This article is about the English language word. For other uses, see Fuck (disambiguation).

Fuck is an obscene English-language word,[1] which refers to the act of sexual intercourse and is also commonly used as an intensifier or to denote disdain. Its origin is obscure but is usually considered to be first attested to around 1475, although it may be considerably older. In modern usage, the term fuck and its derivatives (such as fucker and fucking) can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an interjection, or an adverb. There are many common phrases that employ the word, as well as compounds that incorporate it, such as motherfucker, fuckwit and fucknut.


The word is considered obscene, but is common in many informal and familiar situations.

It is unclear whether the word has always been considered vulgar, or, if not, when it first came to be used to describe (often in an extremely angry, hostile or belligerent manner) unpleasant circumstances or people in an intentionally offensive way, such as in the term motherfucker, one of its more common usages in some parts of the English-speaking world. Some English-speaking countries censor it on television and radio. Andrea Millwood Hargrave's 2000 study of the attitudes of the British public found that fuck was considered the third most severe profanity and its derivative motherfucker second. Cunt was considered the most severe.[2]

Nevertheless, the word has become increasingly less vulgar and more publicly acceptable, an example of the "dysphemism treadmill", wherein former vulgarities become inoffensive and commonplace.[3][4] According to linguist Pamela Hobbs, "notwithstanding its increasing public use, enduring cultural models that inform our beliefs about the nature of sexuality and sexual acts preserve its status as a vile utterance that continues to inspire moral outrage." Hobbs considers users rather than usage of the word and sub-divides users into 'non-users', for whom the word "evokes the core sexual meanings and associated sexual imagery that motivate the taboo", and 'users' for whom "metaphorical uses of the word fuck no more evoke images of sexual intercourse than a ten-year-old’s ‘My mom’ll kill me if she finds out’ evokes images of murder," so that the "criteria of taboo are missing."[5]

Because of its increasing usage in the public forum, in 2005 the word was included for the first time as one of three vulgarities in The Canadian Press's Canadian Press Caps and Spelling guide. Journalists were advised to refrain from censoring the word but use it sparingly and only when its inclusion was essential to the story.[6]


The Oxford English Dictionary states that the ultimate etymology is uncertain, but that the word is "probably cognate" with a number of native Germanic words with meanings involving striking, rubbing, and having sex or is derivative of the Old French word that meant "to fuck".[7]

First use in sexual sense

In 2015, Dr. Paul Booth claimed to have found "(possibly) the earliest known use of the word 'fuck' that clearly has a sexual connotation": in English court records of 1310–11, a man local to Chester is referred to as "Roger Fuckebythenavele", probably a nickname. "Either this refers to an inexperienced copulator, referring to someone trying to have sex with the navel, or it's a rather extravagant explanation for a dimwit, someone so stupid they think this that is the way to have sex," says Booth.[8] An earlier name, that of John le Fucker recorded in 1278, has been the subject of debate, but is thought by many philologists to have had some separate and non-sexual origin.

Otherwise, the usually accepted first known occurrence of the word is found in code in a poem in a mixture of Latin and English composed in the 15th century.[9] The poem, which satirizes the Carmelite friars of Cambridge, England, takes its title, "Flen flyys", from the first words of its opening line, Flen, flyys, and freris ("Fleas, flies, and friars"). The line that contains fuck reads Non sunt in coeli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk. Deciphering the phrase "gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk", here by replacing each letter by the previous letter in alphabetical order, as the English alphabet was then, yields the macaronic non sunt in coeli, quia fvccant vvivys of heli, which translated means, "They are not in heaven, because they fuck wives of Ely".[10] The phrase was probably encoded because it accused monks of breaking their vows of celibacy;[9] it is uncertain to what extent the word fuck was considered acceptable at the time. The stem of fvccant is an English word used as Latin: English medieval Latin has many examples of writers using English words when they did not know the Latin word: "workmannus" is an example. In the Middle English of this poem, the term wife was still used generically for "woman".

