"Nautch house"/"notch house"

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIO.EDU
Sun Feb 8 18:06:26 UTC 2004

Since I assume these terms aren't generally spelled or found in print, the
change in spelling would seem to logically follow a change in
pronunciation, as Dennis said, i.e., to reflect the gradual merger in AmEng
of 'short o' =spelled 'o' and 'open o' =spelled 'au'.  It's the same
conflation seen in an old Dennis the Menace cartoon, where the family is at
a Christmas tree farm and (the merging) Dennis asks, "Do you have any
naughty pine?"
Thus lexical 'confusion' may have followed the respelling of a generally
oral usage to fit American English.  Even if two different meanings were
originally in use, lexical conflation appears to have followed the phonetic
conflation.  Possible?

At 08:51 AM 2/8/2004 +0000, you wrote:
>Like Jonathan Lighter, I have found citations for both nautch and notch
>with the definition of brothel. In the case of the former this can be
>nautch, nautch house or nautch joint. In the case of the latter, it is
>invariably in combination, again with house or joint. While the chronology
>of these cites - all 20C - does indeed suggest some form of
>conflation/confusion, I should add that in UK usage notch, for vagina, has
>existed since the early 17C; I have cites for 1613, 1656, 1660 and
>onwards. However it never appears in a brothel combination prior to 20C.
>Nor do there appear to be UK examples thereof. Likewise, such combs. as
>notch girl and notch moll, both prostitutes, are post-1900 and only US. My
>own feeling would be that nautch, with its roots in the stereotyped exotic
>and by extension erotic Orient, is most likely the root word, however
>spelt, for the brothel terms. Notch, in these cases being either mis- or
>quasi-phonetically spelt.
>Jonathon Green

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