My favorite trick question

A trick question that went around on my playground (and has been showing up in books of childrens’ folklore since the 1970s), is not so much a trick question as a regular riddle. It just happens to be slightly risque:

What word starts with an F and ends in U C K?

Answer: “firetruck”

No way to tell how far this goes back, but it appears in print as early as the 60s. I’d guess that it became popular in the 50s; usage of (and jokes revolving around) the infamous f word took off a lot around the late 40s/early 50s.

Like so many other things on this site, the growth of the word probably has roots in the military Using that word as an adjective, noun, etc wasn’t new in the 1940s, either, but a lot of the ways we use it now became much more common and widespread due to use by soldiers in World War 2, who were often noted for being very creative with that particular word. World War 1 soldiers were no slouches with it, either, but the big hit word of that war was “bloody,” which had previously been used mainly by the lower classes but seeped its way into all walks of society after the war. Having had the door opened for them by the previous generation, it was World War 2 that helped the f bomb come into its own. In fact, you might say that they didn’t just liberate Europe, they also liberated the F word. They truly were the greatest generation!

But I digress. Anyway, there’s no way to know how old the firetruck joke was by the time is started appearing in print, but I’d say it goes at least back to the 1950s, and possibly as far back as the firetruck itself. See the book to the left of the text above for more on the history of swearing.

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  1. Anonymous

    The version I knew was a rhyme:

    My favorite word, it starts with F and ends with U-C-K
    My favorite word is firetruck, what did you think I'd say?

  2. Rob

    Look up the history and lore of a legendary fraternal group called the Turtles. Their "initiation" consists largely of posing such questions to the initiate, which have rather obvious bawdy responses, but which require clean answers to pass. Other such questions include such classics as "What is it that a man does standing up, a lady does sitting down, and a dog does with one leg lifted?" The response, of course, is "Shake hands." Or "What do you find on a pool table and also in a man's trousers?" "Pockets." etc.

    There is also a variety of folksong which pulls a similar twist; I call it the "Stolen rhyme" where one line will set up an obvious dirty rhyming line, but will then change abruptly. Legendary singer Oscar Brand performs one titled "A Clean Song" which runs in part:
    There once was a sailor who looked through a glass,
    And spied a young mermaid with scales on her-

    Island where seagulls flew over their nests
    She combed the long hair that hung over her –
    Shoulders etc.

    I've heard a version on a collection of rugby songs, featuring a young lady who walked like a duck, and a barroom entertainer with a ballad about a young lady walking along the seafront, looking for seaweed to hang on her something-or-other….

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  4. Mad Dog Gatecrasher

    NJ late 1980's

    What's a four letter word that you can call a woman that ends in -UNT?

    What is a word that starts with N and ends with R that you don't want to call a black guy?
    (Neighbor) OK that one isn't so great

  5. Danielle

    Now here’s the thing about saying firetruck
    It starts with an F and ends with an UCK
    And everytime you’re down or out of luck
    All you have to say is FIRETRUCK!

    (NJ, early 2010s)


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