"to ring changes", sexual, 1736

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Apr 5 13:57:08 UTC 2010

At 4/5/2010 09:35 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>If it makes any difference, I've never encountered "ring the changes" with
>an explicit sexual meaning.

Jon, by "encounter", do you mean in 18th (or 17th) century writing,
or in your education on the street?  Perhaps the phrase has
disappeared along with (it seems) church-bell change-ringing.

Even so, I'm convinced I know what the 18th-century reader would know
the "abandoned" maid meant.  But perhaps the phrase was not common
even in 18th-century London -- the newspaper did put it in italics,
probably purposefully (unless that was merely its custom for printing
someone's utterance).

I can't think of a good way to do a Google Books search, and it
likely would be rare in print.  May I infer it doesn't show up in
slang dictionaries?


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

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