originally published August 14, 2014

When I rolled this project over and booted it out of bed more than two and a half years ago, I had to decide where to place that bar of ethics beneath which my words would never limbo. I have never sold out to become a corporate shill (yes, my bubbly praise over Big Rock Brewery did set into motion a timeline that would have me trading prose for pay, though given how much I love the product I don’t consider that selling out).

I have never cheated in my writing duties, despite having a stash of practice articles tucked into a corner of my hard drive. I have never scribbled my daily kilograph after midnight because “it’s technically tomorrow.” Screw that – I have lived my life by the scrolls of TV Guide, which begins each new day promptly at 5:00am.

Also, apart from a few dalliances into more blue subject matter (the kids love that stuff), I have maintained a relatively smooth PG-13 flow (my article about ‘Fuck’ notwithstanding). Today will be no exception, despite the fact that my topic of choice today is Fucking.

With a population of 104 at last count, the village of Fucking, Austria probably sees more tourists per capita than any other place in Europe. The town was named after a 6th-century Bavarian nobleman named Focko. As the language of the region evolved, the spelling of the town varied: it was Vucchingen in 1070, Fukching in 1303, Fugkhing in 1532, and by the 1700’s it acquired its current spelling. The –ing suffix is an old Germanic denotation, meaning “belonging to” the root-word. So Fucking is “the place of Focko’s people.”

Okay, so the village has a goofy name to English-speakers (of which there are none among the populace). What’s the big deal? We all know about Intercourse, Pennsylvania, Twatt, Scotland, and Dildo, Newfoundland. There are numerous places sprinkled around this globe, custom-made for a Buzzfeed collection of chuckle-inducing photos. But this little village has existed for nearly 1500 years, completely unaware that both its name and the global culture would simultaneously evolve, culminating in an explosion of international wit like this:

It’s pronounced “fooking”, by the way; it would rhyme with “booking”. But that hasn’t stopped English-speaking tourists from swarming the town and snapping clever photos like the one above beside one of the four road signs that boast the village’s name. The phenomenon began during World War II, when British and American forces stationed in Salzburg began making day-trips to take photos next to the signs to amuse their friends back home. The locals found it amusing – they’d had no idea their home’s name was so risqué in another tongue.

Tourism increased after the war, all with the same purpose: livening up otherwise dull vacation slide shows. A tourist bus started rolling in from time to time. Despite this attention, the town opted not to capitalize on their name. They regularly have to inform tourists that no, there are no Fucking postcards and no Fucking snowglobes to buy. When one resident named Josef Winkler launched a website to pitch T-shirts depicting a local road sign (with the catchy slogan, “I like Fucking in Austria”), he was forced to shut it down. His neighbors were yelling at him in the streets. They’re a conservative bunch in rural Austria; not a lot of sense of humor rolling over those hills.

The above sign features a traffic request: it says “Please – Not So Fast!”, using a sketch of children to represent that kids play near those streets. For tourists, this is icing upon the pun-cake, and when snapping a selfie beside the sign isn’t enough, they steal it. This happens often. One night, all four town signs were swiped by chuckling chuckleheads, each one costing 300 Euros to replace. The village has considered changing its name, but that would be messing with a centuries-old tradition just to deter a few idiot tourists. The people of Fucking (known as Fuckingers, not Fuckers – I checked) are too proud for that.

Not that such a move would be unprecedented. Another town, also named in honor of good ol’ Focko, switched its name to Fugging in 1836, though the reason was never fully explained. One theory is that this town was closer to Vienna, and therefore suffered from more English tourists popping in just to giggle at the name. Whatever the reason, Fugging is Fugging, and if Fucking decides they want to switch up their name someday, they’ll have to come up with something else. Perhaps they could consider Frigging.

The current Fucking street signs are welded, rather than bolted, and mounted upon a cement base to deter theft. Stealing the local signs is literally the only crime this village ever reports. The locals pay taxes to defer the costs, though it seems to me that maybe yanking the signs in exchange for giant carved rocks might help keep the thefts down. Instead, residents sprung for closed-circuit TV cameras.

To be clear, the cameras are not there to catch the sign thieves as much as they’re there to deter the other crime that occurs in Fucking (though it never gets officially reported, since apprehending the perpetrators would be nearly impossible and highly unpleasant): the crime of Fucking-fucking. Apparently physically copulating beside a sign that indicates that one is in the process of doing so really gets the juices flowing in the crusty nether-bits of English-speaking tourists. Again, this is something for which the locals spend nary a giggle.

As with many of the weird stories I’ve culled from the Repository of Online Strangeness, it all comes back to beer. A German brewery was inspired by the town to create a microbrew called Fucking Hell – “Fucking” for the town and “Hell”, which is a German term for a pale lager. It took a year for the European Union’s OHIM trademarks agency to allow them to use the name.

I’m all for tradition and decorum and such, but come on. If your village’s name is Fucking, why not cash in on it? Open up the Fucking Bar, the Fucking Bed & Breakfast (or the Bed & Fucking Breakfast if you want to get cute), the General Fucking Store, the International House of Fucking Pancakes, and let tourists go crazy taking pictures. There is a legitimately unending stream of people who will make the trip just so they can pop the photos up on their Facebook pages to amuse their friends. Why be so proper about it? They have plenty of insane place names right across the border in Germany, and you don’t even have to translate those into another language to get the joke. Drop by Faulebutter (Putrid Butter), Fickmühlen (Fuck Mill), Katzenhirn (Cat Brain) or Warzen (Warts). The Germans don’t care – they invite their own hilarity.

Come on, Fucking. Either lighten up or change your name to something no one will laugh at.

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