an old dirty monosyllable from an odd source

Pafra & Scott Catledge scplc at GS.VERIO.NET
Fri May 21 01:12:48 UTC 1999

The Oxford Latin Dictionary, p. 472, gives "the female pudenda;"  Lewis &
Short,       p. 498, adds "also of animals" and gives as a transferred
meaning, "an unchaste woman" and adds that Cicero considered the word
obscene.  Right above "cunnus" L&S give cunnilingus but no English
translation--only citations.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 1999 4:20 PM
Subject: Re: an old dirty monosyllable from an odd source

>         The old monosyllables referring to certain body parts and
> fell into disrepute many centuries ago and until recent times rarely
> appeared in print, though they must have remained a staple of (some
> folk's) conversation.  This note points out an appearance of one of
> them, the one known to students of slang as The Monosyllable, in a
> schoolboy's dictionary of ca. 1900.
>         Many years ago I bought in a used book store the Handy Dictionary
> the Latin and English Languages, a 400 pp. (198 & 212 pp.)
> pocket-sized bilingual dictionary, obviously not a book for scholars,
> giving a few very brief equivalents of each word in the other
> language.  The book was published by David McKay, of Philadelphia,
> and is undated.  As will be noted, McKay was active at least into the
> 1960s, but the company was active as early as the beginning of this
> century, and the book was in print, though from F. A. Stokes of New
> York, as early as 1902, according to the United States Catalog.  It
> seems to have been to work of J. E. Wessely, (Ignatz Emanuel Wessely,
> 1841-1900) whose French-, German-, Italian-, and Spanish-English
> dictionaries were orignally published by Tauchnitz, of Leipzig and
> reprinted in England and the U. S.  He is not named on the
> title-page, though his other dictionaries are advertised on the
> facing page.
>         In any event, in the Latin-English half of the book we find the
> entry "cunnus, -i, m. cunt, strumpet."  The word "cunt" does not
> appear in the English-Latin half.  My grasp of Latin obscenities is
> not great.  The word "stercus" is defined as "dung, excrement,
> ordure".  If anyone has any other favorites, I will check them.  I
> have not seen Wessely's dictionaries of modern languages and so do
> not know whether they offer any words of similar appeal.
>         The library at NYU has a revision of this work, with S. C.
> Woodhouse's name on the title page.  Our copy was published by David
> McKay in 1962.  The word "cunnus" does not appear.
>         According to RHHDAS, "cunt" appeared in this physiological sense
> American sources in 1748, 1778, 1888 (in what seems to be a
> pornographic work), and 1919 (T. Dreiser's diaries, unpublished at
> the time).  It does not have it used in the U. S. in its rhetorical
> senses before 1916.  The OED finds it in c1800 (Burn's Merry Muses),
> 1888-94 (My Secret Life, not published), 1934 (Tropic of Cancer) and
> 1956 (Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies).  Both the latter would have been
> published in France.
> George A. Thompson

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