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message 1: by Alaric the King (last edited Jan 21, 2017 05:54AM) (new)

Alaric the King | 83 comments Old English (400-1100)
-Fuccan: to fuck
-Swifelan: to "swivel", have sex (polite, euphemism)
-Sarð: to sleep with
-Cunte: cunt (used casually, not an insult)
-Scittan: to shit
-Scitte: shit
-Coc: cock (literally a cockerel, but *possibly* already had the slang meaning of penis)
-Cannibal: (possibly) a christian, due to Germanic Pagans and Romans literally believing Christians ate flesh and drank blood.
-Atheist: a heretic or pagan (christian insult)

Ones that don't work:
-Go to Hell was taken literally at the time, it just meant to go to Hell: just to die. It wasn't an insult.
-Arse: Only used for animals, and not in an impolite way. It was the normal word for buttocks.
-Crap: Modern Insult
-Bitch: Bicce was a normal word for a female dog.

Middle English (1100-1500)
-Wanfucked: mishapen
-Fuck: becoming increasingly taboo. A 1300's bible has an inscription reading "fucking abbot", probably meant to be taken literally "the abbot who fucks".
-Cunt: cunt (used in the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie as an insult)
-Queynte: cunt (used by Geoffrey Chaucer as an anatomical term)
-Cunt-bitten: henpecked, pussywhipped
-Nothing: vagina (polite)
-Schitte: shit
-Cok: cock (literally a cockerel, but already had the slang meaning of penis)
-Ballocks: bollocks, testicles (everyday vernacular word, mostly used for animals)
-Tush: exclamation of disgust
-Fie: exclamation of disgust
-Atheist: a heretic or pagan (christian insult)
-Saracen: ethnic slur for muslims

Ones that don't work:
-Crap: Modern Insult
-Bitch: Bitch was a normal word for a female dog. Becomes word for a promiscuous woman just before Shakespeare's time, around 1400 AD.

Modern English (1500-Present)

-Cunt: cunt (used by Shakespeare)-
-Dil Doul: a dildo
-Come: to ejaculate (by extension, semen)
-Winebibber: drunkard
-Sirrah: patronising term for someone
-Fellow: patronising term for someone

Ones that don't work (at least before 1900)
-Crap: Modern Insult
-Dickhead: Modern Insult (1960's)
-(Family)fucker: Modern Insult (1920's). Motherfucker, sisterfucker, brotherfucker, fatherfucker and childfucker.

Usage: Until the Modern English period, swear words weren't taboo or obscene. They could be seen as impolite, and inappropriate in certain situations, but what was seen as much more serious were religious swears. This is still the case in places like Canada, where "tabarnak" (tabernacle) and "criss" (Christ) are their "fuck" and "shit". It's also important to realise people actually believed you could affect Jesus' and God's bodies. For example, the communion was thought to literally turn into Christ's flesh and blood. So if you say "God's Hooks", you're not just mentioning them but evoking them. So people were terrified of religious insults. "You fucking dumb cunt" might elicit a slight groan, but "God's bones" would elicit much the same reaction as yelling the n-word in a crowded anglophone street today. And not just anger, fear too.
This is reflected in Middle English place names. "Shitwell Way", "Gropecunt Lane", "Pissing Alley". One of the worst things you could do was to curse someone. Literally just say "Curse you".

Around the modern period, that changed, possibly due to the Protestant Reformation. Here swear words become taboo. Shakespeare could not directly use the word cunt, but uses it discreetly, such as in the line "*count*ry matters in Hamlet." However, religious swears became normal and common.


message 2: by Tytti (new)

Tytti Samuel wrote: "Around the modern period, that changed, possibly due to the Protestant Reformation. Here swear words become taboo."

I doubt it, or maybe it depends on the country/language. Swear words have never been a taboo here.


message 3: by Alaric the King (last edited Jan 21, 2017 06:32AM) (new)

Alaric the King | 83 comments This is specifically about the English language. Where are you from?


message 4: by Tytti (new)

Tytti Finland, one of the first places where there was a Protestant Reformation after Germany.