Older etymology

Via Germanic

The word has probable cognates in other Germanic languages, such as German ficken (to fuck); Dutch fokken (to breed, to beget); dialectal Norwegian fukka (to copulate), and dialectal Swedish focka (to strike, to copulate) and fock (penis).[7] This points to a possible etymology where Common Germanic fuk– comes from an Indo-European root meaning "to strike", cognate with non-Germanic words such as Latin pugno "I fight" or pugnus "fist".[7] By application of Grimm's law, this hypothetical root has the form *pug–.

Yet another possible etymology is from the Old High German word pfluog, meaning "to plow, as in a field." This is supported in part by a book by Carl Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido, in which he discusses the "primitive play of words" and the phallic representation of the plough, including its appearance on a vase found in an archaeological dig near Florence, Italy, which depicts six men with erect penises carrying a plow.

There is a theory that fuck is most likely derived from Flemish, German, or Dutch roots, and is probably not from Old English roots.[9]

Via Latin or Greek

There may be a kinship with the Latin futuere (futuo), a verb with almost exactly the same meaning as the English verb "to fuck". From fūtuere came French foutre, Catalan fotre, Italian fottere, Romanian futere, vulgar peninsular Spanish joder, Portuguese foder, and the obscure English equivalent to futter, coined by Richard Francis Burton. However, there is no clear past lineage or derivation for the Latin word. These roots, even if cognates, are not the original Indo-European word for to copulate, but Wayland Young argues that they derive from the Indo-European *bhu– or *bhug– ("be", "become"), or as causative "create" [see Young, 1964]. A possible intermediate might be a Latin 4th-declension verbal noun *fūtus, with possible meanings including "act of (pro)creating".

However, the connection to futuere has been disputedAnatoly Liberman calls it a "coincidence" and writes that it is not likely to have been borrowed from the Low German precursors to fuck.[11]

Greek phyō (φύω) has various meanings, including (of a man) "to beget", or (of a woman), "to give birth to".[12] Its perfect pephyka (πέφυκα) can be likened to "fuck" and its equivalents in other Germanic languages.[12]

False etymologies

One reason that the word fuck is so hard to trace etymologically is that it was used far more extensively in common speech than in easily traceable written forms. There are several urban-legend false etymologies postulating an acronymic origin for the word. None of these acronyms was ever recorded before the 1960s, according to the authoritative lexicographical work The F-Word, and thus are backronyms. In any event, the word fuck has been in use far too long for some of these supposed origins to be possible. Some of these urban legends are that the word fuck came from Irish law. If a couple were caught committing adultery, they would be punished "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge In the Nude," with "FUCKIN" written on the stocks above them to denote the crime. A similar variant on this theory involves the recording by church clerks of the crime of "Forbidden Use of Carnal Knowledge." Another theory is that of a royal permission. During the Black Death in the Middle Ages, towns were trying to control populations and their interactions. Since uncontaminated resources were scarce, supposedly many towns required permission to have children. Hence, the legend goes, that couples that were having children were required to first obtain royal permission (usually from a local magistrate or lord) and then place a sign somewhere visible from the road in their home that said "Fornicating Under Consent of King," which was later shortened to "FUCK." This story is hard to document, but has persisted in oral and literary traditions for many years; however, it has been demonstrated to be an urban legend.[13]

A different false etymology, first made popular on the radio show Car Talk, states that the phrase "fuck you" comes from the phrase "pluck yew" and relates the origins of fuck to the myth surrounding the V sign. This myth states that French archers at the Battle of Agincourt insulted the English troops' ability to shoot their weapons by waving their fingers in a V shape; after the English secured a landslide victory, they returned the gesture. The addition of the phrase "fuck you" to the myth came when it was claimed that the English yelled that they could still "pluck yew" (yew wood being the preferred material for longbows at the time), a phrase that evolved into the modern "fuck you".[9]


Fuck has a very flexible role in English grammar, including use as both a transitive and intransitive verb, and as an adjective, adverb, and noun.[14] It can also be used as an interjection and a grammatical ejaculation. Linguist Geoffrey Hughes found eight distinct usages for English curse words, and fuck can apply to each. For example, it fits in the "curse" sense ("fuck you!") as well as the "personal" sense ("You fucker"). Its vulgarity also contributes to its mostly figurative sense, though the word itself is used in its literal sense to refer to sexual intercourse, its most common usage is figurative- to indicate the speaker's strong sentiment and to offend or shock the listener.[15]

Early usage

William Dunbar's 1503 poem "Brash of Wowing" includes the lines: "Yit be his feiris he wald haue fukkit: / Ye brek my hairt, my bony ane" (ll. 13–14).

