dirty words in dictionaries

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jun 4 14:59:08 UTC 2004

At 9:16 AM -0400 6/4/04, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
>On Fri, Jun 04, 2004 at 09:08:24AM -0400, George Thompson wrote:
>>   As I recall, Gershom Legman was very insistent on the
>>  difference between fellation and irrumation; probably in his
>>  books on dirty jokes (all 1400 pages) but he was inclined to
>>  repeat his whimwham, so it may be in several places there
>>  and in some of his other books as well.
>The earliest Legman reference to this is likely to be:
>_Fellation_ and _irrumation_ are usually given a foreign sound
>by leaving off the "n" and putting them in italics or
>quotation marks; and although these two terms refer to
>exactly opposite practices, they are almost universally
>believe to be synonymous. [etc.]
>-- G. Legman, "The Language of Homosexuality", in G. W.
>Henry _Sex Variants_ II 1151.

While not normally a prescriptivist, I think it important to maintain
the distinction in the classical form.  The examples trotted out to
illustrate the converse opposition (or what Aristotle called
correlation) in lexical semantics have grown stale from overuse
(double/half, parent/child, own/belong to, fear/frighten, taller
than/shorter than), and I think it would be useful to illustrate the
relation for our students by citing fellate/irrumate.


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