bodice-ripper (1978), bodice-ripping (1979)

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu May 8 16:10:40 UTC 2014

At 5/6/2014 05:42 PM, George Thompson wrote:

>The OED's definition is off, as is shown by Ben's quotation from 1978: 'a
>sexually explicit romantic novel' (OED) is a "hot historical"; in a "bodice
>ripper", the foreplay, so to speak, the bodice ripping, is described in
>detail, but a veil of modesty is drawn over the fornication that follows.
>The "hot historical", on the other hand....
>20 years ago, or thereabouts, I was trying to put together a guide to
>research in popular forms of fiction.  In looking into romance fiction, I
>found that there were 2 monthlies devoted to romances, one published in
>Brooklyn and the other in California -- Romantic Times and Affaire du
>Coeur, as I recall.  Both believably claimed a circulation of appr.
>100,000.  As far as I could find, not a single American library would admit
>to subscribing to either.
>I called the editorial office of Romantic Times to ask whether someone
>researching romance fiction could use their office file.  Yes.  I was
>living in Brooklyn at the time, so I went to visit myself.  I wasn't
>allowed in, even though I was chaperoned by my wife.
>But leaving that aside . . . . no library anywhere held a file of either?
>Very strange.

Just for curiosity, I looked at today's WorldCat.  In summary,
WorldCat lists 40 libraries holding a ""Romantic times magazine,"
thought to have started in 1981, but it will be tedious to uncover
whether any libraries have early issues and one might need a travel
grant to read them.

"Romantic times magazine" is listed with three "Editions and Formats"
-- two are described as 1981 and "Brooklyn, C. Stacy"; one as 1990
and "Brooklyn, NY : Romantic Times Publ. Group".  That's at least
about the right time and location.  If this is George's magazine --

WorldCat lists 40 libraries.  Since the list given me is in order of
propinquity (to Arlington, Mass.), I can infer that neither Harvard,
the New York Public Library, or the Library of Congress holds this
journal ... or perhaps they merely won't admit it.

And the claim that the Puritans were sternly moralistic and
uninterested in sex is once again disproved -- WorldCat's list begins
with the Cambridge Public Library, the Minuteman Library Network, and
Noble Inc., of Danvers, Mass.  :-)

But these libraries say they hold only recent issues (last year or
two).  The first 35 libraries listed are U.S. city or town public
libraries, I imagine also unlikely to have issues from the 1980s or
'90s.  The closest national or university to me is The National &
University Library of Iceland.


>I had no problem finding files in NYC of the detective story
>fan magazines, for instance.  (I checked the RLIN files, and also the Union
>List of Serials and its supplements.)
>On Tue, May 6, 2014 at 9:59 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> > OED has "bodice-ripper" = 'a sexually explicit romantic novel' from
> > Sept. 1979. Slightly earlier:
> >
> > ---
> > Charitey Simmons, "Dizzying Passion Ruffles the Pages of 'Hot' Historical
> > Novel"
> > Chicago Tribune, Feb. 8, 1978, Section 2, p. 4, col. 1
> > Publishers call them hot historicals as opposed to either the virginal
> > variety Barbara Cartland writes or to the bodice rippers "because
> > that's usually what happens to the heroines," Price [sc. Linda Price
> > of Bantam Books] explained.
> > ---
> >
> > And here's the verbal noun "bodice-ripping":
> >
> > ---
> > Suzanne Dolezal, "Sizzling Formula for Selling Books"
> > Boston Globe, Feb. 21, 1979, p. 59, col. 1
> > [Barbara Alpert of Ballantine Books:] "The books are geared to women's
> > sensitivities -- ideal love with a little bodice-ripping. You don't
> > take them seriously."
> > ---
> >
> > --bgz
> >
> > --
> > Ben Zimmer
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society -
> >
>George A. Thompson
>The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
>Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
>Univ. Pr., 1998..
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list