Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Nov 2 17:24:15 UTC 2007

For the Harvard Commencement, I prefer (or perhaps simply like?)
"ironwork" = "copulation".  The lines preceding the couplet with
"ironwork" assert brutish propagation of their kind, amorous lads who
"under Venus with their Misses sport".  "Whatever fails" may refer to
other things ("whatever else fails"), such as the incapacitation of
the intoxicated described in the immediately succeeding lines:

Our Rustick Sparks (to Taverns glew'd) they stay,
And scarce can blunder Home by break of Day.
Some lie in open Fields, others there are,
Who to their Homes half Boozy do repair;
Others go Home half starv'd; Some in the Way
Get Fox'd, and then in Barns are forc'd to lay;
So end the Actions of this Famous Day.


At 11/2/2007 10:55 AM, Jonathon Green wrote:
>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.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list