antedate for "love child"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 26 15:42:27 UTC 2005

At 10:15 PM -0800 1/25/05, Geoffrey Nunberg wrote:
>THE NATURAL SON, or, Lover's Vows, a Play, in 5 Acts. Bu Augustus von
>Kotzerik, Poet-Laureat, and Director of the Imperial Theaters at
>Vienna.... The Natural Son, or Child of Love, is the justly-admired
>Play which is now performing, wich such universal Applause, at the
>Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, under the altered Title of LOVER'S
>VOWS. Advertisement in the Times, Oct 19, 1798.
>The OED has 1805 for 'love child', and the cite suggests a German
>origin: "Miss Blenheim being, what in that country is denominated, a
>love-child." Perhaps the Kotzerik play was the point of entry.
>I'm interested in "love child" because while it was originally a
>euphemism for 'bastard' (Trench wrote in 1855, "what a source of
>mischief in all our country parishes is the one practice of calling a
>child born out of wedlock, a 'love-child' instead of a bastard"),
>it's still being used after "bastard" has become pretty much outdated
>in its literal meaning and illegitimacy itself is no longer a topic
>people feel they have to dance around. I've been trying to think of
>other cases where an expression retains a euphemistic character -- as
>the frequent use of quotes around "love child" demonstrates it surely
>does -- even after the word it was originally meant to euphemize is
>no longer used in the relevant sense.
As an exercise, I imagined first Edmund stage center (Lear I.ii) declaiming

                                  Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate.  I grow, I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for love children!

and then Diana Ross belting out, with the other Supremes backing her:

Tenement slum  (ooh, ooh, ooh, aaah)

You think that I don't feel love
What I feel for you is real love
In other's eyes I see reflected
A hurt, scorned, rejected

Born in poverty
Never meant to be
Scorned by society
Different from the rest
Always second-best

(or was that second hand?  or second nature?)


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