The History of Cuss Words
Salon’s featured excerpt of Melissa Mohr’s Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing, provides an in depth look at commonly used swear words of the 18th and 19th centuries.
According to Mohr, a cuss word is defined by its impact:
Along with grammatical flexibility, this figurativeness is the hallmark of a fully obscene word, a word used not as a literal descriptor but to shock, offend, or otherwise carry emotion — a swearword.
Some of the popular curse words and phrases from Mohr’s excerpt include the following:
- “Arse-opener,” “arse-wedge,” “beard-splitter,” ”chinkstopper,” and ”plugtail” were used to describe the act of ”splitting the woman’s anatomy” or “plugging a hole.”
- “Bloody” was one of the most popular swear words of the time, but it’s hard to pinpoint its exact origins. It’s assumed that it’s derived from “the adjective bloody as in ‘covered in blood’ or, as the OED proposes, it referred to the habits of aristocratic rabble-rousers at the end of the 17th century, who styled themselves ‘bloods.’”
- “Breasts,” “bubbies,” and ”diddeys,” were common words for boobs; ”bushelbubby” specifically referred to a woman with large breasts. “Tit” didn’t catch on until the early 20th century as a variation of ”teat” which was used in the Middle Ages.
- “Bugger” referred to a person giving anal penetration.
- “Burning shame” was a term that meant “a lighted candle stuck into the parts of a woman, certainly not intended by nature for a candlestick.”
- “Burnt-Arsed whore” was used during the Renaissance and literally meant “infected with venereal disease.”
- “Fartleberry” is the early version of the modern “dingleberry,” which refers to the fecal matter that hangs from hairs around the butt-hole.
- “Gamahuche” meant “mouth on genitals” for both cunnilingus and fellatio.
- “Godemiche” was a word imported from France meaning “dildo.”
- “Larking” could have meant blow job or the act of “having sex with the man’s penis between the woman’s breasts.”
- “Lobcock” referred to a large, “dull, inanimate” penis and “pego” was a popular word for dick.
- “Monosyllable,” “quim,” “pussy,” “madge,” and “a woman’s commodity” were all names for vagina.
- “Nackle-ass” was an adjective that meant “poor, mean, inferior, paltry: applied as a term of contempt to both persons and things indifferently.”
- “Rantallion” referred to a scrotum that sags lower than the shaft of a man’s penis.
- Slang for sexual intercourse included: “roger,” “screw,” and “have your greens.”
- “Tip the velvet” originally meant “french kiss,” but after a hundred years passed, it also referred to the act of preforming cunnilingus.
- “To bagpipe” meant to give a blow job.
FJP: More bloody fun: Nine Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Swear Words. You should also check out, FUCK — the documentary about “fuck’s” origins and uses. If you don’t — it will surely be a “burning shame.” Figuratively, of course. (Let’s hope.) — Krissy
Image: Screenshot from The Fantastic Mr. Fox.