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Topic: Should That Word Be There? WARNING! Explicit Language

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Subject: Should That Word Be There? WARNING! Explicit Language
Date Posted: 11/22/2008 11:46 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Inspired by some of the discussion on the What Are We Reading? thread.  I'm posting some terms that have been mentioned here before as seeming out of place in a historical, & their etymology.  Some of them might be surprising:P  Just an advance warning, some of these words are considered sexually explicit terms, and may offend some people.  If you find explicit language offensive, please don't read any further.  I don't want to offend or upset anyone, I just find etymology an extremely interesting topic, and since it comes up from time to time in the context of discussion of historicals, I though it would be an interesting topic here.  This isn't about having fun with profanity - it's about correct language use in literature.  I'm posting a few of the terms that seem to come up most often, and if anyone can think of any, or if you run across any  you're unsure about, post them & I'll look them up & post the entymology for you.  Oh... and they don't have to be about sex:P

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Here we go:

 

 

climax
1589, from L.L. climax (gen. climacis), from Gk. klimax "propositions rising in effectiveness," lit. "ladder," from base of klinein "to slope," from PIE base *klei- "to lean" (see lean (v.)). The rhetorical meaning evolved in Eng. through "series of steps by which a goal is achieved," to "escalating steps," to (1789) "high point," a usage credited by the OED "to popular ignorance." The verb is 1835, from the noun. The meaning "orgasm" is first recorded 1918, apparently coined by birth-control pioneer Marie Stopes, as a more accessible word than orgasm.

cock (n1.)
O.E. cocc, O.Fr. coq, O.N. kokkr, all of echoic origin. O.E. cocc was a nickname for "one who strutted like a cock," thus a common term in the Middle Ages for a pert boy, used of scullions, apprentices, servants, etc. A common personal name till c.1500, it was affixed to Christian names as a pet diminutive, cf. Wilcox, Hitchcock, etc. Slang sense of "penis" is attested since 1618 (but cf. pillicock "penis," from c.1300). Cock-teaser is from 1891. Cock-sucker is used curiously for aggressively obnoxious men; the ancients would have understood the difference between passive and active roles; Catullus, writing of his boss, employs the useful L. insult irrumator, which means "someone who forces others to give him oral sex," hence "one who treats people with contempt." Cocky "arrogantly pert" (1768) originally meant "lecherous" (16c.); modern sense of "vain" is 18c. A cocker spaniel (1823) was trained to start woodcocks. Cock-and-bull is first recorded 1621, perhaps an allusion to Aesop's fables, with their incredible talking animals, or to a particular story, now forgotten. Fr. has parallel expression coq-à-l'âne.

cunt
"female intercrural foramen," or, as some 18c. writers refer to it, "the monosyllable," M.E. cunte "female genitalia," akin to O.N. kunta, from P.Gmc. *kunton, of uncertain origin. Some suggest a link with L. cuneus "wedge," others to PIE base *geu- "hollow place," still others to PIE *gwen-, root of queen and Gk. gyne "woman." The form is similar to L. cunnus "female pudenda," which is likewise of disputed origin, perhaps lit. "gash, slit," from PIE *sker- "to cut," or lit. "sheath," from PIE *kut-no-, from base *(s)keu- "to conceal, hide." First known reference in Eng. is said to be c.1230 Oxford or London street name Gropecuntlane, presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Avoided in public speech since 15c.; considered obscene since 17c. Du. cognate de kont means "a bottom, an arse." Du. also has attractive poetic slang ways of expressing this part, such as liefdesgrot, lit. "cave of love," and vleesroos "rose of flesh." Alternate form cunny is attested from c.1720 but is certainly much earlier and forced a change in the pronunciation of coney (q.v.), but it was good for a pun while coney was still the common word for "rabbit": "A pox upon your Christian cockatrices! They cry, like poulterers' wives, 'No money, no coney.' " [Massinger, 1622]

puss (2)
"the face," 1890, slang, from Ir. pus "lip, mouth."

pussy (1)
"cat," 1726, dim. of puss (1), also used of a rabbit (1715). As a term of endearment for a girl or woman, from 1583 (also used of effeminate men). Pussy willow is from 1869, on notion of "soft and furry;" pussyfoot (v.) is from 1903, originally the nickname of stealthy Oklahoma prohibition agent W.E. Johnson (1862-1945).
pussy (2)
slang for "cunt," 1879, but probably older; perhaps from O.N. puss "pocket, pouch" (cf. Low Ger. puse "vulva"), but perhaps instead from the cat word (see pussy (1)) on notion of "soft, warm, furry thing;" cf. Fr. le chat, which also has a double meaning, feline and genital. Earlier uses are difficult to distinguish from pussy (1), e.g.:

