“If you don’t stop jigacting I’ll give you a fong up the arse!”
These are words I heard many’s the time in my youth from the mouths of exasperated parents or uncles or aunts. Sometimes fong would be replaced by root.
“I’ll give you a root up the arse if you don’t cop on.”
Until I did a bit of research lately, I thought fong was confined to my hometown of Ennis, but according to slang.ie the term has been heard in Limerick and Cork as well. I had also always assumed that fong was a recently coined term — a kind of play or parody on martial art words like kung-fu or taekwondo — that somehow spread around Ennis, but if the term is so widespread in Ireland it suggests an older origin. I cannot, however, find any information on fong’s etymology beyond a tantalising mention in the 2001 film, A Knight’s Tale. Produced, directed and written by Brian Helgeland, A Knight’s Tale is set in medieval England and, along with fictional characters, depicts historical figures like Edward the Black and Geoffrey Chaucer.
One of these characters, Watt, says to Chaucer, “I I will fong you until your insides are out, your outsides are in, your entrails will become your extrails, I will reek all the… un… pain. Lots of pain.” It is understood from the context of the dialog that fong means to kick and it is used another couple of times in the script. Could Helgeland have, in the course of his research, dug up an old medieval word — a word that is still in use in the south and west of Ireland? I’d love to believe so, but I’m not holding out too much hope: A Knight’s Tale has become notorious for historical inaccuracies and the use of modern slang like wow peppers the dialog. Were fong an example of the scriptwriter’s meticulous research and desire to inject linguistic accuracy into the film it would apparently find itself in scarce company.
My search for the origins of fong continues, as indeed does that for root, where it’s meaning is to kick. And, by the way, be careful about putting “root up the arse” into Google!!