[Ads-l] "pop", noun, = 'an ejaculation' in 1722? As a verb, it dates from 1958

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Fri Mar 10 16:58:04 EST 2017

My sincere apologies for the previous impenetrable block.  One (or at least I) cannot cut and paste a Word document into an email message legibly.  In the following, due to known problems with italics I have also used underscore to enclose words or passages originally in italics.

Does the following, from the New England Courant, 1722 April 9, 1/2, contain “pop” =‘ejaculation’ (or perhaps ‘an occurrence of sexual intercourse’), antedating the OED by around 200 years?  

“Ben. Treackle” writes to the “Author of the New-England Courant” that “the powerful charms” of a “brisk young Widow,” her good temper, and her “natural parts not inferiour to any” have “intirely captivated”him.  But he has “the misfortune of a bashful Temper, so that I can’t reveal my Passion.”  He believes that she loves him,“but by reason of her Modesty (an inherent Quality in the fair Sex) [she] don’t discover [i.e., “disclose”] it.”  Is it “improper for the Lady to pop the Question first?”, Ben asks.  

The NEC replies no, not improper.  “Your _entire Affection for and Esteem of the Widow_, obliges her in Gratitude to _pop Questions_ to you; especially since your Bashfulness renders you incapable of giving her one single _Pop_ for all the _good Manners and Pleasantness_ with which she treats you.  And if the _brisk young Creature_  deserves the Character you give her, I doubt not but she can  _pop_  more Questions than you are able to answer.  Pray Mr. _Treackle_, read this to your Mistress at your next Meeting, and if she does not _pop the Question first_, you may conclude (in short) that she _does not love you_, and it will be your Wisest way to _pop off_.”  [Italics in original.] 

New England Courant, 1722 April 9, 1/2.  This essay (both parts, from and to Ben. Treackle) is attributed by Ben Franklin to Mr. [Nathaniel] Gardner.   J. A. Leo Lemay notes “wordplay” in Gardner’s essays (1:379), and says of the passage above “Writing as the editor, Gardner answered with a play on the word "pop” (1:92; for Gardner in the NEC, see 88--94).  

I see three or perhaps four “plays” on “pop, v.1” and “pop, n.1”.  If I’m right, there are three things to add to the OED:  2 and 3 below; 4 has an additional, but early, quotation, and an antedating for "pop off" = 'die'.  1 is already in the OED.  

(1)  “Improper for the Lady to pop the Question first”:  Pop,v.1, sense 4.a, ‘to propose marriage’. Nothing new, and in fact the OED has this as one of its quotations.  “In gratitude to pop questions to you” is probably the same sense 4.a, but with the meaning ‘to ask (a question) abruptly or unexpectedly’.  (The OED says this sense is “now only in ‘to pop the question: to propose marriage’.”)  

(2)  “Your bashfulness renders you incapable of giving her one single pop”:  ? Pop, n.1, new sense, ‘an ejaculation’?  Does the NEC writer connote“impotence” via “bashfulness”?   The OED has the verbal form, in pop, v.1, sense 12.a, ‘to ejaculate; to have an organism,’ but only from much later, 1958 on!  (And given the verbal form, I would expect to find the noun (as “an ejaculation”) from that period, but it's not in the OED.)  

(3)  She [the "brisk young creature"] can pop more questions than you are able to answer”: ? Is this simply pop, v.1, sense 4.a again?  Or does “brisk young creature” (italicized in the original), and the fact that this follows his incapability (lack of briskness?) to give her “one single pop,” suggest some sexual undertone to “pop”? To me, in the OED “brisk” as an adjective hints of freedom of action, being sexually active. “Brisk” as a noun more than hints: the OED has sense 2, “a lively, forward woman, a wanton,” with a single quotation from 1689.  Is she brisk, and can “pop more questions” --make more sexual advances -- than he can respond to?

(4)  “Wisest way to pop off”:  Pop, v.1, sense 3.a, ‘To move or go somewhere quickly or unexpectedly.’ This dates from 1530.  But Gardner’s 1722 “pop off” antedates the OED’s earliest quotation with “off” from 1919.  

The OED’s 1729 quotation for "pop off" under“old woman” means “to die,” and should probably be placed under pop, v.1, sense7.b, where it would be an antedating of 1764.

For Ben Franklin’s attribution, see Worthington Chauncy Ford, “Franklin’s New England Courant,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings 57 [October, 1923–June,1924], p. 352.  For Lemay on Gardner, see _The Life of Benjamin Franklin_ (2006),1:379, 92, and on Gardner’s oeuvre, 88--94.  


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