Fwd: more astounding acronyms

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 16 17:20:15 UTC 2005

At 11:03 AM -0500 12/16/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>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."

This is great!  So besides the nominal "crawfish" (which is, of
course, a folk-etymological reconstruction--or, if you prefer, a
corruption--of "crevice" < Fr. écrevisse) and the verbal "to
crawfish" ('retreat from a position, back out'), there's the
adjectival "crawfish" ('campish').  Who knew?

>  For "camp" also see
>Lighter, _Random_, 1:351, which lists 1909 as the earliest homosexual
>use of the term.

Or the OED, which does the same.


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