The oldest occurrence of the word in adjectival form (which implies use of the verb) in English comes from the margins of a 1528 manuscript copy of Cicero's De Officiis. A monk had scrawled in the margin notes, "fuckin Abbot". Whether the monk meant the word literally, to accuse this abbott of "questionable monastic morals," or whether he used it "as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay" is unclear.[16]

John Florio's 1598 Italian-English dictionary, A Worlde of Wordes, included the term, along with several now-archaic, but then-vulgar synonyms, in this definition:

Of these, "occupy" and "jape" still survive as verbs, though with less profane meanings, while "sard" was a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon verb seordan (or seorðan, ON serða), to copulate; and "swive" had derived from earlier swīfan, to revolve i.e. to swivel (compare modern-day "screw").

A 1790 poem by George Tucker has a father upset with his bookish son say "I'd not give [a fuck] for all you've read". Originally printed as "I'd not give ------ for all you've read", scholars agree that the words "a fuck" were removed, making the poem the first recorded instance of the now-common phrase "I don't give a fuck".[18]

Farmer and Henley's 1893 dictionary of slang notes both the adverbial and adjectival forms of fuck as similar to but "more violent" than bloody and indicating extreme insult, respectively.[15]

Rise of modern usage

Though it appeared in English lexicographer John Ash's 1775 A New and Complete Dictionary, listed as "low" and "vulgar," and appearing with several definitions,[19] fuck did not appear in any widely consulted dictionary of the English language from 1795 to 1965. Its first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary (along with the word cunt) was in 1972.[20]

The variant feck appeared in the English Dialect Dictionary, compiled by Joseph Wright in 1900.[21]

Modern usage

The modern usage and flexibility of fuck was established by the mid to late 19th century, and has been fairly stable since.[15] Most literally, to fuck is to copulate, but it is also used as a more general expletive or intensifier. Some instances of the word can be taken at face value, such as "Let's fuck," "I would fuck her/him," or "He/she fucks." Other uses are dysphemistic: The sexual connotation, usually connected to masturbation (in the case of "go fuck yourself" or "go fuck yourself in the ass"), is invoked to incite additional disgust, or express anger or outrage. For example, "Fuck that!", "Fuck no!", "Fuck off!", or "Fuck you!" By itself, fuck is usually used as an exclamation, indicating surprise, pain, fear, disgust, disappointment, anger, or a sense of extreme elation. In this usage, there is no connection to the sexual meaning of the word implied, and is used purely for its "strength" as a vulgarity. Additionally, other uses are similarly vacuous; fuck (or variations such as the fuck or fucking) could be removed and leave a sentence of identical syntactical meaning. For example, rap music often uses the word fucking as an emphatic adjective ("I'm the fucking man") for the word's rhythmic properties. The word fuck can also be used to express surprise and/or disbelief towards a given statement or a question, most often in the form of "does/is it fuck", however this usage is more common in British English.

Insertion of the trochaic word fucking can also be used as an exercise for diagnosing the cadence of an English-language word. This is the use of fuck or more specifically fucking as an infix, or more properly, a tmesis (see expletive infixation). For example, the word in-fucking-credible sounds acceptable to the English ear, and is in fairly common use, while incred-fucking-ible would sound very clumsy (though, depending on the context, this might be perceived as a humorous improvisation of the word). Abso-fucking-lutely and motherfucking are also common uses of fuck as an affix. While neither dysphemistic nor connected to the sexual connotations of the word, even the vacuous usages are considered offensive and gratuitous, and censored in some media; for example, "None of your fucking business!" or "Shut the fuck up!" A common insult is "Get fucked", which in a non-offensive context would translate as "get stuffed." The word is one of the few that has legitimate colloquial usage as a verb, adverb, adjective, command, conjunction, exclamatory, noun and pronoun.

