Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Jun 24 14:07:41 UTC 2006

I think Dave's suggestion is as close as we're going to come to "rambeggur" for now. I like it.

  The invective below (not much compared to the forty-odd pages of the even earlier "Flyting Betwixt Polwart and Montgomerie") strikes me as reflecting a less sophisticated and concentrated approach to word formation than would a putative 17th-C. *ram-bugger, esp. as applied to a woman.  Such a compound would suppose both bestiality and an active sodomitical role for the female - perhaps equally shocking ideas in the 1660s and unlikely, I'd think, to be combined in a recognized vocabulary item. *Ram-beggar - for example - would be considerably less "lurid," esp. if "ram" were understood as a simple fornicatory term.  But we have little enough evidence for it at the time.

  Note too the strong scatalogical caste of the 18th C. quotation.  The historical evidence suggests that excrement was a far more central concern than unorthodox sexuality in Early Modern English putdowns.

  The evidence, slim as it is, suggests that the sociolinguistic change occurred during the 19th C.


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

An 18th century expert has provided this:

>Here are two Thames watermen exchanging insults about their
>respective male passengers:
>"You couple of treacherous sons of Bridewell bitches, who are pimps
>to your own mothers, stallions to your sisters, and cock-bawds to
>the rest of your relations! You were begot by huffling, spewed up,
>and not born, and christened out of a chamber-pot! How dare you show
>your ugly faces upon the river of Thames and fright the Queen's
>swans from holding their heads above water!" To which the other
>waterman responds: "You lousy starved crew of worm-pickers and
>snail-catchers! You offspring of a dunghill and brothers to a
>pumpkin, who can't afford butter to your cabbage, or bacon to your
>sprouts! You shitten rogues, who worship the fundament because you
>live by a turd! Who was he that sent the gardener to cut a hundred
>of asparagus and dug twice in his wife's parsley-bed before the good
>man came back again? Hold your tongues, you nitty radish-mongers, or
>I'll whet my needle upon my arse and sew your lips together."
>(Ned Ward, The London Spy, before 1709)

Blunt. Lurid? (Sensational, if not terrible or
ominous.) Sexually-charged? (I like the gardener who dug twice in
the wife's parsley-bed. Although I had to look up "huffling".) And
close descendants of my 1665 parent-insulter.

I will read the Intro to HDAS I upon my next library visit.

Might "ram-bugger" be the sexual inversion of "sheep-shagger"? (OED2
has "shag" = "copulate with" only back to Grose, 1788, and next to 1879.)

As for uncomplimentary, when OED3 gets around to the G's, and sees
that my parent-insulter also called his mother "[Gammar] Two Shooes",
that phrase will have to become an insult!


At 6/23/2006 08:58 AM, you wrote:
>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.
> JL
>"Joel S. Berson" 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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