“Where the bee sucks, there suck I” ~ said Ariel who was at last free to sing of his oneness and interconnectedness with nature in Shakespeare’s, The Tempest.
In its exploration of the consequences of the imposition of power, the play is chaotic, contradictory, magical, distressing but ultimately hopeful. And there’s the rub because the language, as so often with Shakespeare, is vague but it is also weighty with connotations.
Bees thrusting their long tongues into the sexual organs of flowers in order to gather nectar for their sustenance and to assist with plant reproduction have long been recognised for their sexual imputations. Less well known is the connection between the bee’s foraging and one of the most prolific modern-day swear words.
The text of The Tempest or The Tempeft, illustrated here made use of the soft s which was written as an f until mid-18th Century. Yes, yes, the crossbar was missing but it still has the appearance of an f and many were the japes we had as schoolboys transposing Ss for Fs and vice verfa. To be absolutely clear, the meaning of the word, suck, was as obvious to us then as it has always been to pre-pubescent boys barely post extrication from Mother’s or Wet-nurse’s breast. However, in consideration of the alternative word created by substituting the soft s of suck for an f, whilst we were aware of the meaning, not in any biological sense, but rather in the way of a locker room joke which we thought we should understand but didn’t and sniggered anyway.
All we really knew of the word was in the context of being asked rather forcefully to depart and never darken the door again.
In my case it took a further seven years to become acquainted with its more interesting interpretation.
So, there we have it, Shakespeare invented the F word. Which is hardly unbelievable in this parallel universe where fake news, fake fact and fake fakery exist harmoniously within multiple simultaneous hallucinations of mirages of illusory parallel quasi-dopplebiscuits propagated in the fertiliser of the most prolifically delusional and conceited orange wig wearing, crocodile smile bearing weirdo ever to get smacked up on his own ego.