In another usage, the word fucker is used as a term of endearment rather than antipathy. This usage is not uncommon; to say "you're one smart fucker" is often a term of affection. However, because of its ambiguity and vulgarity, the word fucker in reference to another person can easily be misinterpreted. Though fuck can serve as a noun, the fucker form is used in a context that refers to an individual. Normally in these cases, if fuck is used instead of fucker, the sentence refers to the sexual ability of the subject (for example, "He's a great fuck!"), although confusingly in a minority of occasions the word "fuck" can hold exactly the same meaning as fucker (e.g., when preceded by an adjective: "You're a pretty clever fuck.").

Related to fucker is the word motherfucker. Sometimes used as an extreme insult—an accusation of incest—this term is also occasionally used to connote respectful awe. For example, "He's a mean motherfucker" does not mean "He's abusive, filthy and copulates with his mother," but "He's someone to be afraid of." In this context, some people (particularly young men) might even describe themselves as "motherfuckers." The word fuck is used in many forms of music, with motherfucker being used as a rhythmic filler in hip hop, urban music and some rock genres; examples include The Crystal Method's song "Name of the Game" and Turbonegro's "Don't Say Motherfucker Motherfucker". Perhaps motherfucker's rhythmic compatibility is due to its quadrisyllabic pronunciation, making it a natural fit for popular music that is written in 4/4 metre. Also contributing to its use in aggressive, high-energy music is the fact that it includes a hard "k" sound in its third syllable, making it easy to exclaim, particularly when pronounced as "mutha fucka". Despite these rhythmic qualities, motherfucker has not become as accepted in English usage as its root fuck.

The word was used to induce stress during military recruit training[22] and became a dominant element of an English military dialect identified by Tom Wolfe as Army creole.[23] A succinct example of the flexibility of the word is its use as almost every word in a sentence. In his book, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, Paul Fussell, literary historian and professor emeritus of English literature at the University of Pennsylvania, recounted

Once, on a misty Scottish airfield, an airman was changing the magneto on the engine of a Wellington bomber. Suddenly his wrench slipped and he flung it on the grass and snarled, "Fuck! The fucking fucker's fucked." The bystanders were all quite well aware that he had stripped a bolt and skinned his knuckles.[24]

In the United States military air services, the nicknames applied to some aircraft included the word fucker as the letter "F" in their slang-acronyms. For instance, the B-52 stratofortress strategic bomber was often referred to as the BUFF, or Big Ugly Fat Fucker. Similarly, the A-7 Corsair was often referred to as the SLUF, or Short Little Ugly Fucker. In polite conversation, these acronyms usually substituted the word "Fellow" for fucker.

The phrase "Fuck you, you fucking fuck!" is a memorable quote from the movie Blue Velvet from 1986. Because of its vulgar status, the word fuck is usually restricted in mass media and barred from titles in the United States. In 2002, when the controversial French film Baise-moi (2000) was released in the US, its title was changed to Rape Me, rather than the literal Fuck Me. Similarly, the Swedish film Fucking Åmål was retitled Show Me Love.

Online forums and public blogs may censor the word by use of automatic filters. For example, Fark.com replaces the word fuck with fark. Others replace the word with asterisks (****) to censor it (and other profanities) entirely. To avert these filters, many online posters will use the word fvck. This particular alteration is in common usage at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where students use it in reference to the inscriptions on MIT's neoclassical buildings, in which the letter U is replaced by V. A typical coinage in this idiom would be "I'm fvcked by the Institvte." (Other less common spellings to cheat a censor are "fück" and "phuck".) Another way to bypass a word filter is to use leet: fuck becomes F(_) c|< or |=(_)Ck, for example.

