I was simply fiddling with Ngram viewer when my apparently naughty mind made me type the (real) "F-word" onto the text field, (the time was also chosen randomly, (1750-to-1993)), the results baffled me. (more like upside down flattened bell-curve)

enter image description here

From the results it seems entire 19th century and early-to-mid 20th writers heavily eschewed the word fuck (maybe the writers of that period were polite?) Is it an interesting coincidence or is Google playing with us?

How can it be that such a heavily used colloquial word, suddenly vanished from writings, only to rearise in modern times?

NOTE: This is purely an inquisitive question, I have no intention to make judgement on writers of any era.

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    This is weird, there's a fairly extensive list of books, some without the names of authors, all containing the word fuck in their titles. I did some minimal research and came up empty handed. I wonder if some of these titles actually exist. NSFW
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:25
  • 17
    One of @Mari-LouA's examples (from 1805, but in the text, not a title) is a misreading of suck using a long s. I wonder if those instances the N-gram has before 1820 are similar misreadings and the graph should be entirely flat before 1960.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:32
  • The shape of the curve makes the possible confusion with "suck" interesting, if that's the cause. The practically identical percentage values seem... odd. Commented May 22, 2016 at 0:57
  • @Mari-LouA - I went back to the 1800s in your list and found one case where it appeared that "fuck" was being proposed as a neologism for a class of criminals, in court documents.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 13:15
  • @HotLicks oh, that's very very curious. What class of criminal would that be?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 13:18

2 Answers 2


Did you check any of your Ngram results? The early hits are mostly false drops from typographical and OCR considerations, so the tail on the distribution continues to the left. Prudishness and censorship combined to make it ʃucking impossible to get the word published until "modern" times. Now no one cares about the word when the internet is dedicated to videos of the act.

  • 5
    Hmmm, it seems more like a Technical artifact, here's one more,I never imagined that Shakespeare will ever use the f-word Commented May 21, 2016 at 20:31
  • 10
    @AnkurPatel Actually, the highlighted word in your link is suck, but spelled with the defunct long s. The letter f has a crossbar that extends on either side; the long s, when it has a crossbar at all, has it only on the left side.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 23:50
  • 10
    the internet is dedicated to videos of the act You misspelled cat.
    – CodeManX
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 12:36
  • 1
    If there are community members who take issue with a moderator's enforcement of site policy, the proper course of action is to post a discussion question on Meta. The moderators have discussed MariLou's edit and agreed that ʃucking is a good compromise, as it is a humorous example of the OCR transcription error.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 12:58
  • 1
    @KitZ.Fox So the moderators discussed MariLou's edit, did they? I suppose it would be churlish of me to point out that it's not a compromise at all. And while you all were at it, did you discuss one of your number threatening to flag a poster who hadn't violated site policy? Because, trust me, that would have been the the topic of the Meta discussion, not the bowdlerization. And I see the comment fairies have done their magic to tidy up that bit of history.
    – deadrat
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 16:36

It looks like what Andrew Leach and deadrat pointed out are very keen observations. I checked about 50 links of books before 1820 times, but nowhere have I found the word "fuck" (almost everywhere it is a misreference of Long S (f without the crossbar) , as in ſuck (suck), ſucked (sucked), ſuck'd (suck'd), ſucking(sucking) and other variations). This explains why the anomalous graph went above sea level before 1820.

enter image description here
Screen shot from The Dramatic Works of Shakspeare: In Six Volumes, Volume 3, Clarendon Press, 1789.

It seems like "fuck" is a pretty modern word not much used by the writers of 18th and early 19th century (even though Wikipedia says its first accepted usage was registered on the 15th century). This modernness can be demonstrated with N-gram if I replace "fuck" with "Fuck" and we can see the bold green bar erasing the apparent aberration.

enter image description here

NOTE : Declaring "fuck" as a pretty modern word is purely based on pieces of evidence provided by the N-gram graphs whose corpus includes only the uploaded published text to google books. So chances are there that this can be a tentative declaration. But still we can get partially the idea of its very modernness in prints.

  • 2
    "not used by" <> "not known to". Commented May 22, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    The claim that “‘fuck’ is a pretty modern word not much used by the writers of 18th and early 19th century” is not supported by the evidence in this answer. It may not have been published until recently, but there are ways to use a word aside from in published text, including personal correspondence and, ya know, speaking. The former is a rather smaller portion of the ngram corpus I would imagine, and the latter quite obviously isn’t present at all.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 18:19
  • 1
    @KRyan -- So where is the evidence of this?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 18:24
  • 1
    @HotLicks I am not making any claim, I am saying that the available evidence does not support the claim made in this answer. The evidence here only covers written and published text available in the ngram corpus. Thus, it can only be used to make statements about that kind of text, but the claim here is much, much broader than that.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 18:29
  • 3
    "...still we can get partially the idea of its very modernness" in print, I think you mean.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:18

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