Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Jun 24 15:00:38 UTC 2006

At 6/24/2006 10:07 AM, JL wrote:
>I think Dave's suggestion is as close as we're going to come to
>"rambeggur" for now. I like it.

Jonathan, can you recover the message containing "Dave's
suggestion"?  I don't remember one and can't find it myself.  Or were
you referring to a message of mine (Thu, 22 Jun 2006), in which I
wondered about:

>Someone elsewhere suggested your [I think "your" means Jl] "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.

Mine is, isn't it, similar to your "*Ram-beggar - for example - would
be considerably less "lurid," esp. if "ram" were understood as a
simple fornicatory term." (below)?  (Except for the one misspelling
as "begger"!)  Is this the suggestion you now like?

>   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

Well, it's all my correspondent offered (the context was vulgar
insulting language of the 18th c., not specifically sexual
obscenities), and watermen were unsophisticated, I presume  :-)

>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.
>   JL
>"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
>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?
> >
> >Joel
> >
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