"WTF?" spray painted on the rear of a Sherman tank left over from U.S. military shelling practice on Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico

The word fuck is a component of many acronyms, some of which—like SNAFU and FUBAR—date as far back as World War II. Many more recent coinages, such as the shorthand "WTF?" for "what the fuck?," "STFU" for "shut the fuck up," or "FML" for "fuck my life," have been widely extant on the Internet, and may count as examples of internet memes. Many acronyms will also have an "F" or "MF" added to increase emphasis; for example, "OMG" ("oh my God") becomes "OMFG" ("oh my fucking God"). Abbreviated versions of the word do not tend to be considered offensive. Although the word is proclaimed vulgar, several comedians rely on fuck for comedic routines. George Carlin created several literary works based upon the word. Other comedians who use or have used the word consistently in their routines include Billy Connolly, Denis Leary, Lewis Black, Andrew Dice Clay, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Sam Kinison.

Examples of more recent usage

In 1928, English writer D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover gained notoriety for its frequent use of the words fuck, fucked, and fucking.[25]

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger featured the use of fuck you in print. First published in the United States in 1951, the novel remains controversial to this day due in part to its use of the word, standing at number 13 for the most banned books from 1990 to 2000 according to the American Library Association.[26]

The first documented use of the word fuck on live British television (and probably on any television system) has been attributed to theatre critic Kenneth Tynan in 1965, though it has been claimed Irish playwright Brendan Behan used the word on Panorama in 1956 (although no one could understand him because he was drunk) or the man who painted the railings on Stranmillis Embankment alongside the river Lagan in Belfast, who in 1959 told Ulster TV's teatime magazine programme, Roundabout, that his job was "fucking boring".[27] Controversy also ensued in 1976 when Today host Bill Grundy interviewed the Sex Pistols, after guitarist Steve Jones called Grundy a "dirty fucker" and a "fucking rotter"[28] (see EMI and the Grundy incident).

John Cleese during his eulogy in the memorial service for Graham Chapman was proud to declare himself to be the first person to use the word "fuck" on such occasion.[29]

The first time the word "fuck" was used in American cinema was in the 1970 movie M*A*S*H spoken by Painless during the football match at the end of the film.

Use in politics

Fuck is not widely used in politics, and any use by notable politicians tends to produce controversy. Some events of this nature include:

Use in marketing

In April 1997, clothing retailer French Connection began branding their clothes "fcuk" (usually written in lowercase). Stating it was an acronym for "French Connection United Kingdom", its similarity to the word "fuck" caused controversy.[54] French Connection produced a range of T-shirts with messages such as "fcuk this", "hot as fcuk", "mile high fcuk", "fcuk me", etc.

In 2009, the European Union's OHIM trade marks agency disallowed a German brewery to market a beer called "Fucking Hell". They sued, and on 26 March 2010 got permission to market the beer. They claim that it is actually named after the Austrian village of Fucking and the German term for light beer, hell (which is simply the word for "light in colour").[55]

Band names

The word "fuck" has been used in a number of band names, generally based on common compounds. Although most of these bands are in the aggressive, non-mainstream genres of punk and metal, others fall into the categories of more accessible forms of electronic rock and pop.[56]

Holy fuck

This section is about the English-language term. For other uses, see Holy fuck (disambiguation).

"Holy fuck" is an example of 'liturgical profanity' used interjectionally to express anger, contempt, disgust, or amazement. Usually vulgar.[57] Noted by academics[58][59] and used in literature,[60][61][62] deriving its power from a combination of the sacred, holy, and the profane, fuck. An exclamation, similar to "holy shit", but more offensive, also used informally for sex within a religious context.[63]

Machine mistranslation

The word fuck occurs sometimes in Chinese/English bilingual public notices in China as a machine translation of the Simplified Chinese character (干), which replaced the three Traditional Chinese characters 干 meaning "a pole", 幹 meaning "to do" or "to work" (and having a secondary slang meaning of "to fuck"), and 乾 meaning "dried". (Traditional Chinese 乾 can also be pronounced qian, which is a Taoist stem word meaning "sky".) Some examples are "spread to fuck the fruit" for "loose dried fruit", "fuck to adjust the area" for "dry seasonings section", and "fuck the certain price of goods" for "dry foods price counter". The fault occurred in some versions of commonly used Chinese to English machine translators, for example Jinshan (金山 = "Gold Mountain") by Kingsoft.[64]


