Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Seven, Eight - Lay Them Straight


In one of those periodic attempts to switch from creative to analytical mode, I was leafing through my Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang with my mind on scan when I noticed an amazing number of quaint vulgarities for the...ahem...female pudend - as this edition delicately puts it.

Since word choice for this ...um...area is one of those crotchety questions unveiled quite frequently in any discussion of romantica, I thought a few examples picked at random (minding our o's, p's and q's) from our colloquial past might be amusing, surprising, and/or puzzling.

1. omnibus - from circa 1840. Also a term for harlot. Rather obvious.

2. oracle - low, 18-20th century, as in hairy oracle. The primary meaning of the term refers to "time piece," probably from "hour." Hmmm.

3. orange - Restoration period. Nell Gwyn and the orange sellers perhaps?

4. orchard - low, 19-20th c., obsolete. Ex. cherry orchard?

5. patch - 19-20th century. Several possibilities for the derivation of this one. One possibility includes the folk-lore that little girls come from the parsley bed or patch, little boys from the nettle bed.

6. pouter - from diddly-pout, meaning same, 19-20th c.

7. puddle - Also 19-20th c. In Standard English from the 16th c. meant a muddle, a mess. Don't know whether this might refer to cause or to effect.

8. quaint - In 14-15th c. queinte or queynte. In the 15-16th c. also quaynt. Considered a vulgarism or dialect, even then. Authorities suggest Chaucer may have combined Old French coing with Middle English cunte, or he may have been influenced by the Old French adjective coint, meaning neat, dainty, pleasant. Much earnest, learned and nervous discussion about this one.

The portrait is by Klimt, naturally.

26 comments:

Dave said...

Do you remember in the movie RUTHLESS PEOPLE, the Danny DeVito character uses the words "poke in the petunias" which is reminiscent of a few old phrases.

Jaye Wells said...

I love Klimt, thanks for posting that.

My favorite is oracle. Come closer and she will tell you her secrets.

MissWrite said...

Love that movie Dave.

Bernita, these are great, although I'll never be able to eat another orange with a straight face again.

December Quinn said...

I have to get that book! Right NOW!!

Thanks for the post. I knew about the queynte thing, but not the others.

Scott said...

I heard some interesting terms for masturbating on Entourage the other night. Turtle refers to it as "having a good tug."

AE Rought said...

Thanks, Bernita! Taking notes...

Flood said...

Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster always uses language that sends me to need a book like this.

Worth the work though, as it makes me weep with laughter.

Bernita said...

Oh, Dave,that expression immediately brings to mind "a pig in a poke!"

Nice extrapolation, Jaye!

Does make it a bit harder to be civil to a seville,does it not, Tami.

I left out the one with variants that was close to your name, December, because I thought it might be be taken as deliberate rudeness.

Scott!!!

Had no idea these would be so...er... well-received, Savannah.

Bernita said...

And we thought all delicate euphemisms were the invention of modern day romantic novelists, Flood.
Must re-read my set of Wodehouse one of these days.

kmfrontain said...

Please, please post more of them, Bernita.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Oooh, this is some fascinating stuff!!

I like "puddle." :-)

Bernita said...

Pick a letter, Karen!

Some of them strike as rather wierd on first glance, Sonja, and then when one thinks a bit...

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I love the word etymology...Those meanings are a fountain of imformation...I file the best ones in the back of my brain, for instant recollection when I met people who think they know it all...LOL!

Bernita said...

Some words contain whole worlds within a few letters, don't they Bonnie?
And some of these are so funny.

December Quinn said...

I assume you're talking about "quim", Bernita? Doesn't bother me! (I appreciate the sentiment, though.)

Bernita said...

Quite an old word, December.
I like the suggested origin from the Celtic "cwm," meaning a cleft or a valley - much more poetic, especially understanding how valuable a safe and fertile valley would be to early residents.

kmfrontain said...

Pick a letter? Hmm. You did P's and Q's today. Do continue on to the R's. :-)

bookfraud said...

and to think of all the vulgarisms we use today. orange? orchard? quaint? how quaint. and to think i was going to call it "...."

cyn said...

=O haha! i love it!

i think "fanny" is current
english slang for the good
stuff. that's way brits snicker
at "fanny pack", in case of
emergencies, hmm? hee!

klimt is my favorite artist.
i went to vienna for him.
"the kiss" is huge. it takes
up an entire wall. i <3 klimt!

Bernita said...

"R's" it is, Karen.

A long and noble history, Bookfraud.

"Fanny" isn't new, Cyn,1860 or earlier, even though on this side of the pond it usually means one's itty-bitty behind.

anna said...

Just found this blog.
Howling here! I think I might prefer oracle - in fact I think somebody might have referred to me once as an oracle. who knew!

kmfrontain said...

Oh, oh! Arses tomorrow! I mean Rses.

Dennie McDonald said...

lol - I have a book dedicated to such terms ...

Oh and hey *waves* ... long time no talk - sorry - I have been so behind in everything!

Bernita said...

That one is rather nice, isn't it, Anna?

BTW, people, Anna is an excellent poet.

I sometimes think the best cure for any writer's block is to go read poetry(like Anna's) - the images and ideas have a way of refreshing the imagination.

You don't miss much, do you, Karen!

Always glad to see you, Dennie...you've had a really complicated life lately.

Dave said...

Brit slang alert

Fanny in British slang means vagina and not buttocks (as in the USA).

So a Fanny Pack in Britain is rather rude and does not mean a nylon pouch worn around the waist.

Bernita said...

That's right, Dave, from circa 1860...and still lively.