Actionable Offenses

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Jan 10 16:55:18 UTC 2008

Actionable Offenses is the title of a CD containing "indecent phonograph recordings from the 1890s".  (Archeophone Records, 1007)  All recordings were done on cylinders; some are now to be found in the archives of the Edison company, the rest belong to a private collector.  None are specifically dated; the booklet accompanying the CD (58 pages) discusses learnedly the evolution of the technique of sound recording during the 1890s, and surveys the careers of the two men known to have made some of the records.
For those of you who delight in phonemes, I must note that the Edison recordings were made by professional stage performers who specialized in dialect humor.  The rest were made by an amateur, it is supposed, so those would offer a regional accent captured in the 1890s, but since nothing is known about the provenance of these recordings, there's nothing to know about the provenance of his accent, beyond wht you can surmise from hearing it.
One or two of you might find interesting the thoughts of the annotator on the implications of recorded speech and the anecdotes of recordings played at inappropriate gatherings
For those of you who delight in dirty jokes, these recordings are dirty enough, but none too funny.
The book includes a transcription of the stories.  I've listened and read along.  The recordings are quite clear, and I agree with the transcriptions, including agreeing that the few unintelligible words are unintelligible.

The words used for
the male organ of generation (in order of appearance) were
bogey-bow; dallier; pecker; tricker; banana; and of course prick
the female organ:
snatch; pee pee munch hole; pee hole; pea patch; doodle-dum, and of course cunt;
the act of generation:
sink the wienie-wurst; sink my sausage; take a piece of; get your flesh scraped; scrounge; tear off a little piece; cramming; come screw me, I'm dying for skin; go down; and of course fuck.
a whore house:
pecker shop; flesh factory; sausage factory

and miscellaneous words and expressions:
jimmies (the DTs)
shit in your hat (as a dismissive order)
this double asshole town
blow through it (an order given to a whore by a john who's having difficulties)
get up her brown
broke the bones (take the maidenhead)
hard on (but not clear whether this is to be taken as a noun or a phrase)

"pecker" and "snatch" antedate what's in the OED, and some of the other words seem of interest.

I'm returning the CD to the library for the time being -- I'm about to leave on a short vacation, and don't have the time to do more with this.  If anyone else has access to it, have at it.  Otherwise, more anon, which is to say, toward the end of January.  An indication from JL, JG or JS as to which words should be given in context would be useful.


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

The American Dialect Society -

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