Curious expurgations (1821)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Apr 19 06:14:17 UTC 2005

>_Literary Companion_ Aug 4, 1821, p. 116/2
>You must know, Dennis, that when I was a little red-headed, s****** n****,
>bandy-legged chap of sixteen, you left the nate little country seat I
>spoke of.
>_Literary Companion_ Aug 11, 1821, p. 130/2
>Were ye only a man but for two minutes, you'd be hopping round like a
>blind f*** in a tar bucket-- you'd know what it is to strike an Irishman.
>I'm pretty sure that the first asterisked item is "snotty nosed" (attested
>back to 1610).

It seems to fit, but as reproduced above the number of asterisks would
appear to be off ... not necessarily a refutation.

>As for "f***", the context strongly suggests "frog", but
>why would that need to be sanitized?  My guess is that the author (or
>editor) was simply having some fun, expurgating an innocuous four-letter
>"F-word" to play with the reader's expectation that "f***" represents
>"fuck" or perhaps "frig".  ("Frig" is similar to "frog", so maybe that's
>the point of the joke.)

It's hard for modern folks like me to see what would have been natural back
then. Would even such an oblique reference to the F-word have been
expected, or accepted, in print? Are there examples of "f***" printed for
"fuck" or "frig" in similar publications of the time, to provide the
"reader's expectation"?

Certainly the word should have been "frog". Is it conceivable that there's
a joke based on "Frog" = "Frenchman" here? [Napoleon died in May 1821;
anti-French feelings may have persisted in the British Isles, I suppose.]

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list