[Ads-l] obscene slang on TV

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Jun 1 16:03:22 UTC 2020

On Mon, Jun 01, 2020 at 10:53:46AM -0500, Andy Bach wrote:
> > I do know of a 1972 example of _pearl_ 'drop of semen'.

(Updating myself here) I missed the 1934 example in Green's Dictionary of Slang, where it appears connected with _pearl tie-pin_--an interesting earlier example of a jewelry metaphor.

> You don't think William Lazenby's The Pearl, 1870s porn magazine
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pearl_(magazine)
> was related?   Lazenby did go on to publish the Oyster, so he had
> something sexual in mind -
> https://www.horntip.com/html/books_&_MSS/1870s/1879-1880_the_pearl_journal/

It's not clear from this that there's a sexual meaning in mind.

There is evidence for _pearl_ 'female genitalia' from the 1920s. But _oyster_ is different; that is very heavily attested from c.1600 onwards. So for that, we don't have to make any suppositions.

Jesse Sheidlower

> Having decided to bring out a Journal, the Editor racks his brains for
> a suitable name with which to christen his periodical. Friends are
> generally useless in an emergency of this kind; they suggest all kinds
> of impossible names; the following were some of the titles proposed in
> this instance: "Facts and Fancies," "The Cremorne," "The All Round,"
> "The Monthly Courses," "The Devil's Own," and "Dugdale's Ghost"; the
> two first had certainly great attractions to our mind, but at last our
> own ideas have hit upon the modest little "Pearl," as more suitable,
> especially in the hope that when it comes under the snouts of the
> moral and hypocritical swine of the world, they may not trample it
> underfoot, and feel disposed to rend the publisher, but that a few
> will become subscribers on the quiet. To such better disposed
> piggywiggys, I would say, for encouragement, that they have only to
> keep up appearances by regularly attending church, giving to
> charities, and always appearing deeply interested in moral
> philanthropy, to ensure a respectable and highly moral character, and
> that if they only are clever enough never to be found out, they may,
> sub rosa, study and enjoy the philosophy of life till the end of their
> days, and earn a glorious and saintly epitaph on their tombstone, when
> at last the Devil pegs them out.
> On Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 10:43 AM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> >
> > > On Jun 1, 2020, at 6:44 AM, Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM> wrote:
> > >
> > > Link to the episode/time? There's a bunch of stuff out there, and these are long episodes.
> > >
> > > The earliest example of "pearl necklace" in the sexual sense is 1984 (in OED); Green's Dictionary of Slang has 1993. (I do know of a 1972 example of _pearl_ 'drop of semen'.) So this would be a really nice antedating, if real. Maybe it got by the censors because no one knew what it meant, and it could plausibly be its standard meaning.
> > >
> > > Jesse Sheidlower
> >
> > That was my guess when I read Bill’s post—it would be like some of the purported early occurrences of “gay” in the 1930s that would have been understood by those who understood it and overlooked by the others (including the censors), a kind of no-harm no-foul dog whistle. Or perhaps a better example is the “gunsel” story we’ve discussed.  Michael Quinion gives a nice synopsis, including the featured role of Dashiell Hammett, at http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-gun1.htm.  The difference is that unlike the chronology of “pearl necklace” or “gay” case, the loaded meaning of “gunsel” didn't survive the polysemy.
> >
> > LH
> > >
> > > On Mon, Jun 01, 2020 at 04:40:07AM +0000, Bill Mullins wrote:
> > >> I just watched the pilot episode of Police Woman on youtube (actually an episode of Police Story).  In it, Angie Dickenson's first undercover assignment is as a hooker, and before she goes in, Charles Dierkop asks her if she knows what a "pearl necklace" is.  I'm surprised that got by the censors in 1974.
> > >>
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> Andy Bach,
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