R. W. Burchfield

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue Jul 13 16:22:54 UTC 2004

Unfortunately, having grown up in a house whose backyard was a chicken
yard, I am only too familiar with the manner in which (some) birds
copulate. Given that the first thing that a rooster does after
finishing with a chicken is to kick that chicken aside with his spurs,
I long imagined that it was this brutal dismissal of the female partner
immediately after the climax of the sex act that had given rise to the
verb "spurn," despite that fact that the cliche is, "_she_ spurned
_his_  advances."

-Wilson Gray

On Jul 12, 2004, at 6:01 PM, George Thompson wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: R. W. Burchfield
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> The OED online has 5 citations for "windhover" = kestrel, starting
> with 1674 and not including Hopkins; it has only one citation for
> "windfucker" = kestrel, and that is Thomas Nashe, from 1599, though it
> has 4 citations for a second meaning, "a term of opprobrium" when
> applied to people, all between 1602 and 1616.
> So if "windhover" is a euphemism, it doesn't originate with Hopkins.
> Despite the fact that Nashe's quotation is about 75 years the
> earliest, perhaps "windfucker" is an obscenification.  Although,
> thinking about it, the position that small hovering birds put
> themselves into when they hover somewhat resembles the position the
> male bird takes when copulating -- he kneels on the female's back and
> reaches his lower abdomen past and under her tail until the opening of
> his cloaca touches the opening of hers, and sometimes he has to move
> his wings back and forth for balance.  If Nashe had a dirty mind, and
> he did, the similarity might have suggested the name.
> George A. Thompson
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET>
> Date: Monday, July 12, 2004 3:51 pm
> Subject: Re: R. W. Burchfield
>> Does this mean that Gerard Manley Hopkins's term, "windhover," is not
>> the only synonym for "kestrel"? Or is it a euphemism based on the
>> "breathtakingly-vulgar synonym"? On the basis of GAT's hints, I have
>> come up with a possible synonym for "kestrel" that is, in the opinion
>> of some, "vulgar," but I personally don't find it "breathtakingly" so.
>> Perhaps, then, my possible synonym is not what's referred to by the
>> Times. Or, perhaps, I've simply become jaded "like a
>> motherfucker," as
>> we say in the 'hood. In any case, I'll be paying particular attention
>> to the letters to the editor.
>> -Wilson Gray

More information about the Ads-l mailing list