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Stone, L. (1954). On the Principal Obscene Word of the English Language—(An Inquiry, with Hypothesis, Regarding its Origin and Persistence). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 35:30-56.

(1954). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 35:30-56

On the Principal Obscene Word of the English Language—(An Inquiry, with Hypothesis, Regarding its Origin and Persistence)

Leo Stone, M.D.


Based on inferences from clinical observation, the opinion is established that the important and taboo English word 'fuck' bears at least an unconscious rhyme relation, possibly an actual genetic linguistic relation to the word 'suck' within the framework of considerations that determine the general phenomenon of obscenity, including the anal emissive pleasure in speech. Towards the establishment of this opinion and impression as a scientific hypothesis, a critical investigation of the known linguistic facts, as given in conventional authoritative sources, is undertaken. With this, certain basic clinical psycho-analytic phenomena and a few broad historical observations are adduced in indirect support of the hypothesis. The controversy as to the origin from ficken or foutre is stated, with a subsequent effort to resolve the conflict, an effort to trace both words to their respective origins in Indo-Germanic roots, and to demonstrate the probable important influence of the word 'suck'. The impression emerges from the deeper root data that the oral receptive attitude of sucking may provide the conceptual and linguistic Anlage that ultimately eventuates in basic words for sexual intercourse in English, and that the evolution in roots shows a tendency to correspondence with a putative psychic evolution through predominant oral aggression, towards (with later incorporation in) the active phallic sexual attitude, most clearly manifested in the normal male role. The male sexual role is the manifest structural opposite of the original sucking experience (except in the active rhythmic movement). Possible anal considerations are mentioned. The whole is thought to be relevant to Sperber's theory of speech origin (or more directly to an 'oral' hiatus in it), also to Abel's demonstration of the 'antithetical sense of primal words'. In general, the investigation is felt to support the hypothesis that the words 'fuck' and 'suck' have an important and general unconscious relationship, perhaps expressed only in the rhyme and latent conceptual

relation of the corresponding drives, but possibly implicit in the actual structure of the words.

The questions which arise for further study in relation to this hypothesis and investigation are: (1) the general action of large unconscious trends, as conceived in psycho-analysis, on the more specifically linguistic factors in word formation; (2) the psychological significance of rhyme; (3) the significance of specific sounds in word meaning; (4) the further investigation of the role of inevitable primordial object relation and separation, especially in the oral sphere, in the development of aggression in general, the role of such aggression in the nature of normal genitality, and in the normal and pathological Oedipus complex, and (5) further consideration of the role of language itself as a fundamental highly structured convention of object relationship, perhaps the most important instrument of the mastery of separation, fulfilling in its own way a role corresponding to the anatomic-physiological stereotypes, differing as they do from varied and fluid elements in individual emotional and psychical life, yet always in a continuous dynamic relation with these more labile components of personality.

The author hopes that people who work with children on the one hand, and expert students of language on the other, can contribute data in these spheres which are far beyond his own present competence.

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