query for phrase finders

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 17 00:48:15 UTC 2014

Here is the analysis of Nigel Rees from page 45 of Brewer’s Famous
Quotations (2006):

[Begin excerpt]
AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO  North African Christian
theologian and saint (AD354 - 43o0

A stiff prick hath no conscience.

Ascribed confidently by John Osborne in Almost a Gentleman (1991),
this remark remains unverified, though, in one sense, it would not be
surprising given Augustine's interesting activities prior to
conversion. After all, he did write 'Da mihi castitatem et
continentiam, sed noli modo  [give me chastity and continence – but
not yet]' in his Confessions (397-398). The proverbial status of the
remark was, however, evident by the 1880s when 'Walter' in My  Secret
Life (Vol. 1, Chap. is) wrote: 'I thought how unfair it was to her
sister, who was in the family way by me ... but a standing prick
stifles all conscience: Indeed, 'a standing  prick has no conscience'
is an equally well-known variant. Partridge / Catch Phrases adds that
this proverbial view is sometimes completed with, and an itching cunt
feels no shame', just to even out the matter.

Compare: 'Another writer whom [Wilde] did not spare was his old
teacher J.P. Mahaffy, two of whose books Wilde reviewed ... [he] might
have treated Mahaffy nostalgically, but the erect pen has no
conscience' – Richard Ellman, Oscar Wilde (1987).

Further confirmation of the proverbial nature of this kind of saying
is to be found in the diary of Samuel Pepys, where on 15 May 1663 he
writes of hearing from Sir Thomas Crew that: 'the King [Charles II]
doth mind nothing but pleasures and hates the very sight or thoughts
of business. That my Lady Castlemayne rules him; who he says hath all
the tricks of Aretin [erotic writer Pietro Aretino] that are to be
practised to give pleasure – in which he is too able, hav[ing] a large
— [Pepys's blank]; but that which is the unhappiness is that, as the
Italian proverb says, Cazzo dritto non vuolt consiglio.'  This may be
translated as 'A stiff prick doesn't want any advice.'
[End excerpt]

On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 8:20 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      query for phrase finders
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "A stiff prick has no conscience."
> I haven't been able to trace this one by searching in YBOQ or online sites, in most of which it doesn't appear at all. It does show up in profusion on the web, attributed or "attributed" variously (and in some cases I assume jocularly) to Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, Don Iovino, Thomas Jefferson, Confucius, and F. E. L. Bell of Lunenburg, Massachusetts, among others, but often just shows up as "popular wisdom", "a World War II saying", "an ancient truism", an espied graffito, etc. No Twain or Lincoln this time.  No doubt the line appears in Miller's Tropic of Capricorn (and maybe of Cancer too), and quite possibly in Mailer, but I suspect the truism had already been around for awhile by then, and probably well before the World War II dates. I think I may have even once come across its German equivalent (in Freud?).  In any someone must have said it/written it first; perhaps it appears with slightly different wording or syntax.  Anyone know?
> LH
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