Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 23 16:28:47 UTC 2011

It may not be clear from Victor's posting that "pissenlit" ('piss-in-bed') is in fact the standard French name for a dandelion, so called because the plant is, in the OED's words, 'formerly well known for its diuretic properties' and this despite the fact that the more metaphorical designation in English is itself a French borrowing ('dent de lion').  For a minute there I was afraid the latter was an etymythology, but it's apparently a real one, if less vivid to Francophones than the label based on its causal properties.  Is the idea below that it leads to that other unfortunate after-effect?  Maybe safer just not to chow down on Taraxacum officinale, period.


On Sep 23, 2011, at 8:55 AM, victor steinbok wrote:

> OED lists two meanings with well spread-out quotations:
> shitabed n. rare  (a) (a term of abuse for) a lazy or worthless person;  (b)
>> [compare earlier pissabed n. 1a] Eng. regional (south.) the dandelion,
>> Taraxacum officinale (now hist.).
>> 1653    T. Urquhart tr. Rabelais 1st Bk. Wks. xxv. 115   The Bunsellers or
>> Cake-bakers‥did injure them most outragiously, calling them‥mangie rascals,
>> shiteabed scoundrels, drunken roysters, [etc.].
>> 1690    Pagan Prince x. 29   But the Arragonian Bakers‥also gave them ill
>> Language, calling them Tooth-Gapers, Sherks, Shittabeds, Slubber-degullions,
>> [etc.].
>> 1847    J. O. Halliwell Dict. Archaic & Provinc. Words II,   Shitabed, the
>> dandelion. Wilts.
>> 1967    H. Orton & M. F. Wakelin Surv. Eng. Dial. IV. i. 189
>> Dandelion.‥[Devon] Shitabed.
>> 1997    S. McFague Super, Nat. Christians iii. 55   Some are indelicate,
>> even a bit gross—Naked Ladies, Pissabed (Shitabed), Mare's Fart, Priest's
>> Ballocks.
>> 1997    B. McNaughton Throne of Bones (2000) 83   ‘Where's your duster, you
>> idle shitabed?’ Polliard roared.
> Boyer's 1728 English-French Dictionary mentions it, but the translation
> seems almost literal:  Celue ou celle que a chité au lit.
> Wright's 1904 English Dialect Dictionary has "dandelion", but offers an
> alternative for (a):
>> an overbearing, quarrelsome bully; a passionate man
> but also a bird:
> your breeches, the redshank, /Tolanus calidris/
> GB persists in misreading "shit" for "ship", which makes for some amusement,
> but renders the searches useless.
> VS-)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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