Fwd: more astounding acronyms

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Dec 16 16:03:46 UTC 2005

On 12/16/05, Michael Quinion <wordseditor at worldwidewords.org> wrote:
> Following some gentle prodding about sources from Jesse Sheidlower, I went
> back to look at my sources. My memory's a bit confused. The phrase about
> "campish undertakings" was in a letter from Frederick Park to Lord Arthur
> Clinton in November 1868. That information came from a message posted to
> this list by Kathleen Miller on 18 July 2003 in which she quotes from
> "Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality" by Jonathan Ned Katz.
> He gives a detailed citation. The message should still be in the archives.


Google Book Search also has this...

Jonathan Ned Katz, _Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality_.
University of Chicago Press, 2001.

pp. 192-193
The American's [sc. John Safford Fiske] precious literary style
suggests that a group of men were, by 1870, already constructing a
distinctive, still secret, subcultural mode of speech, now known as
"camp." That word itself was actually used in a letter that [Ernest]
Boulton's cross-dressing friend, Frederick Park, wrote in November
1868 to Boulton's "husband," Lord Arthur Clinton. In this missive,
Park hoped that he will live to "a green old age,' but bemoaned the
great amount of make-up it would then take "to hide that very
unbecoming tint." Park then immediately complained that his "campish
undertakings are not at present meeting with the success they
deserve." This is the earliest-known use of "campish" among
men-lusting men. The word's historical documentation helps to bring a
formerly hidden subculture to the light.

Footnote, p. 373
Park to Lord Aruthur Clinton, November 1868, quoted by Upchurch,
"Forgetting," 1, from the trial transcripts of the 1871 _Case of the
Queen vs Boulton and Others_, Department of Public Records, PRO,
London, DPP4/6, 1:36-37; also quoted by Cohen _Sex_, 116 n. 36; Cohen
quotes from the London _Times_, May 30, 1870. Cohen also notes that
when this letter was read into the Boulton and Park trial record, the
court transcriber misread "campish" as "crawfish." For "camp" also see
Lighter, _Random_, 1:351, which lists 1909 as the earliest homosexual
use of the term. William Cohen generously allowed me to photocopy his
files on Boulton and Park and gave me all of his typed transcriptions
relating to Fiske from the original trial record.

Cohen's book is also available:

_Sex Scandal: The Private Parts of Victorian Fiction_ by William A Cohen.
Duke University Press, 1996.

A full excerpt of the letter with "campish undertakings" (as published
in the _Times_, May 30, 1870) is given on p. 116.

--Ben Zimmer

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