"B-----y" and "f------g"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Dec 3 01:10:04 UTC 2009

At 12/2/2009 02:37 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>But that's now, and I'm talking about then.  The Proceedings of the Old
>Bailey from 1674-1913 have been online for a while and tell a somewhat
>different story.  The Proceedings contain much verbatim - or nearly verbatim
>- testimony from all sorts of witnesses.  The court stenographers over many
>decades held very closely to a style that invoked dashes or occasionally
>asterisks to fill out words that were considered unprintable even in the
>official record of criminal trials.  (This seems not to have been the
>general practice in the United States; recall, e.g., the startling 1864
>occurrence of "fucked up" reported here by yours truly some time ago.

And also not in the 17th century U.S., as in "shittabed",
"shithouse", "pissehouse" -- and "rambeggur" and the ultimate insult
"gammar two shooes" -- from a 1665 Massachusetts trial (these all
used as expletives).

While I've read excepted bits and pieces from 18th century
Massachusetts trials, and a little from the published court records,
my sense is those generally have included little direct or indirect
testimony, being instead statements of indictments, verdicts, and
sentences.  So one might have to go to the manuscript records at the
Massachusetts Archives to see to what extent "unprintable" words were
spelled out in full in depositions or testimony.


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

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