When Central European News was launched I spent some time sending stories into the void before our small agency finally hit global recognition thanks to Fucking, an Austrian village just north of Salzburg, and a godsend to subs everywhere.
Locals were for some reason surprised to find US servicemen had been stealing their street signs, and were puzzled as to why. As an English news agency targeting a tabloid market, we wasted no time in selling the Fucking story.
It was the first story in a chain that over the years has spawned many more. There was Fucking beer, and then complaints about Fucking tourists, especially the rowdy Fucking Brit type.
People took Fucking pictures in the nude alongside the surviving street signs that had not been bolted down by baffled bürgermeisters who argued long into the night about whether to change the Fucking name.
But residents of the most punned village in the world, the Fuckers, have finally had enough. Time has been called on the crudest name in all of toponymy. From next year, there will be no more Fucking in Austria.
It was back in the sixth century that a Bavarian nobleman called Focko set up a settlement in this flat, unprepossessing part of Austria near the German border. Fucking, or ‘the place of Focko’s people’, was born.
For centuries, the villagers of this backwater lived in happy ignorance, unaware that they were a joke waiting for a global audience.
It was not until World War Two and the liberation of Austria by American troops, that the truth was revealed to residents. As we exclusively reported back in the 1990s, GIs were regularly spotted taking photos in front of the village’s sign. Couples reportedly took the name as a call to action and performed underneath. The sign was stolen so many times that it was eventually chained to the ground. Villagers did their best to dissuade the tourist hordes.
I went to the village where the locals turned out to be a largely miserable bunch. I remember one resident challenging my pronunciation. “Fooking,” he corrected me, angrily. “Like ‘Fookin’ Hell?’” I asked, Hell being another small town near the border. Now any chance of those two being twinned is well and truly over. The Cambridgeshire village of Over, coincidentally, showed a very Germanic sense of humour when it was suggested, by me, that it should twin with Fucking. That is, no sense of humour at all.
But now it is all over, the name change has been confirmed, and it is unclear what alternatives are on the table, only that the conservative members won the day and from next year the village will be known as Fugging.
Similar votes on a name change have taken place recently in neighbouring Austrian towns such as Wank am See and Petting, as well as Vomitville and Windpassing. And as if one Rottenegg was not enough, Austria has two.
The last time I covered the plans to change the name, the Austrian villagers dropped it after being told to lighten up by people in Wank in Switzerland.
Juergen Stoll who runs the Wank guest house said: “The people in Fucking should cash in on their fame.”
It is the end of an era, but maybe one that had its day. Just of late stories about the infamous Austrian village are almost more trouble than they’re worth. Sending out anything like it sends newspaper modesty algorithm filters into meltdown, spinning the story into the void and taking all the other stories with it.