Alaric the King | 83 comments It got rid of religious swearing, it didn't in any way make swearing taboo. The two sentences aren't meant to be linked. Sorry for the confusion.


message 6: by Tytti (new)

Tytti I don't really know what you mean by "religious swearing" but some of our strongest swear words are old and have some religious meaning.


message 7: by Alaric the King (last edited Jan 21, 2017 12:07PM) (new)

Alaric the King | 83 comments Again, this isn't about Finland.


message 8: by Tytti (new)

Tytti But you are the one who was talking about the Protestant Reformation. England wasn't the only country that had it.


message 9: by Alaric the King (last edited Jan 21, 2017 01:23PM) (new)

Alaric the King | 83 comments So? It's irrelevant. I'm also talking about a country, when there are several hundred others. I said something about the Protestant reformation in England, which does not at all apply to Finland or warrant it or any other country being brought up (unless the exact same thing had happened).


message 10: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Hurley (fiona_hurley) | 236 comments I think it's also interesting to discuss how swearing works in other countries and languages. Some of us are reading/writing books that are set in places other than Britain and North America, and it may be useful to compare the evolution of swearing in other places.

Did countries that remained Catholic (Spain, Italy, etc.) have the same taboos as countries where the Protestant Reformation took hold? What happened in places with large numbers of both Catholics and Protestants (e.g. Germany, Ireland)? Did they insult each other in different ways?

I know, for example, that modern Spaniards use religious curses such as "Ostia" (the host); probably you'd get into real trouble over that one during the Inquisition! In For Whom the Bell Tolls (set in the 1930s), Hemingway's characters say "milk!" as an insult, which is a direct translation of the Spanish curse "leche!" Gets a bit lost in translation, that one.


message 11: by Kandice (new)

Kandice You can simplify even more just looking at the word "bloody". It means nothing to Americans, but is obscene to Brits. Right?


message 12: by Alaric the King (new)

Alaric the King | 83 comments Obscene is a bit much. You could use it around children and not even get a raised eyebrow, no one cares.


message 13: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly Artis | 1 comments Interesting, I knew that there were historical curse words but hadn't heard any of them. Interesting.


message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 2959 comments Aimee wrote: "I have read a lot of Bernard Cornwell books and he tends to be very thorough with his research on language so that even slang and swear words are correct for the time period (such as in the Grail Q..."

I could be wrong, but I think the term 'slut' (slutty, sluttish, etc.), originally just referred to being sloppy or offensive. It could be applied to a man or a woman, or even an object


message 15: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Hurley (fiona_hurley) | 236 comments Jennifer wrote: "I could be wrong, but I think the term 'slut' (slutty, sluttish, etc.), originally just referred to being sloppy or offensive. It could be applied to a man or a woman, or even an object "

I believe you're right. In GB Shaw's Pygmallion (1912), the housekeeper tells Eliza Doolittle that she needs to have a bath to avoid being a "frowsy slut"; she's not casting aspersions over Eliza's morality but remarking on her lack of cleanliness.


message 16: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) Jennifer wrote: "Aimee wrote: "I have read a lot of Bernard Cornwell books and he tends to be very thorough with his research on language so that even slang and swear words are correct for the time period (such as ..."

IIRR, a slut's a slob in England and the other way 'round in the US. Or so I was told.


Elizabeth ♛Smart Girls Love Trashy Books♛  (pinkhairedwannabe) | 46 comments This topic is so useful for writing historical fiction, lol.


message 18: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) Samuel wrote: "Old English (400-1100)
-Fuccan: to fuck
-Swifelan: to "swivel", have sex (polite, euphemism)
-Sarð: to sleep with
-Cunte: cunt (used casually, not an insult)
-Scittan: to shit
-Scitte: shit
-Coc: c..."


I was surprised to discover a couple of years ago that Shakespeare wrote in "Modern" English. I'm writing a play that has a character who only speakes Elizabethan English. It's quite a challenge; I'll probably have to buy a dictionary to get him through the second act, where he gradually picks up 20th Century English. I've found some information online, but could use more help.


message 19: by Tania (new)

Tania | 70 comments This might bo of interest to some of you, 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. There is a free version on kindle.


message 20: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) Aimee wrote: "I am British and over here the word 'slut' means a woman who sleeps around, which I understand is the same as the American meaning. A 'slob' is someone of any gender who is messy and/or has low standards of personal hygiene; there is no sexual connotation to the word 'slob'...."

