baseball cursing, 1898

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Dec 5 06:22:25 UTC 2007

>         Of course, a joke or hoax from the period is just as useful, for
>present purposes, as an authentic document.  How certain is the dating?
>The document itself does not seem to include a date, though it refers to
>a November 1897 meeting.  It's easy to imagine, for example, that it
>could have been produced in 1927, with "See how bad things were 30 years
>ago?" being part of the joke.
>John Baker


>The language is almost certainly authentic for the period, but I
>strongly suspect that the document itself was intended as a joke (rather
>than a "hoax"). No names of "committee members" are given and the
>document may well be a sub rosa publication.
>   The unexpected (and for most people unprecedented) appearance of such
>lurid insults in cold print would, I feel sure, have been regarded as
>uproariously funny by many young men of the era - ballplayers included.
>   JL

This is how it seems to me too: a joke, probably by some baseball
fans with surreptitious access to a printing press, of indeterminate
date: could be 1898, could be much later as John Baker says.

The lack of specificity in the ostensible authorship ("the
Committee") is suspicious, as JL implies. The lack of any
specification of the intended addressee(s) is also suspicious.

Furthermore, it seems to me that such a document could have (and if
genuine probably would have) conveyed the same message without any
ambiguity using fewer and shorter examples and using expurgated forms
such as "f--k", "c--t", "c--k", etc. for the most unacceptable words,
at the very least.

I agree that the item as it is would have been very appealing to many
young men within my own recollection, probably more so in earlier
decades ... in fact, I believe there might could be the occasional
person even now who would find it a little bit amusing.

-- Doug Wilson

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