Jonathon Green slang at ABECEDARY.NET
Fri Nov 2 14:55:14 UTC 2007

Like JEL I have a cite from Pills to Purge Melancholy, c. 1700 in which
the 'iron' is the penis'. Subsequent near identical cites (to 1719) make
it clear that there is a single source, the ballad 'A Lusty Young Smith'
which dates from the late 17C. As will be imagined, in the contemporary
style this is a heavy-handed string of double entendres, e.g., 'Six
times did his Iron by vigorous heating, / Grow soft in the Forge in a
Minute or so'. There is then, afaik, nothing until the 1930s, e.g. a
1935 example from a 'Tijuana Bible': 'There goes the old iron right up
her blushing snatch.' Quite what the imagery here might be I am not
sure; I also have a 1983 cite in which in which it is golf, 'I carry a
number nine iron [...] Heavy steel'. That said, iron = penis,
irrespective of etymology/imagery, is not especially common. What light
this casts on 'ironwork' = copulation, I cannot say. I have certainly
not encountered it. My own feeling is that the Kurzweil example may
refer to some kind of primitive dildo? or alternatively a framework to
brace the otherwise inadequate penis? (apologies, I'm only guessing; and
it may of course be simple anachronism if by 'clenched fist' the author
refers to modern 'fisting', though again he may simply be clutching at
his flaccid member in an attempt to stiffen it). Kurzweil, as I recall
is certainly keen on off-key inventions.

Looking at *A Satyrical Description of Commencement *I must ask, might
it have some Harvard-specific meaning. Although the writer refers to
amorous sporting, he lists it with intoxication as one of the pleasures
the 'Lads' enjoy; it is not especially linked with 'ironwork'. And on
the basis of the couplet

Some sing, some dance, some lay the Ground upon,
Whatever fails, the IRON-WORK goes on

it seems on my reading that 'ironwork' refers to something else - that
has not 'failed' - again. What that might be, however, I have no
provable idea. hence my query as regards possible Harvard jargon. Or
could it perhaps refer simply to the noise - a characteristic of the
event - that is being compared to that of hammers beating metal?

It is but a thought.



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