The Flirtatious F

There was a felicity in the flow of the first four words.

Mansfield Park Jane Austen

The letter F is a relatively new addition to the alphabet and only entered the language when the Romans decided they needed a letter to differentiate the sound of a soft and hard V around 200 BC. In Modern English the delicately pronounced F denotes all things festive; initializing words like fun, flirt, fresh, free will, fond, feast, folksy, friendly, flirtatious, flashy, fine, and festoon.

Shakespeare was particularly fond of this letter's alliterative qualities and often used it to convey a sense of urgency as in; Fly, father, fly; for all your friends are fledfrom Henry VI.   And when he observed in the Merry Wives of Windsor that fairies use flowers for their charactery, he paved the way for the letter F to become the banner for the gay lifestyle-- flaming, flamboyant, fairy, fruity, fabulous, frolic, fellah, fag, fellatio, feminine, fashionable, fecund, fancy, fetish and fanny.

When the F teams up with the letter L, the resulting phoneme is associated with the flashy flapping of a bird's wings as in flippant, flighty, flowing, flushed, flowery, flee, flap, and fly, and when grouped with the letter R, words take on a decidedly frenzied quality as in frantic, frazzled, freaky, free, frenetic, frivolous, frolic, fresh, and frothy.

People whose first names begin with an F tend to be faithful and friendly, as borne out by the traditional meaning of the names Felicia and Felicity (happiness), Fidel (faithful), Forbes (prosperous), Frank (a free man), Fred, Fritz & Frieda (peaceful), Fremont (freedom mountain), and Fulbright (very light).

With the letter F’s flippant overtones, it’s not surprising that it doesn’t feature on any of the success lists of politics, medicine, money or the arts.