Carnal knowledge  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Carnal knowledge is an archaic or legal euphemism for sexual intercourse. Carnal Knowledge is also the name of several books, films and television shows; a well-known example is the 1971 movie Carnal Knowledge starring Jack Nicholson.

The word "carnal" derives from latin carnalis, meaning "fleshly", and the word "knowledge" in this phrase derives from the "Biblical sense" of the word, which means "sexual relations".

In criminology, the phrase has had different meanings at different times and in different jurisdictions. While commonly a mere euphemism for sexual intercourse (not necessarily unlawful), different jurisdictions may define carnal knowledge as a specific sex act such as contact between a penis and vagina, some laws elaborating this to include even "slight penile penetration of female genitalia". The definition sometimes includes a set of sex acts that include anal sex and/or oral sex, while some statutes specifically exclude such acts. The law may specify that the sex act must result in ejaculation, and/or orgasm. Carnal knowledge has also sometimes meant sexual intercourse outside of marriage, and sometimes refers to sex with someone under the age of consent. The phrase is often found in this sense in modern legal usage, as the term "rape" implies lack of consent, and consent is considered irrelevant to such cases.

Carnal knowledge in folk etymology

The phrase has been the subject of a widespread folk etymology where the word fuck is said to be an acronym of "For Use of Carnal Knowledge", "For Undue Carnal Knowledge", "Fort Unknown Carnal Knowledge", "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" (used as a title for a Van Halen album), "Full Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", "Found Under Carnal Knowledge", "File Under Carnal Knowledge", "Felonious Use of Carnal Knowledge", "Felonious Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", "Federally Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" or "Forced Unlawful Carnal Knowledge". Jesse Sheidlower, in his 1999 book "The F-Word", says that these (false) etymologies only began to appear in the 1960s, whereas the word itself is much older.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Carnal knowledge" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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