing that others would know how to decode. We stoop to “fxck” using the “x” because “v” and “w” are too close to the substituted letter.
The image below is of a page transcribed by a monk in 1528.
The transcription was of “De Officiis” (On Duties or On Obligations), an essay written by Marcus Tullius Cicero during October and November 44 BC. This was Cicero’s last year alive, and he was 62 years of age. The work is divided into three books, in which Cicero expounds his conception of the best way to live, behave, and observe moral obligations. It was considered so important during the 1400’s and 1500’s that it was the second book to be printed on Gutenberg’s Press, after the Bible.
It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended “fucking” to mean “having sex,” as in “that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate,” or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.
John Burton was Abbott of Burton Abbey from 1305 too his death in 1316. There were several other “John”s as Abbot.
In 1528 the Abbott was William Beyne. He held office 1501-1531. He was followed by John Beaton who was Abbott from 1532-1533, just before the Reformation.
The Abbey appears to have had a lot of moral and financial problems over the centuries and certainly from the mid 1200’s onwards there were rumours of immorality amongst its leaders and the monks.
If the Scribe was referring to John de Burton, then he was doing so from legend and passed down tales within the Monastery. If he was referring to John Beaton, formerly prior of Burton, then perhaps he was anticipating a future promotion. Or perhaps there is a slight error in the timing of the above image.
I make no comment on the possibility that this scribe was clairvoyant; seeing the future of a Great South Land and the depths to which it could tumble.