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I just watched the movie A Knight's Tale, and the character Wat repeatedly threatens to "fong" people (as in "I'll fong you," clearly meaning some kind of bodily violence.)

There are claims around the internet that "fong" is an "actual word from old English" (sic, presumably meaning Middle English) meaning "to kick".

However, I can find no entry for it in the OED, nor in the Middle English Dictionary.

Is there any basis for the claim that "fong" is a Middle English word meaning "to kick"?

  • Fon, sometimes fong, was indeed a Middle English verb, meaning 'to seize, take hold of', among other things: quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/m/mec/… – Anonym Jun 14 '16 at 15:05
  • My first thought was it could be a misreading of song, written with a "long S". – oerkelens Jun 14 '16 at 15:06
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Yes, there's some basis for the claim. The Middle English Dictionary gives fongen (-en being an infinitive ending) with a bunch of meanings, the last being:

10. To attack (someone); to molest.

[link]

So, not exactly kick; and it's not the word's primary meaning (not even close); but I think it's enough to make it plausible that the filmmakers were aware of the word, and did not simply invent it coincidentally.

  • Still not exactly ‘kick’, but the base sense of the word is essentially ‘get’ or ‘catch’, of which the former is also usable in the context given in the question in Modern English: “I’ll get you!” works fine as a threat of physical violence. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 25 '16 at 14:06
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    Yeah, I suspect that it's a "real" word, though one whose similarity to "fuck" was not lost on the movie makers. – Hot Licks May 14 '17 at 2:31
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In the film, "fong" seems to be used by one of the characters (Wat) to mean "inflict violence, eg kick", but also as a substitute for fuck, in the swearing sense (rather than the sexual act). From IMDB:

Wat: Uh, betray us, and I will fong you, until your insides are out, your outsides are in, your entrails will become your extrails I will w-rip... all the p... ung. Pain, lots of pain.

and

Wat: All right, I'm about this fonging close mate! I swear to God, Quaisimodo! I oughta...

I think it's really just a humorous word, and there's nothing more to it than that.

  • +1 - I think this is actually a more likely answer than mine. – Ste Jun 14 '16 at 15:38
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    I'm not convinced. I mean, yeah, it's possible; but the humor of using fong as a substitute for fuck would not be lesser, and might be greater, if fong is a bona fide Middle English verb that's already been used in its real meaning earlier in the film. – ruakh Jun 14 '16 at 16:23
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    The second quote does seem to support this answer though... – Ste Jun 14 '16 at 16:43
  • @ruakh you may be right - perhaps one of the writers encountered it and thought it would be funny to resurrect it as a general-purpose funny word. It's hard to know unless we ask one of them. – Max Williams Jun 15 '16 at 7:42
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I haven't seen the movie but I imagine that "fong" is a mispronunciation of "thong", a meaning of which Oxford gives as:

A narrow strip of leather or other material, used especially as a fastening or as the lash of a whip.

So, essentially to "fong" someone is to whip them.

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    Ste, having watched the film with the director's commentary on, they did mean fong-- not thong-- and they did mean it to sound like f***, but they thought it truly meant "kick" -- not whip. – Mum Oct 18 '17 at 23:54

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