While "muck" deals with the taboo of filth, while "fuck" deals with the taboo of sex, the two verbs can be used similarly in some circumstances in Australian English. For example "muck up", "muck about" and "Quarantine matters! Don't muck with it.".

In Australian English, is "muck" used because of its similar pronunciation with "fuck" while being more acceptable?

Wikipedia mentions that Ernest Hemingway, who isn't Australian, used "muck" as a minced profanity, but doesn't say whether or not it's a one-off thing.

  • The usage is equally common in British English. – Margana Jul 15 '15 at 22:37
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    It reminds me of a time when I was admonishing pupils at the back of the class for... well, two words sprang into my mind simultaneously: "fiddling" and "mucking" (I was ok with "about" to follow). Unfortunately, they formed a portmanteau word, with "fiddling" getting in first, if briefly. I don't think anyone noticed. They probably weren't listening anyway. – Margana Jul 15 '15 at 22:44
  • I'm in the U.S. and I use this word sometimes with this connotation as well, in phrases such as "mucking it all up" or "mucking around with it", etc. – psosuna Oct 4 '17 at 16:52

Muck has been used and is still used as an euphemism for 'fuck' because of its similar sound:

The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English at muck says:

  • mucked up: (adj) euphemism for fucked up (US 1951)
  • mucking: (noun) euphemism for "fucking". Literary euphemism from the days when it was not permissible to reproduce the word "fuck". Australia 1962.
  • mucking, muckin': (adv) used as an intensifier, an euphemistic disguise for "fucking". UK 1887.

From Sex, Swearing and Other Transliterations in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls:

  • “Oh, muck my grandfather and muck this whole treacherous muck-faced mucking country and every mucking Spaniard in it on either side and to hell forever. Muck them to hell together…” and there is plenty more where that came from. A passage like this cries out for a second reading, substituting the intended words and read aloud this time for full effect.

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