"spend a penny" -- the TLS is at it again.

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Oct 10 05:08:32 UTC 2011

I may have missed something again, but here are my perhaps naive and/or
superfluous questions.

(1) Can "spend your penny" be taken as "spend your money"? This would
seem the superficially obvious interpretation. Perhaps the success of
some purgative regimen is expected to overcome the lady's qualms about
wasting money on such treatments, or something like that? In preceding
correspondence is there mention of someone's hesitancy to spend money on
this or other things?

(2) If "spend one's penny" is euphemistic/metaphoric for something like
"defecate"/"empty one's bowels", one might expect some comparable
metaphor to have been published elsewhere in the same century: is there
one (known)?

(3) In these letters does the writer make direct reference to a lady's
defecation elsewhere, even with euphemism?

(4) It seems to me that "spend" was used (at least a little) in the old
days for "pass [urine]", "ejaculate [semen]", "shed [blood,tears]", but
is there any definite evidence of "spend" meaning "defecate"?

-- Doug Wilson

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list