Shakespeare’s dildo, and other secret Early Modern pleasures

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is best known for what’s probably the most famous stage direction in the history of English drama: “Exit, pursued by a bear” (3.3.57). But the Bard slips in another memorable line that’s sure to get a rise out of lovers of language – and pleasure. At one point, a servant describes Autolycus, a rascally, villainous pedlar who shows up at a local feast:

He hath songs for man or woman, of all sizes; no milliner can so fit his customers with gloves. He has the prettiest love songs for maids, so without bawdry, which is strange with such delicate burdens of dildos and fadings, ‘Jump her and thump her’; and where some stretch-mouthed rascal would, as it were, mean mischief and break a foul gap into the matter, he makes the maid to answer, ‘Whoop, do me no harm, good man’; puts him off, slights him, with ‘Whoop, do me no harm, good man!’ (4.4.190-98)

Burden ofdildos?! That’s right: Shakespeare used the word dildo.

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Great moments in swearing: The Taming of the Shrew

“…She did call me rascal, fiddler, / And twangling jack, with twenty such vile terms,” a beaten-up Hortensio cries after a rough music lesson with the titular “shrew,” Katherine, in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (2.1.155-6). To the delight of Strong Language readers, the comedy gives us much more than twenty vile terms. And I think they still have a lot of vim and vigor today.

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Merry thoughts, naughty bits: putting the ‘bone’ in wishbones

At the Strong Language table this U.S. Thanksgiving, we’ll be having none of that euphemistic white or dark meat first served up in the polite speech of 19th-century American English. No, we’ll be piling our plates high with turkey breasts and thighs.

But there’s another part of the turkey that may be a bit naughty if we look to its linguistic history: the wishbone.

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Sex on the Beach, Monkey Glands, and other cocktails

Adios, Motherfucker, Blue Balls, Suck, Bang, and Blow, and Mountain Dew Me. What’s in a name—indeed! But these are but a few of the hundreds of cocktails out there that have one ingredient in common: sex. I don’t think I’m alone in this, but even the word “cocktail” can rouse a small titter from the sixth-grader in me. Leave it to George Carlin to expound upon the word: “Women want cock, men want tail.” Naughtily named cocktails have been around for quite some time, though. The Angel’s Tit was a prohibition drink, so-named because the creamy white cocktail, topped with a cherry in exactly the right place, resembled—well, you get the idea. But the drink that started the ball rolling, so to speak, was Sex on the Beach.

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Merkin: A rags to itches story

Think Johns, Dicks, and B.J.s have it bad? Try being named Maud in medieval England.

A lot of little

Henry has HankMargaret has PeggySusanSueDanielDanny. We call these diminutive versions of names pet names or hypocorisms, if we want to get fancy about it. In English, we frequently form these names by shortening the given name and adding the –y sound to the end of it. Hence, Chrissie or SammyHank and Peggy illustrate that there are other ways of forming such diminutives, of course. Such is the case for Maud. And this where things got a little messy–and hairy.

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