Wordcraft Community Home Page
The Vulgar Tongue
February 27, 2007, 08:59wordcrafter
The Vulgar Tongue
Controversy has erupted in the world of children's books. Reports the New York Times (site here
requires subscription, but free copy is here
The word "scrotum" does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children's literature, for that matter. Yet there it is on the first page of "The Higher Power of Lucky," by Susan Patron, this year's winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children's literature.
Per that controversy one of our members, who is a children's librarian, has suggested a theme of scrotal words. We'll broaden that theme a bit to naughty words, beginning with a scrotal one.raphe
– the seamlike union of two halves of a body organ (as the tongue)
. Greek rhaphe
Wei fitted an arrow to his bow, shot and wounded Ts'ao Ts'ao just in the raphe of his lip. He turned and fell.
– Guanzhong Luo, C. H. Brewitt-Taylor, Robert E. Hegel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms
The raphe is … a generally neglected part of male anatomy.
– Lisa Sussman, Sex in the City
February 28, 2007, 07:07wordcrafter
Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
provides many of our words this week. Gross often has a witty way with his definitions, such as this one:rantallion
– one whose scrotum is so relaxed as to be longer than his penis, i.e. whose shot pouch is longer than the barrel of his piece. (See here
I find no useful quotation for this word. But one otherwise-forgettable website claims to be a "support group" for rantallions. How jocular
March 01, 2007, 11:46wordcrafter
Grose records that that a constable was sometimes called a thingstable
, which he calls "a ludicrous affectation of delicacy in avoiding the pronunciation of the first syllable in the title of that officer, which in sound has some similarity to an indecent monosyllable." The monosyllable
or venerable monosyllable
is, of course, the "pudendum muliebre".
As you might expect, Grosse gives numerous synonyms, often with an interesting definition or explanation. I quote:c**t
– the chonnos
of the Greek, and the cunnus
of the Latin dictionaries; a nasty name for a nasty thing: un con miege
– Ham Carvel, a jealous old doctor, being in bed with his wife, dreamed that the Devil gave him a ring, which, so long as he had it on his finger, would prevent his being made a cuckold: waking he found he had got his finger the Lord knows where.commodity
– the private parts of a modest woman, and the public parts of a prostituteEve's custom-house
– where Adam made his first entryfruitful vine
– has flowers every month, and bears fruit in nine monthshat
– because frequently feltware
– a woman's ware; her commodity
Other synonyms include bite; black joke; bottomless pit; cock alley; doodle sack; dumb glutton; man trap; Miss Laycock; money; mother of all saints; notch; tuzzy-muzzy;
March 01, 2007, 17:34Caterwauller
This reminds me of a recurring joke in the movie Grumpy Old Men
where one of the characters is using all sorts of euphemisms for sex:
"gonna take the skin boat to tuna town"
"gonna play hide the salami"
there were several others, which I now forget.
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
March 02, 2007, 13:27wordcrafter
– having the penis erect (typically applied to statues) (also:
lascivious; salacious; obscene; lewd)
Fruits and vegetables advertise themselves with varying degrees of discretion. The red tomato makes no secret of its ripeness, but ready green beans dangle impotently under their leaves, and even the zucchini at its most ithyphallic has a way of greenly lurking, like a crocodile temporarily disguised as a log.
– Wall Street Journal, Aug. 14, 1998
Moreover, the Boy President's ithyphallic behavior continued in the White House as was made luridly clear with the 1998 national debut of Monica Lewinsky.
– Washington Times, Oct. 10, 2003
March 03, 2007, 18:00wordcrafter
Today's illustrative quotation is from Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), whom Time Magazine named one of the 20 most influential leaders of the last century. On a list that includes Churchill, Gandhi, FDR, Lenin, Pope John Paul II, Hitler, Thatcher, M.L. King, Walesa, Mao, etc., she is the only one who is little-known today.
