Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Naughty etymology

Today's lesson in word history comes from the Wordsworth Dictionary of Obscenity and Taboo:

BUGGER [..] Derived from the Latin Bulgarus, meaning "Bulgarian", this word was originally applied to a group of Bulgarian heretics who were falsely accused of sodomy in the Middle Ages.

CUNT [..] Until the Middle Ages, parts of the body and bodily functions were accepted as commonplace facts of life, and the names for them were used as freely as any other word. Any part of the body which was unusually large or small, or unusually coloured, or otherwise remarkable, was likely to provide a convenient nickname or surname for its owner. So it is that we find recorded women's names such as Gunoka Cuntles (1219) and Bele Wydecunthe (1328), and men's names such as Godwin Clawecuncte (1066), Simon Sitbithecunte (1167), John Fillecunt (1246) and Robert Clevecunt (1302). In the City of London there was, in 1230, a street called Gropecuntlane.

MERKIN. A pubic wig. These items stille exist, although they are not so much in demand as they were in previous centuries. They were especially popular when the usual treatment for venereal disease involved shaving off the pubic hair.

FLYING PASTY. Excrement wrapped in paper and thrown over a neighbour's wall. This expression, first recorded around 1790, has largely fallen into disuse along with the particular form of antisocial behavior associated with it.

HUSSY [..] The word is actually a corruption of housewife, and the change of meaning has presumably come about because of too much gossip about brazen young housewives.



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