Monro, His Expedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keys Regiment, originally published in London in 1637, is the story of Colonel Robert Monro and his adventures with a bunch of Scottish mercenaries in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Apart from its value to military historians, it provides fascinating glimpses of early modern Europe, including mention of
the city of Vlme [Ulm, on the Danube halfway between Munich and Strasbourg], which belonged to the Fuckers of Ausburg, that were made Earles by the Emperour, from Marchants having turn’d Souldiers, to serve his Emperiall Majestie.
Fucker => fugger famously turned up in Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (“I was gonna shoot the mother-fugger but you were in the way”), leading Tallulah Bankhead or Dorothy Parker to say on meeting him (or not): “So you’re the man who can’t spell fuck.”
But what’s really strange about this is that Monro–a well-educated, upper-class, Scots Calvinist–uses Fuckers without embarrassment in a book designed to sell into respectable circles, this despite an alternate transliteration of the family name–Fugger–being available and more common. Maybe Monro’s source wrote Fucker and it didn’t occur to Monro to modify it, or maybe people who read military treatises are used to worse.
I’m not going to get into fuck tonight, but I’d be prepared to bet my miserable Google earnings for August that fucker/fugger as a term for a dishonest and domineering business partner is–as the OED suggests–a gift from the Fugger family to its fellow humans, and that the word has, for example, nothing to do with Lithuanian basketball players or Brazilian arts festivals. The happy couple made its way across Germany and the Low Countries, so that Florio can inform us of the following in his odd 1598 Italian-English dictionary, Worlde of Wordes:
Fottitore, a iaper, a sarder, a swiver, a fucker, an occupier
Strangely enough, there seem to be no fuckers in the Romance languages, despite the stranglehold achieved by German mineowners turned bankers and commodity monopolists and speculators–Jakob “Rich” Fucker was the most notorious of these proto-Rockefellers–over southern European polities seeking finance for Old World wars and New World expansion.
Although their reputation and wealth was also based on a willingness to get involved in high-risk loans, the Lombards never became quite as hated as did the fuckers. The pawnbroker set up in 1614 by the Amsterdam authorities to mitigate the effects of usury, De Stadsbank van Lening, is still known with something approaching affection as the lommerd, although people would now refer to Lombard eggs (from Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen, published by Thomas van der Noot in Brussels in 1514) as zabaglione. Like fuck—For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge–and shepherd’s pie, Lombard has a false etymology: Loads Of Money But A Right Dickhead.
Whereas lombard is used by Londoners to refer to well-paid City workers, merchant banker (“You fucking merchant banker!”) is no more a market-related term of abuse than was, for example, Ravi Shankar or Iraqi tanker, although merchant bankers of this kind are are said to espouse the typical lombard belief that charity and other forms of relief begin at home.
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