Smile when you say that in the 17th Century
wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 1 00:28:33 UTC 2010
Everybody who's anybody - and that includes OED - knows that somebody in
_King Lear_ gets called "son and heir of a mongrel bitch." What's less
well-known is that EEBO doesn't turn up another ex. (in any variant form) of
"son of a bitch" till 1671. (I find no relevant hits for "son of a
b[---].") ("Biche-son" shows up once, ca1330; and OED doesn't pick up the
scent after the Shakespearean ex. till 1707.)
These exx. show that the three chief modern nuances were all in existence by
1700: a.extreme insult; b. mildly opprobrious reference; and c.
affectionate term of reference among hearty chaps:
1671 Thomas Shadwell _The Humorists_ (London: Henry Herringman) 28:
_Dry[bob]_. Now I have it, ha, ha, ha, though I am a Dog, I am not the Son
of a Bitch _Crazy_*,* ha, ha, ha. _Craz[y]_. Why Sir, who is? _Ibid_. 31:
He had the insolence obliquely to give me the name of Son of a Bitch.
1673 John Bramhall _An Answer to Two Letters of T.B._ (London: H. Brome)
43: Hang your self---Rogue---Rascal---Villain---Son of a Bitch---Prate thy
whole Gut full, &c.
1697 Thomas D’Urfey _The Intrigues at Versailles_* * (London: F. Saunders)
12: I knew one _Gulchen_, that us'd to carry Sacks to the _Pinnace_ in our
Dock at _Rotterdam_---just like him, 'tis a good lusty fore-handed well-set
Son of a Bitch.
1697* *Thomas D’Urfey _The Intrigues at Versailles_* * (London: F. Saunders)
26: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha --- dear Devil ha, ha, ha, ha, ha--- dear Son of a
Bitch, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, Rogue, ha, ha, ha, Rascal, ha,
ha. I have done such a ha, ha, ha, such a ha, ha, ha,---such a thing---such
a piece of Wit, ods Sacrament, nothing in all _France_ can mend it, I'm sure
--- ha, ha, ha, here prethee read --- how now, who's that --- hold, hold a
As a "term of abuse," OED doesn't have "bastard" till 1830. For shame:
*1685-86 William Hickes _*Coffee-House Jests_* (4th ed.) (London: Hen.
Rhodes) 75: A little Boy being a cutting some Bread and Butter, says his
Brother to him, _Why did you not cut me some, when you were a cutting some
for your self, you Bastard you? What_, says he, _d'ye call my Mother Whore,
you Son of a Bitch. If_ I _am the Son of a Bitch then you are a Whelp; And
so are you, you Puppy_, says t'other.
History comes alive. Little bastards.
"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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