Who's diddling and how?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jul 13 00:58:47 UTC 2008

At 2:15 PM -0700 7/12/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>Just as a forewarning, there are some pretty X-rated citations below.
>The AHD4's definitions of diddle include:
>1. to jerk up and down or back and forth
>2. vulgar slang
>a. to have intercourse with (a woman)
>b. to practice masturbation upon
>My concern is  the relevance of "(a woman)". Generally, I take this
>sort of definition to be a remnant of older heterocentrist definitions
>and intended to mean "to play the active part in sexual intercourse",
>but it seems that not even that is adequate:
>The Ball of Kirriemuir (http://www.turoks.net/Bordello/TheBallOfKirriemuir.htm
>) provides 17 examples of diddle:
>1. The village glazier he was there, with his prick of glass
>He diddled 'em in their cunnys, and also in the ass!
>1. the ladies wouldna have 'em, so they diddled dogs and trees!
>2. The old fishmonger he was there, a dirty stinkin sod
>He never got a rise that night, so he diddled 'em with a cod!
>3. Clan MacChluarain they were there, chasin' round the Keep
>And every single man of them buggerin' a sheep!
>(insert name) had a gerbil, he diddled it very well
>He didn't wrap it in duct tape: he blew it all to hell!
>4. (Insert name), she was there, and she is past eighteen;
>She is a rapier fighter, so she diddled Florentine!
>5. Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean,
>So she did the Fubba-Wubbas, while he diddled a Marine...!
>I think this covers just about every male/female/animal pairing
>possibility, demonstrating that diddle is not limited to just a man
>having intercourse with a woman. And Wiktionary agrees, saying "to
>have sex with".
>Also, in Letters to Penthouse X (http://tinyurl.com/6feo6h, page 131,
>2000), there's "cockhead...as she diddled her clit with it." While
>this appears more related to definition 1 than 2, there are these as
>well, which hint to the development of definitions 2 from 1:
>6. She diddled herself [with a baster].
>(The Sperm in Amy Lowe's Frig, by Roberta Price,
>7. As she diddled herself with a candle,
>(Street of the thousand assholes,
>I have trouble understanding what definition 2b actually means. Does
>this mean to masturbate and ejaculate on someone? Do you "diddle on/
>upon" someone? I think this is what Danny Glover's character did in
>_The Color Purple_ instead of sex, though Whoopi Goldberg's character
>called it "his business".
>Wiktionary says "to masturbate (especially of women)".

My assumption on first reading definition 2b is that AHD4 was being
careful to narrow down "masturbate" to its transitive use; the "upon"
is intended to mark the valence of the predicate, not the target of
the act.  While giving just 'masturbate' as a gloss would eliminate
the locative reading, the problem is that at least within our culture
the first sense that comes to mind (or to hand) for "masturbate" is
the *in*transitive, which is not the intended gloss for "diddle", a
fact that the cites above for "She diddled herself" reinforces this.

She {diddled/?masturbated} herself (with a baster/candle).
She {masturbated/?diddled}.

Very significant results, BB.  I await the ADS talk or note in
_American Speech_.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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