Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jun 23 12:58:43 UTC 2006

Seventeenth-century diction was often surprisingly blunt (see, e.g., the Intro to HDAS I) but not often "lurid."  For illustrations of what I feel is a genuine distinction between then and now, check the HDAS dates for the sexual compounds of your choice.  Censorship of the early record cannot be the sole cause of this.

  Colonists called a spade a spade.  Unlike today, they didn't usually call it a "motherfuckin' shovel."

  Some Brits satirically refer to (usu. rural)  Scots as "sheep-shaggers," but I believe that even in our imaginative age the object of the satire is always men, not women.

  *Ram-bugger makes good sense, but without further data in the form, for example, of additional cites, the precise meaning of "rambeggur" remains a mystery.

  But obviously it was uncomplimentary.


"Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Joel S. Berson"
Subject: Re: Ram-beggur

At 6/22/2006 05:30 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Did "ram" mean, well, you know, at the time ? A citation would be nice.

I've just come from Richard A. Spears's "Slang and Euphemism (Second
Abridged Edition, Signet, 1991, where I was looking for "piss-house"
et al. (Not found there or in Rawson). I took only brief notes on
"ram". Spears claims "ram" meant "an act of copulation" from the
1600s; "to copulate with a female" from the 1800s or earlier; "to
perform pederasty" (I didn't note from when). I think he also has
the sense "erect penis" (again I didn't note the date). Spears (or
at least this abridged edition) does not have any quotations.

Spears does not have "ram-beggur/bugger/beggar".

> Even if it did - and I'm not ruling that out - it seems unlikely
> to me that it was the sort of verb that would ordinarily be applied
> to females. The same, I hate to say, goes for "bugger," though the
> legal usage of the time may prove me wrong.

Spears seems to agree. His senses of "ram" nearly all require the
"ramming" to be male. Again from memory without notes, I think the
same is true for "bugger".

> Perhaps the idea is that a "rambeggur" was the sort of person so
> depraved as to "beg" actual ovine rams for, well, you know. (I
> believe such a word would be a bit too lurid for 1665.)

Why? From the 1665 quotation--which is a report of trial
testimony--and elsewhere (e.g. reading about the early 18th c.) I
sense the language of the time to have been quite blunt and open.

Someone elsewhere suggested your "begging for a male sheep's
attendance" to me, but without any evidence. But a new thought to
me: putting one and the other together, "ram" = "act of copulation"
(rather than male ovine) + "begger" = "one who begs" -- that is, "a
beggar for intercourse"?? And this would fit 1665 if Spears is correct.

> Or was it a misreading of "rum-beggar." Another SWAG.
> Maybe that guy who talks to the dead on TV could help out. If
> so, Oxford might put him on salary. Jesse ?

Jesse, are there no citations for "ram" as a noun, sense copulation
(or erect penis), in the OED? There is the verb (v.2 in OED2), with
the meaning " trans. To leap (the ewe). 1688 R. Holme Armoury ii.
vii. 134/1 A Ram, Rutteth or Rammeth the Ewe. 1694 Motteux Rabelais
v. (1737) 222 They will not be ridden, tupp'd, and ramm'd.". Where
"leap" means "Of certain beasts: To spring upon (the female) in
copulation." Close enough to 1665?


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