Heard on The Jud es: "bartend(e)ress"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 26 16:56:03 UTC 2009

At 11:14 AM -0500 1/26/09, Baker, John wrote:
>         The former, but not in the way you might expect.  Latin testis,
>witness, is the etymon of testator, testimony, testify, testis,
>testicle, and related terms.  There are multiple theories as to how a
>legal term came to have a physiological meaning.
>John Baker

Right; there are these nice stories--probably just that--about
witnesses (males only, females need not apply) clutching their
genitalia (instead of crossing their hearts and hoping to die) to
commit themselves to truthful testimony.  As far as how a legal term
came to have a physiological meaning, one natural assumption is that
"testis" in the latter sense developed as a euphemism for the "real"
Latin word for the relevant body part--but what would that have been?
Note that "ball" is a similar kind of euphemistic replacement, a
transfer from a general, non-sexual domain, but again, there's no
term that isn't a borrowing (testicle) or a conventionalized
euphemism (ball) that would constitute the "real" and presumably
taboo term, the way "fuck", "ass/arse", "cunt", etc. are in their
respective domains.  Same holds for "penis", of course.  Someone must
have written on this, but I don't know who.


>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
>Of Bill Palmer
>Sent: Monday, January 26, 2009 10:45 AM
>Subject: Re: Heard on The Jud es: "bartend(e)ress"
>Interesting allusion or folk etymology?
>Bill Palmer
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Scott" <harview at MONTANA.COM>
>Sent: Monday, January 26, 2009 10:39 AM
>Subject: Re: Heard on The Jud es: "bartend(e)ress"
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  -----------------------
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Scott <harview at MONTANA.COM>
>>  Subject:      Re: Heard on The Jud es: "bartend(e)ress"
>>  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>>  ---------
>>  On Sun, Jan 25, 2009 at 02:27:04PM -0500, Bill Palmer wrote:
>>>  has the "-ix" ("avaitrix", "administratix") suffix completely
>>>  disappeared from usage?
>>  As an attorney, I use 'testatrix' in the wills I prepare for female
>>  clients. I find it oddly humourous, considering the origin of the word
>>  'testator'....
>>  Scott Swanson
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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