Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Nov 18 17:54:53 UTC 2005

>Laurence Horn wrote:
>>It would be interesting to track the earliest uses of "horny" as a
>>sex-neutral term, since presumably the "horn" < 'erection' derivation
>>would have had to undergo some loss of transparency before the
>>adjective could be felicitously applied to female referents.
>>L. Horn
>An early use, referring to a female, albeit by a male speaker:
>c.1864 'Good Old Times' in Anon. _Rakish Rhymer_ (1917) 107: Then to
>make her horney-hot, / How I'll tickle round her twat.

Nice catch.  Obviously this "twat" does not reference "some part of a
nun's garb", Browning to the contrary notwithstanding.

Farmer & Henley don't have a separate listing for "horny", but they
do include it under their (very long) entry for "horn", which in turn
is glossed as:
"an erection of the penis [properly of men only; but said of both
sexes. In the feminine equivalents are Cunt-itch and Cunt-stand]."

It's a lovely entry, really, with many synonyms provided, including
"Irish toothache".  "Hard-on" is included as an "American" variant.
Then, as a separate entry, we have "horn-mad", with cites back to
Shakespeare.  Here, the reference is quite distinct, as a 1660
dictionary makes clear:

Horn-mad, 'stark-staring Made, because Cuckolded'

--based on the very different nominal _horn_ which, after its likely
Italianate origin, "seems to have begun to be literary about the
middle of the sixteenth century...[and then] passed into triumph into
written English, was used in every possible combination, had a run at
least two centuries long, and is still intelligible, though not in
common service".  Seems odd that these two English horns, with very
different referents but occupying the same general semantic web,
should have survived side-by-side for those two centuries, but I
guess the context would have disambiguated which kind of horn was
involved.  (Apparently "hornify" was extant in both senses as well.)

and then there's (Auld) Hornie, a Scots epithet of the Devil.

L. Horn

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