Dirty words from the Civil War

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Mar 23 19:26:07 UTC 2001

In a message dated 3/22/01 2:35:59 PM Eastern Standard Time, gt1 at NYU.EDU

<< [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.)

 One [girl] had been too near a trouser serpent and got bit.  [i. e.,
 pregnant]  (p. 34) >>

In a message dated 3/23/01 2:37:45 AM Eastern Standard Time, douglas at NB.NET

<< What word is "schlorger"? We moderns may be reminded of something like
 "schlong", but the period is too early to casually adduce Yiddish imports,
 I think; German "Schlange" = "snake" has cognates in various Germanic
 languages -- I don't know about "Pennsylvania Dutch" -- but one might
 expect "s(h)lang" or "s(h)long" rather than "s(h)lorg" anyway.  >>

This is cited as "from a letter", and since typewriters did not yet exist the
letter must have been handwritten or perhaps handprinted.  In many people's
handwriting the lower-case "n" and "r" are not very different, and in some
handwritings can easily be confused.  It is quite possible that whoever
transcribed the letter, upon encountering the unfamiliar word, used his/her
best judgment as to whether the letter was an "n" or an "r" and guessed
wrong.  Hence the word may be "schlongers" rather than "schlorgers".

A native speaker of English, trying to transcribe phonetically a word, would
be unlikely to use "sch" for the "sh" of "shoeshine".  Hence I suspect that
the writer of the letter thought the word was German and gave it a proper
German spelling.  However, study of the rest of the letter  may show the
writer  was not a native English speaker.

Note the adjective "big" in "big schlorgers".  The writer would use "big" to
describe the size of the men's sex organs rather than the size of the men.
Hence I deduce "schlorger" = "penis" rather than "soldier".

By analogy with "trouser serpent" = "penis", the derivation German "Schlange"
= "snake" is plausible.

         - Jim Landau

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