"to ring changes", sexual, 1736

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 5 15:31:33 UTC 2010

I mean I haven't encountered it ever except in its S.E. senses. I
can imagine it *applied* to sexual activities, but I know I've never seen it
or heard it used in the kind of absolute, unelaborated construction quoted.

Whether it was a recognized idiom in a sexual sense is unclear.


On Mon, Apr 5, 2010 at 9:57 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "to ring changes", sexual, 1736
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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?
> Joel
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