Sanger insisted that each woman is "the absolute mistress of her own body". "Woman must have her freedom—the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she shall be a mother and how many children she will have." In an era when time "contraceptive information was so suppressed that it was a criminal offense to send it through the mail," Sanger fought a "decades-long battle to legalize birth control" (a term she coined). Her effects reached even farther, for when contraception finally became a fully-protected right in the U.S. (1965 for married women; 1972 for all), it was on a the legal rationale – the right to privacy – that later became the basis for the right to abortion. Beyond this, "[Sanger's] crusade to legalize birth control spurred the movement for women's liberation." (Gloria Steinham)
With that introduction, we turn to today's word.karezza
– coitus reservatus
; the male refrains from (not merely delays) ejaculation
[coined 1896 by Alice Bunker Stockham, from Italian for 'caress'. Dr. Stockham claimed that the bady requires two weeks to a month to recover from orgasm, and that frustration results if one 'drains the basin' before it has been replenished.]. . .
Thousands of well-intentioned people advocate continence as the one permissible means of birth control. Few of these people agree with one another, however, as to what continence is. Some have in mind absolute continence. Others urge continence for periods varying from a few weeks to many years. Still others are thinking of Karezza,
or male continence, as it is sometimes called.. . .
[1.] Enforced continence is injurious; often highly so. Can anyone knowing the facts ask that we recommend continence as a birth-control measure? Few who advocate the doctrine of absolute continence live up to it strictly.. . .
[2.] Such continence as is involved in dependence upon the so-called “safe period” is not practical. It simply does not work. Women are learning from experience that the “safe period” is anything but safe for all women. . . .
[3.] In the same category as the “safe period,” as a method of birth control, must be placed so-called “ male continence” “Karezza
”. Those who regard it as a method of family limitation are likely to find themselves disappointed.. . .
Summing it all up, then, continence may meet the needs of a few natures, but it does not meet the needs of the masses. To enforce continence upon those whose natures do not demand it, is an injustice, the cruelty and the danger of which has been underestimated rather than exaggerated.
– Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race
, in ch. 9
(1920) (ellipses omitted)
March 03, 2007, 19:33Kalleh
Very interesting, Wordcrafter. I consider myself to be somewhat of a feminist, but I must admit that I've not heard of her before. Her accomplishments seem phenomenal. You have inspired me to read more about her.
March 04, 2007, 01:23Richard English
Dr. Stockham claimed that the body requires two weeks to a month to recover from orgasm, and that frustration results if one 'drains the basin' before it has been replenished.]
Personally I would suggest that frustration would result from the opposite action (or inaction).
Are there any male doctors who have published similar hypotheses?
March 04, 2007, 18:15wordcrafter
– aggressive, excitable, touchy
Why, you ask, is this familiar word in our 'vulgar tongue' theme? Because it traces to an old word for farting.
Old English fisting,
meaning "stink," led to four words for "a fart" or "to fart": fise, fice,
(all pronounced with a long i
) and fizzle
. Grose teaches that fizzle
means "an escape backward" (one can see how today's meaning is related), and that a fice
is "a small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs."
One can understand that a farting-word could be used as a general insult (just as the other f-ing word is used), particularly when smell is involved. A small, mangy, smelly, no-account dog came to be called a fysting cur
, later shorted to a fice
or a feist
. And still later, feist
led to the word feisty
to describe the personality of such a dog.
March 04, 2007, 19:13neveu
My Swedish mother uses the word fice (but pronounces it to rhyme with peace) for the verb "to fart" and ficer for the noun. Does anyone know if this is still common in Swedish today? My mother's Swedish tends to be archaic.
March 06, 2007, 07:22wordcrafter
– masturbation [from Latin manus
"hand" + stuprare
Grose gives several terms for the same thing, including:
– to mount a corporal and four (Grose: " the thumb is the corporal, the four fingers the privates.")
– to box the Jesuit (Grose: "a crime, it is said, much practised by the reverend fathers of that society.")
A further synonym begins this week's theme: eponyms, or words from personal names.onanism
– masturbation (also:
coitus interruptus; an interesting pairing of meanings!)
in the Bible, Genesis, ch. 38. Onan's name is almost always used in the first sense, although in the bible he acted in the second sense. The Lord deemed his onanism a capital offense.]
And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.