I’m sure I’m not the first to notice this, but I’ve noticed that more and more I keep coming across the word fu. As in kung fu, or what is certainly one of the best names for a blog in the whole of the blogosphere, Geek Fu, or as one of my students put it recently, “Google Fu”.
The OED has no entry for fu, though fou has two meanings: as a noun, a bushel, and amusingly, as an adjective, drunk. Both usages are obsolete.
The Urban Dictionary entry for fu is fairly predictable: short for f*** you, and variations on that theme. And thrown in for good measure, as a misspelling of phá»Ÿ.
I submit that fu should be added to the OED, like -stan. As in New Yorkistan. Definition of fu: indicating proficiency in the area indicated, or possession of the characteristic specified by the previous word.
Anyone can contribute words to the OED. Indeed, as anyone who’s read The Professor and the Madman knows, the OED wouldn’t have happened otherwise. (It was the original Wikipedia, let’s not forget that!) Of course, I don’t think you get credit for contributing a word, only for being the first to actually use a word.
No OED entry or etymology for “fu” would be complete without a tip of the ten-gallon hat to the inimitable Joe Bob Briggs, drive-in movie critic of Grapevine, Texas. Joe Bob’s classic syndicated reviews of cult and b-movies have been seen in papers everywhere, and always climaxed with a short summary of the high points of the movie — including number of dead bodies, number of bare breasts, “vomit meter”, and a rundown of interesting “fu” from fight scenes. For example (_The Evilmaker_): “Eight dead bodies. Eleven breasts. Husband-chopping. One suicide attempt. Supernatural headache attacks. Invisible face-slapper. Two catfights, with hair-pulling. Close-up barfing. Skeleton-in-the-mirror attack. Ax to the face. Strangulation. Girlfriend-slicing. Gratuitous group hug. Tarot-card Fu. Slamming-door Fu. Strobe Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for…[specific actors/scenes here]. Three stars. Joe Bob says check it out.”
I submit that Luke has identified the first use of this particular sense of “fu” in English, as in a particular fighting skill involving everyday objects.
Ironing board fu, hockey stick fu, yada.
Now we have a sense that doesn’t involve fighting skills, only proficiency in general. I have not idea where that came from, but I expect it’s most common in the tech sector, maybe the web archive has answers. (Still too early to use “Fu” as a header on your resume, stick with skillz.) I expect that this sense of Fu was probably used online before it was used in print, which may present challenges for the traditional OED etymology.