"The word pussie is now used of a woman" [Philip Stubbes, "The Anatomie of Abuses," 1583]

But the use of pussy as a term of endearment argues against the vaginal sense being generally known before late 19c., e.g.:

" 'What do you think, pussy?' said her father to Eva." [Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," 1852]

Pussy-whipped first attested 1956.

fuck  -  A difficult word to trace, in part because it was taboo to the editors of the original OED when the "F" volume was compiled, 1893-97. Written form only attested from early 16c. OED 2nd edition cites 1503, in the form fukkit; earliest appearance of current spelling is 1535 -- "Bischops ... may fuck thair fill and be vnmaryit" [Sir David Lyndesay, "Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaits"], but presumably it is a much more ancient word than that, simply one that wasn't likely to be written in the kind of texts that have survived from O.E. and M.E. Buck cites proper name John le Fucker from 1278. The word apparently is hinted at in a scurrilous 15c. poem, titled "Flen flyys," written in bastard L. and M.E. The relevant line reads:

Non sunt in celi
quia fuccant uuiuys of heli

"They [the monks] are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of Ely." Fuccant is pseudo-L., and in the original it is written in cipher. The earliest examples of the word otherwise are from Scottish, which suggests a Scandinavian origin, perhaps from a word akin to Norw. dial. fukka "copulate," or Swedish dial. focka "copulate, strike, push," and fock "penis." Another theory traces it to M.E. fkye, fike "move restlessly, fidget," which also meant "dally, flirt," and probably is from a general North Sea Gmc. word, cf. M.Du. fokken, Ger. ficken "fuck," earlier "make quick movements to and fro, flick," still earlier "itch, scratch;" the vulgar sense attested from 16c. This would parallel in sense the usual M.E. slang term for "have sexual intercourse," swive, from O.E. swifan "to move lightly over, sweep" (see swivel). Chronology and phonology rule out Shipley's attempt to derive it from M.E. firk "to press hard, beat." As a noun, it dates from 1680. French foutre and Italian fottere look like the Eng. word but are unrelated, derived rather from L. futuere, which is perhaps from PIE base *bhau(t)- "knock, strike off," extended via a figurative use "from the sexual application of violent action" [Shipley; cf. the sexual slang use of bang, etc.]. Popular and Internet derivations from acronyms (and the "pluck yew" fable) are merely ingenious trifling. The O.E. word was hæman, from ham "dwelling, home," with a sense of "take home, co-habit." Fuck was outlawed in print in England (by the Obscene Publications Act, 1857) and the U.S. (by the Comstock Act, 1873). The word may have been shunned in print, but it continued in conversation, especially among soldiers during WWI.

"It became so common that an effective way for the soldier to express this emotion was to omit this word. Thus if a sergeant said, 'Get your ----ing rifles!' it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said 'Get your rifles!' there was an immediate implication of urgency and danger." [John Brophy, "Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918," pub. 1930]

The legal barriers broke down in the 20th century, with the "Ulysses" decision (U.S., 1933) and "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (U.S., 1959; U.K., 1960). Johnson excluded the word, and fuck wasn't in a single English language dictionary from 1795 to 1965. "The Penguin Dictionary" broke the taboo in the latter year. Houghton Mifflin followed, in 1969, with "The American Heritage Dictionary," but it also published a "Clean Green" edition without the word, to assure itself access to the lucrative public high school market. The abbreviation F (or eff) probably began as euphemistic, but by 1943 it was being used as a cuss word, too. In 1948, the publishers of "The Naked and the Dead" persuaded Norman Mailer to use the euphemism fug instead. When Mailer later was introduced to Dorothy Parker, she greeted him with, "So you're the man who can't spell 'fuck' " [The quip sometimes is attributed to Tallulah Bankhead]. Hemingway used muck in "For whom the Bell Tolls" (1940). The major breakthrough in publication was James Jones' "From Here to Eternity" (1950), with 50 fucks (down from 258 in the original manuscript). Egyptian legal agreements from the 23rd Dynasty (749-21 B.C.E.) frequently include the phrase, "If you do not obey this decree, may a donkey copulate with you!" [Reinhold Aman, "Maledicta," Summer 1977]. Intensive form mother-fucker suggested from 1928; motherfucking is from 1933. Fuck-all "nothing" first recorded 1960. Verbal phrase fuck up "to ruin, spoil, destroy" first attested c.1916. A widespread group of Slavic words (cf. Pol. pierdolić) can mean both "fornicate" and "make a mistake." Flying fuck originally meant "have sex on horseback" and is first attested c.1800 in broadside ballad "New Feats of Horsemanship." For the unkillable urban legend that this word is an acronym of some sort (a fiction traceable on the Internet to 1995 but probably predating that) see here, and also here.

