Dirty words from the Civil War
gt1 at NYU.EDU
Thu Mar 22 19:35:23 UTC 2001
I have been reading a book called "The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell:
Sex in the Civil War" by Thomas P. Lowry, M. D., Mechanicsburg, Pa.:
Stackpole Bks, 1994. This includes passages from letters home from
soldiers to their friends or wives (and a couple of letters from wives
to soldiers) and extracts from court martials of soldiers who had cursed
out officers or committed other indiscretions. I note the following
[From a poem "Jeff Davis' Dream". Evidently it exists in two versions
and several manuscripts. The version quoted is from a ms dated 1863 at
the Ohio Historical Society. Davis is represented as an old man, asleep
in bed with his wife; he has a nightmare that his house is under attack
by Yankee soldiers and while still asleep reacts with various physical
actions.] ***/And reaching down his gun to take/His fingers touched her
monkey./*** (p. 50) HDAS has "monkey" = female genitals from ca. 1888.
The others all belong in the illusory 3rd volume of HDAS. We may never
know whether they would be antedatings.
[a gang rape] Tom Michael held the light and she received about 60 big
schlorgers one after another. (p. 39, from a letter written by a
soldier in a Pennsylvania regiment.)
I don't think he will play stink finger with Jack's gals any more. (p.
37, from a letter by a soldier in an Ohio regiment.)
One [girl] had been too near a trouser serpent and got bit. [i. e.,
pregnant] (p. 34)
In addition, the book offers some quotations using commonplace dirty
words, all of which HDAS documents from American sources long before the
Civil War -- though of course the citations in this book would fill out
a scanty record.
George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998.
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