The term "F-bomb" usually refers to the unanticipated use of the word "fuck" in a particularly inappropriate setting, such as public media. The term was first reported in a newspaper (Newsday) in 1988 when Hall of Fame baseball catcher Gary Carter used it.[65] In 2012 it was listed, for the first time, in the mainstream Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.[66]


On August 19, 1969 the acid rock band Jefferson Airplane played their song "We Can Be Together" uncensored on The Dick Cavett Show, including the 1960s countercultural slogan "Up against the wall, motherfucker!" (which was also the name of an anarchist group at that time). This was the first appearance of the word on U.S. television.[67] The word "motherfucker" was also censored on the song's printed lyrics that came with the Volunteers album as "fred."[68]

Films edited for broadcast use matching euphemisms so that lip synching will not be thrown off. In the film The Big Lebowski, John Goodman's character repeatedly yells, "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass" while trashing a car. It was censored on television as "This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps."[69]

Freedom of expression

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the public display of fuck is protected under the First and Fourteenth amendments and cannot be made a criminal offense. In 1968, Paul Robert Cohen had been convicted of "disturbing the peace" for wearing a jacket with "fuck the draft" on it (in reference to conscription in the Vietnam War). The conviction was upheld by the court of appeals and overturned by the supreme court. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).

Common alternatives

Main article: Minced oath

In conversation or writing, reference to or use of the word fuck may be replaced by any of many alternative words or phrases, including "the F-word" or "the F-bomb" (a play on "A-bomb" and "H-bomb"), or simply, eff or f (as in "What the eff" or "You effing fool", "What the F" or "You f'ing fool"). Also, there are many commonly used substitutes, such as flipping, frigging, fricking, freaking, feck, fudge, flaming or any of a number of similar-sounding nonsense words. In print, there are alternatives such as, "F***", "F––k", etc.; or a string of non-alphanumeric characters, for example, "@$#*%!" and similar (especially favored in comic books).

A replacement word used mainly on the Internet is "fsck", derived from the name of the Unix file system checking utility.[70] In Battlestar Galactica the bowdlerized form 'frack' (spelt 'f-r-a-k' in the reimagined 2003 version) was used as a substitute for fuck. The word was sometimes jokingly used as a curse by fans.[71] Similarly, the word "frell" is used as a substitute on the TV show Farscape, and Dr. Elliot Reid (played by Sarah Chalke) has frequently used the substitute "frick" on the TV show Scrubs.

The phrase feck is a common substitute for fuck in Ireland, where it is considered to be less rude, though still not acceptable in many contexts. It has come into occasional use across the UK in the last 15 years as a result of its frequent use in the Father Ted comedy series. Although the word is considered to be equally as rude as fuck, its appearance in Father Ted and in a Magner's Cider advert suggest the opposite.

See also


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  7. 1 2 3 "Fuck." OED Online. Draft Revision, June 2008. Oxford University Press. Accessed 26 August 2008 OED.com http://public.oed.com/the-oed-today/recent-updates-to-the-oed/previous-updates/march-2008-update/
  8. Booth, Paul (2015). "An early fourteenth-century use of the F-word in Cheshire, 1310–11". Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. 164: 99–102.
    Pearl, Mike (13 September 2015). "We Interviewed the Historian Who Just Found the Oldest Use of the Word 'Fuck'". Vice. Retrieved 24 October 2015. Paul Booth: 'The significance is the occurrence of (possibly) the earliest known use of the word "fuck" that clearly has a sexual connotation.'
    Wordsworth, Dot (26 September 2015). "The remarkable discovery of Roger Fuckebythenavele: An exciting discovery in the records of the County Court of Chester – but it's probably not the oldest F-word". The Spectator. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
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  12. 1 2 Liddell, Henry George, & Scott, Robert. Greek-English Lexikon; 3rd ed. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1857; p. 1638a, b.
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  14. Metacafe
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  20. "March 2008 update". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
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  24. Fussell P: Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1990
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  30. Deane, Philip. I Should Have Died. pp. 113–114 ISBN 0-241-89038-1. ISBN 978-0-241-89038-7 ASIN: B000XYDADM
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