OED appeals-give him one

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Jun 21 17:06:54 UTC 2002

In a message dated 6/21/02 12:03:52 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
mam at THEWORLD.COM writes:

>  ...the name of the main character in "Patience",
>  who is a caricature of Oscar Wilde?: Bunthorne.
>  Okay, I'll take a step backward here. I don't remember whether I have
>  checked the OED (which I'm away from right now) for "bun(s)" =
>  'buttocks' or "prick" (or similar words) = 'penis'. If both these are
>  attested in the period (1881:
>  http://www.nodanw.com/shows_p/patience.htm), I would call that strong
>  evidence that *somebody* was labeling the character 'participant in anal
>  intercourse'. That somebody needn't have been Gilbert; maybe someone
>  suggested the name and he was too innocent/highminded/unaware to catch
>  the implication. -- Or of course, the component meanings may not have
>  been (provably) in use at the time; or even if they were, it could have
>  been (unprovably) coincidence.

Several objections.

Patience was first performed in 1881 and Oscar Wilde was not publicly accused
of "sodomy" until the mid 1890's (his court trials were in 1895, and were the
result of a homosexual affair which did not begin until 1891.)

Who said Bunthorne was a caricature of Wilde?  The actor who first played
Bunthorne was made up to look like Wilde's colleague in the Aesthetic
Movement, John Ruskin, including Ruskin's characteristic shock of white hair.
 Contemporary opinion was that the character of Reginald Grosvenor
represented Wilde.

Wilde liked the play.  And of course the play did much to advertise the
Aesthetic Movement, which many in 1881 had thought to be a dying movement.

If you insist that "bunthorne" = buttocks + prick, then consider that the
origin of "Patience" was one of GIlbert's Bab Ballads entitled "The Rival
Curates".  Gilbert apparently decided that religion was too delicate a topic
for his satire, so he switched to poets (and Army officers).  If Gilbert were
trying to slip in something about anal intercourse,  churchmen were a much
more obvious target than poets.

      From the vicarage down in the plain
      Came a cry of extraordinary pain
           Goodness gracious!
           Has Father Ignatius
      Forgotten the Bishop's piles again?

Actually any all-male lifestyle group (including Heavy Dragoons) gets accused
of mass homosexuality:

      The juniors up at Yale get no tail
      The juniors up at Yale get no tail
            To alleviate their yen
            They go out with Harvard men
      The juniors up at Yale get no tail

      The sophomores up at Yale get no tail
      The sophomores up at Yale get no tail
            So half the freshman class
            Has to take it up the ass
      The sophomores up at Yale get no tail
                   (same tume as for "The Great Historical Bum")

Above are quoted from memory----I can't remember what was sung about the

             - Jim Landau

P.S. The title line can be construed as "he's earned an appeal to Oxford, so
give him one".

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