Navy cussing, 1915-17

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 8 00:31:56 UTC 2011

OK, OK, "alleged."

Marcus Goodrich's epic 1941 novel, _Delilah_, is based on his
experiences aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer in 1915-17. (Goodrich, born
in Texas in 1897, eventually married Olivia De Havilland, but that's
another story.)

_Delilah_ is comparable to more famous military novels that followed
it.  The following passage, describing a middle-aged Chief Boatswain's
Mate, doesn't say much, but it does suggest that the rudiments of foul
language haven't changed since Goodrich's time - or earlier:

"He never used anything for language but a few nouns and verbs. In
place of adjectives, he used four or five variants of words uncommonly
designating the most extreme kinds of filth. These he sprayed about
continually in a penetrating, staccato bellow, as if they were the
foul froth whirled off by the pressures of his tremendous energy."

A rare allusion to a phenomenon that went under-reported in the
literature of the period.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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