"Fuddle", meaning sexual congress

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Sep 28 18:28:38 UTC 2007

I spent a few minutes browsing a new book on sexual behavior in Philadelphia during the early republic; it proves definitively that there was sexual behavior there, back then, and some of it naughty.  I was hoping that the author would quote from court records, depositions, and the like, and I would find some nice antedatings for dirty words.  In fact, she quotes mostly print sources.  There are a few passages from an anonymous and undated diary held by the American Philosophical Society -- the author supposes it is from the mid-1790s.  These give an unrecorded meaning of "fuddle", which the OED, Cassell's & HDAS have only in the sense of drunkenness.

"my flame being up I thrust her vigorously and she opened with a scream -- a real joyful fuddle  (entry dated January 7)
"I rolled her over and fuddled her"  (entry dated December)

The book is: Clare A. Lyons, Sex among the Rabble. . . .  Chapel Hill: U. North Carolina Pr, 2006.  The quotations appear on p. 251 & 252.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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