"blowing" = "blowen" (and the OED)
robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Fri Oct 10 02:12:22 UTC 2014
Was I incorrect in saying that "blowing" is *not* in HDAS as a
headword? As I said, I didn't look for "blowen", and so don't know
if "blowing" is an alternate there.
You're right that "blowing" doesn't occur as a headword in HDAS, although
"blowen" does, and quite rightly too since by the time the term is found in
Americas in the 1780s, and thereafter, it is invariably found in the later
version of what is presumably a series of orthographic representations of
what was as spoken a single form. Under BLOWEN in HDAS, Jon adds, "Also
But there actually is a problem here, as to whether we should treat a set of
terms as separate, or simple spelling variants. My own feeling is that the
set of terms blower/blowing/blowen are significant variants, while the
(later) set blowen/bloan/blone are primarily spelling variants.
That said, and back to specifics ...
Jon's entry on "blowen" in HDAS correctly begins with the earliest version
to be found, Richard Head's _Canting Academy_ of 1673 (the term doesn't
appear in Head's earlier and smaller glossary in _The English Rogue_ of
1665). There Head defines: "BLOWER One man's particular wench."
Independently, in 1688, Thomas Shadwell uses the form BLOWING in _The Squire
of Alsatia_, both in the glossary prefixed to the play and (I think a total
of five times) in the body of the text.
Shadwell's glossarial entry reads as follows: "_Blowing, Natural,
Convenient, Tackle, Buttock, Pure, Purest pure_. Several names for a
mistress, or rather a whore."
Both Head and Shadwell were used as a resource by B.E. in _The New
Dictionary of the Canting Crew_ (c. 1699), where rather than choosing
between the two, B.E. gives both forms, while using the definition given by
Shadwell rather than Head:
Blower, c. a Mistress, also a Whore.
Blowing, c. the same.
The anonymous 1725 revision of B.E. in _The New Canting Dictionary_ retains
the BLOWER entry but removes BLOWING.
Jump forward to 1823, and the second (of only three) citations in the OED
under the headword BLOWEN:
1823 Byron Don Juan: Canto XI xix. 112 With black-eyed Sal (his
This should probably be labelled "historical". For this passage in _Don
Juan_, Byron was drawing on a poem supplied by his old boxing tutor
Gentleman John Jackson called "The Dog and Duck Rig", dating probably from
the 1780s and beginning, "Each night at the Duck Rig and Puppy,/ What a
swell by the side of your blowing ..."
It would be nice if (Byron apart) the presence of the form "blowing" allowed
us to date a text to before 1800, but I'm not sure it's as solid as that.
As to the BLOWEN form, GDoS lists several possibilities before 1788, but I'm
not absolutely convinced by any of them. Whether or not it provides the
earliest citations, the series of dictionaries by or based on the work of
Francis Grose demonstrates how that form gradually comes to be the
predominant one by (at least) 1811.
Here's a summary of the Grose entries in _A Classical Dictionary of the
Vulgar Tongue_, and derived texts:
The word “blowen” does not appear at all in the first (1785) edition, occurs
once as a parallel to another entry in 1788, and twice in that fashion in
1796. Instead, the word-of-choice is “blower”. Then in 1811, “blower”
vanishes completely, to be replaced in every instance by “blowen”, and a
whole host of new instances of “blowen” appear as part of the illustrations
for other words.
1785 has no entry for, or even occurrence of, BLOWEN but has
instead, what disappears later, BLOWER.
1788 has BLOWEN once, not as a head word but an alternative for
BLOWER, and retains RUM BLOWER
1796 BLOWEN now linked to BLOSS and BLOWER, but RUM BLOWER remains
as it was.
1811 BLOWEN is used as a head word for the first time, with the
definition taken over and expanded from the previous BLOWER, while BLOWER
itself disappears completely. BLOWEN also occurs for the first time within
illustrative examples of other headwords.
1823 The only change Egan makes is to add BLOW, a prostitute. Egan
also includes BLONE from David Haggart’s _Life_ (1821), where it had
appeared in both the text (several times) and the glossary.
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