orgasm (n.)
1684, from Fr. orgasme, from Gk. orgasmos "excitement, swelling," from organ "be in heat, become ripe for," lit. "to swell, be excited," related to orge "impulse, excitement, anger," from PIE base *wrog- "to burgeon, swell with strength" (cf. Skt. urja "a nourishment, sap, vigor," O.Ir. ferc, ferg "anger"). The verb is attested from 1973, originally and usually in ref. to a woman's sexual climax. Orgasmic is attested from 1935.

 

If you can think of any other words & slang terms you'd like to know the origin & first recorded usage of, post away.



Last Edited on: 12/4/08 6:32 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: For those doing research on this delightful subject
Date Posted: 11/22/2008 5:03 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2008
Posts: 9
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A free pdf download: Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue circa 1800. 

I also have a book in my collection called; The Lover's Tongue-A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex by Mark Morton.  It will answer any question you have (and much more!)--plus being an extremely enjoyable read...I devoured it in one night.

Have fun!

LM

Date Posted: 11/25/2008 8:19 AM ET
Member Since: 10/19/2007
Posts: 1,028
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Some of these words have taken me completely out of the story when reading an historical romance.  But then people have told me that they're old words and not just current or modern slang.  It's amazing they date as far back as they do and yet are still used today.

Date Posted: 11/25/2008 9:21 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Just goes to show you.  A dirty word never goes out of style:P

 

Here are some more...

 

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boob
"breast," 1929, U.S. slang, probably from much older term boobie (late 17c.), related to 17c. bubby, perhaps ult. from L. puppa, lit. "little girl," hence, in child-talk, "breast" (cf. O.Fr. pope, popel "breast," Ger. dial. Bubbi, etc.).

bollocks
"testicles," 1744, also, in British slang, "nonsense," see bollix.

clap (n.)
"gonorrhea," 1587, of unknown origin, perhaps from M.E. claper, from O.Fr. clapoire, originally "rabbit burrow" but given a slang extension to "brothel." Originally also a v., "to infect with clap."

clitoris
1615, coined in Mod.L., from Gk. kleitoris, a diminutive, but the exact sense is uncertain. Probably from Gk. kleiein "to sheathe," also "to shut," in reference to its being covered by the labia minora. The related noun form kleis has a second meaning of "a key, a latch or hook (to close a door)." Wooden pegs were the original keys; a connection also revealed in L. clovis "nail" and claudere "to shut" (see close (v.)). Some medical sources give a supposed Gk. verb kleitoriazein "to touch or titillate lasciviously, to tickle," lit. "to be inclined (toward pleasure)" (cf. Ger. slang der Kitzler "clitoris," lit. "the tickler"), related to Gk. kleitys, a variant of klitys "side of a hill," related to klinein "to slope," from the same root as climax. But many sources take kleitoris literally as Gk. "little hill." The It. anatomist Mateo Renaldo Colombo (1516-1559), professor at Padua, claimed to have discovered it (De re anatomica, 1559, p. 243). He called it amor Veneris, vel dulcedo "the love or sweetness of Venus." It had been known to women since much earlier, of course. Slang abbreviation clit first attested 1960s.

cum (come)
(v. and n.) seems to be a modern (by 1973) variant of the sexual sense of come that originated in pornographic writing, perhaps first in the noun sense. This "experience sexual orgasm" slang meaning of come (perhaps originally come off) is attested from 1650, in "Walking In A Meadowe Greene," in a folio of "loose songs" collected by Bishop Percy.

They lay soe close together, they made me much to wonder;
I knew not which was wether, until I saw her under.
Then off he came, and blusht for shame soe soon that he had endit;
Yet still she lies, and to him cryes, "one more and none can mend it."