Alas, television and movies and travel have homogenized away many of the fine differences between US & UK languages. According to my copy of the OED (1971 edition), slob means: "a dull, slow, or untidy person; a careless or negligent workman." No connotation of immorality.

But, also according to the OED, slut indicates a woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern." The latter means: "a woman or girl, untidy and slovenly in person, habits, or surroundings; a slut." Also no connotation of immorality.

Now, it occurred to me that the venerable OED may have been sparing our sensibilities by omitting the racier side of slutdom. I checked this by seeing if the definition of whore had been Bowdlerized. Nay. A whore's a whore.

So it would appear that both slut and slob were, at one time, synonymous within the hallowed precincts of the OED. Why, where, and when one acquired sexual meaning and not the other is a mystery lost in the fog of time. Today, they're used in identical manner in the US and the UK, contrary to my informant's hearsay.


message 21: by Alaric the King (new)

Alaric the King | 83 comments I don't see why you'd think the differences are fine. All twenty of them are rather silly, I'm glad they're disappearing.


message 22: by Tom (new)

Tom Williams | 113 comments Speak for yourselves. I saw a recipe with zucchini and I had to google it.


Elizabeth ♛Smart Girls Love Trashy Books♛  (pinkhairedwannabe) | 46 comments Tom wrote: "Speak for yourselves. I saw a recipe with zucchini and I had to google it."

LOL that comment made my night.


message 24: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Hurley (fiona_hurley) | 236 comments J. wrote: "Aimee wrote: "But, also according to the OED, slut indicates a woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern." The latter means: "a woman or girl, untidy and slovenly in person, habits, or surroundings; a slut." Also no connotation of immorality."

Interesting that the difference in usage continued until as recently as 1971, but that it was solely attached to women at that stage. My understanding is that in earlier usage (before the 20th century) "slut" could be applied to both men and women.

It seems that it started out as a non-gendered insult meaning "a dirty or untidy person", then came to mean "a dirty or untidy woman", and then metamorphosed into a "sexually promiscuous woman" (maybe through association with "dirty" = "sexually immoral").

Tom wrote: "Speak for yourselves. I saw a recipe with zucchini and I had to google it."

Following American recipes is an interesting exercise. Sure, I now know that zucchini=courgette and arugula=rocket, but I was stymied by the use of "cup" as a measurement. The cups in my kitchen come in several sizes: which one should I use? Fortunately there are useful online charts to convert "cups" to more scientific measurements.


message 25: by Blueberry (new)

Blueberry (blueberry1) Tom wrote: "Speak for yourselves. I saw a recipe with zucchini and I had to google it."

The same here for courgette.? Haha


message 26: by Alaric the King (new)

Alaric the King | 83 comments "arugula=rocket"

Pretty sure it's roquette?


message 27: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) Samuel wrote: ""arugula=rocket"

Pretty sure it's roquette?"


"Rocket" is a completely different vegetable.


message 28: by Kandice (new)

Kandice Isn't Rocket a type of lettuce?


message 29: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 548 comments Fiona wrote: "Following American recipes is an interesting exercise. Sure, I now know that zucchini=courgette and arugula=rocket, but I was stymied by the use of "cup" as a measurement. The cups in my kitchen come in several sizes: which one should I use? Fortunately there are useful online charts to convert "cups" to more scientific measurements. "

Lol, a cup is a scientific measurement, it's a standard unit of measurement, not like a drinking glass which will vary in size. There are liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups. Liquid measuring cups typically have metric units on one side and cups on the other: https://www.google.com/search?espv=2&...


message 30: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Feb 17, 2017 08:47PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 409 comments American cooking instructions tend to be very different from those in the rest of the world. Even taking into account that none of our measurements are in the metric system. Because we use multiple systems of measurement! There's teaspoons and tablespoons (both standard amounts, not spoons you might have around). There's cups. There's ounces and pounds. There's pints and gallons and quarts. There's the bushel and the peck (the hug around the neck is optional).


message 31: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) Susanna - Censored by GoodReads wrote: "American cooking instructions tend to be very different from those in the rest of the world. Even taking into account that none of our measurements are in the metric system. Because we use multiple..."

You forgot Jacks and Jills (Gills).


message 33: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) Susanna - Censored by GoodReads wrote: "Pardon?"

There are two gills in a US cup; two jacks in a gill.


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