I’ve long been aware that the Irish use feck a lot, and I had the vague idea that it was just a Hibernian equivalent of fuck. Not so! Stan Carey explains:

Feck is a popular minced oath in Ireland, occupying ground between the ultra-mild expletive flip and the often taboo (but also popular) fuck. … The most familiar modern use of feck is as a euphemistic substitute for fuck, as in the phrases Feck!, Feck off!, feck it, feck-all, fecker, feck(ed) up, fair fecks (kudos), (for) feck(‘s) sake, fecked (exhausted, ruined, in a bad situation), and the intensifier feckin’ or fecking, which often collocates with hell, eejit, gobshite or some such insult. …
Feck is family-friendly, even according to advertising standards authorities (though not always). As expletives go, it has a playful, unserious feel.

There are lots of quotes and lots of history, and a great Father Ted clip. Feck, er, check it out.


  1. A few years ago the (Kentucky) liquor store I shop at was test-marketing a brand of Irish whisky labeled “Feckin Whisky.” I was bit surprised because, like you, I had assumed that Irish “feck” was, at least, at the coarsely ground end of the minced-oath spectrum.
    It failed in the marketplace, however, and all the hip, trendy, young alcoholics in Bourbon Country I know still favor Jamesons as their go-to distilled malted grain beverage of choice.

  2. “Feck off” is unparliamentary language, apparently.

  3. So is fecking comparable in family friendliness to freaking?

  4. Apparently!

  5. Which would make Parliament effectively, if not officially, feckless.

  6. I think this video deserves special mention for its feckity feckity feckin’

  7. Me (looking out window) to 80-year-old middle-class Irish mother-in-law: “Oh, Kate, here come Shane [her son] and the [three] kids!”
    80-year-old middle-class Irish mother-in-law (who had been hoping for a quiet afternoon): “Ah, feck!”

  8. Finally have a reason to post the Feck! scene from “River’s Edge”.

  9. I once found a discussion in the archives (now apparently vanished) on the topic “Irish has no word for fuck.” It seemed a bit inconclusive.

  10. @mollymooly [sometimes seen here, shurely?]-
    a bit worried now, that Geof says sex doesn’t involve laughing.

  11. mollymooly: Yes, that’s the one, but evidently I misremembered which blog it was on. I suppose it would be bad form to say anything more about it here.

  12. Geoff Pullum says gilding the lily. Does that mean I should? I was taught I’d certainly go to Hell if I did that.

  13. Crown, just to be clear: it’s not that you’d be damned if you gilded the lily, but rather that you’d be damned if you mangled a Shakespeare quote, right?

  14. Right.
    I can see that I only have to say “painted” if I’m quoting Shakespeare, not if I’m using the metaphor for my own purposes. On the other hand, who wants to deliberately look silly by mangling the Shakespeare? It’s not like I’m some kind of Shakespeare expert, I’ve never even seen King John. But even so, I’m not Geoff Pullum, it’s not as if I’m so erudite that I can afford to throw away points just for the sake of not being prescriptive. Really, it just means that I avoid using the phrase altogether. I’m not going to say “paint the lily”, either, because then it’s like I’m trying to make a big prescriptive issue, which I’m not.

  15. Crown, I can see where you’re pinned: no matter how you play it, you are going to appear silly in someone’s eyes. Moreover, if you think about it too much, you may appear silly in your own eyes. It happens to me all the time. That’s why I never pronounce the word “culinary”.
    But I think that you’re stretching the meaning of “prescriptivism” a little when you apply it to matters of which perfectly grammatical stock phrases are allowed.

  16. I personally say “gild the lily” without shame; if Shakespeare wants to pluck me by the whiskers for it, let him, is my attitude.

  17. I’m the only one who gets plucked by the whiskers. I was told this as a young child and so now I think I’ll go to Hell if I say it wrong. It could easily have been “culinary”, but that’s a word that’s hard to avoid using at times, so I’m glad it wasn’t.
    Prescriptivists get upset about perfectly grammatical phrases, Ø. It’s one reason why other people get so annoyed.

  18. I meant that when your mother objected to “gild the lily” she didn’t (presumably) assert that it was ungrammatical.

  19. No, now I see what you meant. But it’s the same sort of thing, isn’t it? Saying that y is wrong because it was in the past always x; correctness according to seniority.

  20. Yes, I think it would be hard to distinguish the “you should say it that way because that’s how Shakespeare wrote it” peevers from the “you should say it that way because that’s how Strunk/White/my elementary school teacher said to say it” ones. Are there really people who peeve one way but not the other? Monopeevers, as it were?

  21. I see that iTunes now has a category “Books By Language”. I think you should quickly write some more books, this must be worth millions.

  22. There are books on iTunes? I don’t understand this modern world.

  23. iTunes is just a file distribution mechanism; it doesn’t care what the content of the file might be. iBooks are in the ePub format.

  24. I still can’t get used to MTV not being a music-video channel.

  25. I still can’t get used to the idea of music videos.

Speak Your Mind