As a noun meaning "semen or other product of orgasm" it is on record from the 1920s. The sexual cum seems to have no connection with L. cum, the preposition meaning "with, together with," which is occasionally used in English in local names of combined parishes or benifices (e.g. Chorlton-cum-Hardy), in popular Latin phrases (e.g. cum laude), or as a combining word to indicate a dual nature or function (e.g. slumber party-cum-bloodbath).

diddle
"to cheat, swindle," 1806, from dial. duddle, diddle "to totter" (1632). Meaning "waste time" is recorded from 1825. Meaning "to have sex with" is from 1879; that of "to masturbate" (especially of women) is from 1950s. More or less unrelated meanings that have gathered around a suggestive sound.

hard (adj.)
O.E. heard "solid, firm, not soft," also "severe, rigorous, cruel," from P.Gmc. *kharthus (cf. Du. hard, O.N. harðr "hard," O.H.G. harto "extremely, very," Goth. hardus "hard"), from PIE *kratus "power, strength" (cf. Gk. kratos "strength," kratys "strong"). The adv. sense was also present in O.E. Hard of hearing preserves obsolete M.E. sense of "having difficulty in doing something." Hard liquor is 1879, Amer.Eng. (hard cider is from 1789), and this probably led to hard drugs (1955). Hard facts is from 1887; hard news is from 1938. Hard-headed is first attested 1519; hard-hearted is c.1205. Hard-boiled "severe, tough" is from 1886; hard-core "tough" is 1951, extension to pornography is from 1970s. Hard up (1612) is originally nautical, of steering (slang sense of "short of money" is from 1821), as is hard and fast (1867), of a ship on shore. Hardball in the figurative sense of "tough, uncompromising" is from 1973; hard-on "penile erection" first recorded 1893; hard times "period of poverty" is from 1705. Hard hat was originally (1935) "derby;" meaning "safety helmet" is from 1953; used figuratively for "construction worker" from 1970. Hard-wired is 1969, from computing. Hardscrabble "barren place" is first recorded 1804, in journals of Lewis and Clark.

quim
slang for "vulva, vagina," 1613, of unknown origin.

shag
"copulate with," 1788, probably from obs. verb shag (c.1380) "to shake, waggle," which probably is connected to shake (cf. shake, shake it in U.S. blues slang from 1920s, ostensibly with ref. to dancing).

"And þe boot, amydde þe water, was shaggid." [Wyclif]

Also the name of a dance popular in U.S. 1930s and '40s. The baseball verb meaning "to catch" (fly balls) is attested from 1913, of uncertain origin or connection to other senses of the word.

screw
"to twist (something) like a screw," 1599, from screw (n.). Slang meaning "to copulate" dates from at least 1725, on the notion of driving a screw into something. Meaning "a prostitute" also is attested from 1725. Slang meaning "an act of copulation" (n.) is recorded from 1929. First recorded 1949 in exclamations as a euphemism.

twat
1656, of unknown origin. A general term of abuse since 1920s.

The T-word occupies a special niche in literary history, however, thanks to a horrible mistake by Robert Browning, who included it in 'Pippa Passes' (1841) without knowing its true meaning. 'The owls and bats,/Cowls and twats,/Monks and nuns,/In a cloister's moods.' Poor Robert! He had been misled into thinking the word meant 'hat' by its appearance in 'Vanity of Vanities,' a poem of 1660, containing the treacherous lines: 'They'd talk't of his having a Cardinalls Hat,/They'd send him as soon an Old Nuns Twat.' (There is a lesson here about not using words unless one is very sure of their meaning.) [Hugh Rawson, "Wicked Words," 1989]

Date Posted: 11/25/2008 2:42 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2006
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Very interesting.  Thanks for posting!

Date Posted: 12/2/2008 2:25 PM ET
Member Since: 3/1/2006
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That's very useful information. I've often wondered when reading historicals if using the F word and others was correct. Seems that it was!

 

Natalie

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 1:25 PM ET
Member Since: 3/26/2008
Posts: 36
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bollocks "testicles," 1744, also, in British slang, "nonsense," see bollix.

 

I have to say, this is one of my favorite terms that can be used to mean anything.... it's used around our house since we've got three little guys and seems to do less 'damage' if they accidently repeat it as a curse word... not that we let them! but they are kids that hear everything... you know what mean. And not that we say testicles a lot, but hey they are boys. They just better not ever figure out these other words!

Thanks for posting, it's been interesting to see how some language stays the same!

Date Posted: 12/3/2008 10:35 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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My favorite is shag.  Yeah, because of Austin Powers:P  Why else?  And it just sounds funny to me.  I had no idea it was that old though.  I was shocked.  If I'd seen that in a historical I probably would have had a fit:P

Date Posted: 12/4/2008 12:11 AM ET
Member Since: 6/25/2008
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Ha, I encountered "quim" in a historical not long ago, and I'd never even heard the word before (or since), and it ripped me right out of the story just for its strangeness.  Just started a romance set in the 12th century, and though I'm no etymology buff my nitpicky brain is already on the lookout for words or phrases that seem out of place.