A documentary airing on BBC Scotland, titled “Scotland- Contains Strong Language,” examines the history of swearing in the northernmost country in the United Kingdom. The documentary touts the Bannatyne Manuscript, which dates to 1568 and is so revered it is kept locked up in the National Library of Scotland. The iconic manuscript is a collection of poems originally written and possessed by a student named George Bannatyne (hence the title} when he was—get this—confined to his Edinburgh home due to the plague. We can all sympathize.
The manuscript is famous for containing William Dunbar’s epic poem, “The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie,” in which the two poets trade insults…including the first known use of the “f-bomb.” At one point, as the two wordsmiths verbally spar with each other, Kennedie dubs Dunbar a “wan fukkit funling.” Dr. Joanna Kopaczyk, historical linguistics professor at Glasgow University, verifies this and informs viewers of the show: “In the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy, when Kennedy addresses Dunbar, there is the earliest surviving record of the word 'f***' in the world.” She added, “It might never quite make the tourist trail, but here in the National Library we have the first written 'f***' in the world. I think that's something to be proud of.” Well, we all need something to hang our hat on, Lassie!
A spokeswoman for the National Library acknowledged that the manuscript has “long been known” to contain “some strong swearwords that are now common in everyday language,” but noted that, at the time, “they were very much used in good-natured jest.”
Incredibly, more than 450 years after Bannatyne was forced to shelter-in-place due to the plague, despite all the progress and technological breakthroughs, we are doing the very same thing. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Back to the future, I guess.
The way things are going now, all I have to say is: fukkit.