Condoms in the 18th century

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Apr 10 18:00:08 UTC 2013

At 4/10/2013 12:00 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>On Apr 10, 2013, at 10:36 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> > Where would one find a collection of terms used for "condom" in the
> > 18th century -- both standard and slang?
> >
> > Joel
> >
>I don't know about collections, but Farmer &
>Henley (1890-1904) list such variants as "French
>letter", "Spanish letter", "Italian letter", and
>even "American letter", as well as "capote
>anglaise" (English overcoat), 'usually described
>in print as "specialities" or "circular
>protectors"', but with no cites. The entry for
>"cundum" curiously lists this as "an obsolete
>appliance worn in the act of coition
the modern
>equivalent is known as a French letter", with
>one cite from Rochester et al.'s "Panegyric upon Cundum", 1767.

Wouldn't Rochester (if this one is the libertine
2nd earl) be 1667, not 1767?  (See also Safire,
citation below.)  Although in 1667 he would have
been only 20.  (The first earl died in 1658; the
third died in 1680 at the age of 10.)  If
"Panegyric" really exists, it would antedate the
OED's "condom" by 40 years.  But I am wondering
-- I don't find "Panegyric ... Cundum" in Google Books or WorldCat.

If there really is an instance of "French letter"
in 1667, it will antedate the OED's ?1844 and
c1856 by 180-odd years.  Which I only know from
having wondered yesterday how far back "French
letter" went, and being surprised it was so
late.  Ben's report from Grose is interesting --
an absence of slang for "condom" (which the OED
has from ?1706 and 1708) in the fairly-outspoken 18th century?  Surprises me!)

No OED entries for "Spanish letter", "Italian
letter", "American letter", nor "capote anglaise" and "English overcoat".

Safire had something to say about "cundom" in
_Coming to Terms_, in "Surgeon General's Warning"; see (Preview)
(Therein on an unnumbered page.)  But probably
nothing on the 18th century (the Preview omits some pages).


>LH, wondering whether the cundum would count as a major or minor appliance
>P.S. Glancing down the page from "French
>letter", I see that "French vice" is delicately
>glossed as 'a euphemism for all sexual
>malpractices'.  Wonder what the premiums for
>malpractice insurance were like back then.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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