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What does the F word really mean?

By Bernadette Braganza
October 07, 2015 08:28 IST
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Most slang words don't exactly mean what you think they do; some are too literal in their meaning. 

Bernadette Braganza sheds light on the legends behind some of these words.

What does the F word really mean?


The greeting hello came from 'hallo,' a term used to attract attention as well as incite hunting dogs in the 1800s.

However it gained popularity with the invention of the telephone after Thomas Edison accidentally used the word 'hullo' while answering the telephone.


Most of us tend to use the word totes as a short form of 'totally.'

The word totes was first used to mean a 'total abstainer' (from alcohol, for instance).


This small word has had quite a lot of stories on its origin.

While one story says that the initials O.K. was used by President Andrew Jackson as a shorter version of 'Oll Korrect' while signing papers, another story says that OK comes from '0 Killed', the night's death toll sign during World War I.


The word crap comes from the man who invented the toilet. His name was Thomas Crapper. Quite appropriate, maybe?


The F-word is thought to be an acronym for 'Fornication Under Consent of the King.'

In medieval England a person was not allowed to have sex unless he had the consent of the king.

This acronym was put on a placard and hung on the door of couples who had permission from the king to have sex.


In the 16th and 17th Centuries, manure was used as fertilizer in Europe. This was mainly transported by ships to different parts of Europe.

Normally at sea, there was a danger of water entering into the lower part of the ship.

This would reach the manure and when wet, not only would the manure stink but it would also start fermenting and releasing methane gas, which could cause an explosion on coming into contact with a lighted match.

Thus manure sacks were always stamped with the words 'Store High In Transit' so that they could be stored high enough and out of the water's reach.


The meaning of cool (as a slang word) has been changing over time.

It started as a word to describe 'a large amount of money' in 1728.

It then changed its meaning to 'calmly audacious' in 1825 and then to 'fashionable' in 1933.


The word bloody referred to the 'Blue Bloods' or the aristocratic brats of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

At that time the aristocrats thought that they had blue blood, a sign which meant nobility and royalty and a factor which gave them a higher status as compared to the 'commoners.'


Believe it or not, the acronym OMG, standing for 'Oh My God' was first used by a 75-year old British Admiral named John Fisher in 1917.

It was used in a letter to Winston Churchill regarding a new order of Knighthood.

However the use of the acronym (whose purpose generally is to save time and space) was unsuccessful as he followed it with its full form.


The term 'dude' was used in the 1800's to describe a man who would tend to exaggerate his dressing sense, manners, speech, etc.

The word is basically short for 'Yankee Doodle,' a song describing such a man.

In the 20th Century the word was adopted by the black community to describe people who were known as 'cool.'

This continued on till the 1980's and 1990's, when it started appearing in films and television shows and became more popular.


A popular story behind the word SWAG is its usage as an acronym to the words 'Secretly We Are Gay.'

This was said to have been coined in the 1960s by some guys from Hollywood and put on posters for meetings for gay men.

However another (much older) story tells that the word actually came from the Scandinavian word 'svagga' meaning to sway or rock.

This version says that the word was said to have come about in the 1500's.


Unlike used in its present context, the word snob has had a very humble beginning.

It was originally used as a term for a shoemaker or his apprentices in the 18th century.

In the 19th Century its meaning changed to refer to people who wanted to climb the social ladder and thus would copy the habits of upper class people.


The word goodbye comes from the phrase 'God be with ye' which was used as a form of farewell in the 16th Century.

It was later shortened to 'Godbwy' and eventually, after being inspired by the greetings 'good day' and 'good night' it turned into 'goodbye.'

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Credit: Created from an image by Melina Sampaio Manfrinatti/Creative Commons

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Bernadette Braganza