Feck

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Feck (or, in some senses, fek) has several vernacular meanings and variations in Hiberno-English, Scots and Middle English.

Modern English[edit]

  • Slang expletive employed as an attenuated alternative (minced oath) to fuck or express disbelief, pain, anger, or contempt in a given situation, however it does not mean to have sex with in the same way that fuck does, and those aware of this use consider it a lesser expletive than fuck.[1]
  • Verb meaning 'to steal' (e.g., 'They had fecked cash out of the rector's room.'[2])[3]
  • Verb meaning in Irish slang 'to throw' (e.g., 'He's got no manners at all. I asked him nicely for the remote control, and he fecked it across the table at me.')

Scots and Late Middle English[edit]

Feck (or fek) is a form of effeck, which is in turn the Scots form of effect. However, this Scots noun has additional significance:

  1. Efficacy; force; value; return
  2. Amount; quantity (or a large amount/quantity)
  3. The greater or larger part (when used with a definite article)

From the first sense we derive feckless, meaning witless, weak or ineffective; worthless; irresponsible; indifferent; lazy. Feckless remains a part of the Modern English and Scottish English lexicons; it appears in a number of Scottish adages:

"Feckless folk are aye fain o ane anither."
"Feckless fools should keep canny tongues."

In his 1881 short story Thrawn Janet, Robert Louis Stevenson invokes the second sense of feck as cited above:

"He had a feck o' books wi' him—mair than had ever been seen before in a' that presbytery..."

Robert Burns uses the third sense of feck in the final stanza of his 1792 poem "Kellyburn Braes":

I hae been a Devil the feck o' my life,
Hey, and the rue grows bonie wi' thyme;
"But ne'er was in hell till I met wi' a wife,"
And the thyme it is wither'd, and rue is in prime

Debate about the word's level of offensiveness[edit]

Magners Irish Cider have received complaints relating to an advert in which a man tells bees to "feck off": members of the public were concerned that young children could be badly influenced by seeing this advert. Magners claimed that the "feck off" mention in the advert was a "mild rebuff" to the bees, rather than an expletive. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that the poster is suitable for display.[4]

In a 1998 interview on Nickelodeon, Irish girl group B*Witched landed in hot water when a viewer made a complaint alleging that one of the teenagers had used the phrase "fuck off". Although Nickelodeon maintained that the singer had in fact said "feck off", which they described "a phrase made popular by the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted," the item was found to be in breach of the ITC Programme Code and the complaint was thus upheld.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

The Channel 4 situation comedy Father Ted helped to export and popularise this use of feck through its characters' liberal use of the word, especially by the drunk priest Father Jack. In an interview, Dermot Morgan explained that, in Ireland, feck is far less offensive than fuck.

In 2004 French Connection UK, sellers of the popular "FCUK" T-shirt, won a legal injunction in Dublin that barred a local business from printing and selling a T-shirt marked "FCEK The Irish Connection".[6]

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