I mention in another thread that when I read The Catcher In The Rye when it came out in 1951, it was most notable to me for being the first time I had seen the work “fuck” in print. And now I wonder: what was the earliest use of that word in a mainstream American novel?
Does it have to be American? Lady Chatterley’s Lover came out in 1928.
That’s my quick answer–1947, Norman Mailer. I’ll look further.
No offense, Sam, but Mailer’s use of fug instead of fuck in Naked and the Dead is a textbook case of fuck not being use in a mainstream American novel.
The first use of fuck in real literature (not bawdy ballads) is James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922. Scottish poet Robert Burns has some posthumous bawdy poems with fuck in them published in 1911, but I think that might have been a private publication.
If you’re going back that far, then you have to consider Victorian and Edwardian erotica. There is scads and scads of them and all the four letter words of the day are in common supply. That’s certainly not mainstream, but many of these works were well known and survive to this day.
Well, I assume that’s what the bawdy ballads cited in the OED were. But I also assume that those were privately published and not mainstream. If they were mainstream, then they would have been banned, just like Ulysses was banned in the U.S. and U.K. until the 1930s for obscenity (the 1922 edition was published in France).
I still think Ulysses is the best answer to the OP, unless he really wants an American novel.
It must be “fuck”? If “swyve” is acceptable, you can go back much farther.
I’ll be swyven. Never knew there was such a word.
Ifsf’t bo fbsmjfs fybnqmf pg b ufyucppl dbtf dpodfsojoh uif xpse ‘fuccant’.
J hjwf zpv Flen Flyys (d.1475).
Had to be some Canadian.