Mercy, Malcolm! I'm desperately hoping that parts of your post weren't the result of any inadvertent typos ;-)
Anyway, picking myself back up off the floor...
The collection of human urine in the 17th c. for conversion into saltpetre for gunpowder sounds plausible enough. I'd heard that horses' urine from stables was allowed to react with the stonework in stables/farmyards for conversion of the ammonia in it to nitrate crystals, which could then be collected and dried as a substitute for naturally occurring saltpetre for gunpowder.
Speaking about the physician's repertory using urine etc. There's that hilarious scene in The Madness of George III where the king's physicians dutifully examine his stools in his chamber pot every morning, to ascertain whether his mania is getting better or not. And Geoffrey Palmer's exasperated doctor, witnessing this, says words to the effect of: "When will you gentlemen realize that it's possible to produce an emission of the most exquisite proportion, yet still remain a stranger to reason?"
Then again, I'd argue that parts of the world are no more (indeed, sometimes less) precious about such things as we used to be. Those naughty little cameos on the Bayeux Embroidery (not tapestry) already mentioned recently may have been placed there to be seen as impolite. Yet a friend of mine who recently returned from a month in India was shocked to witness - in the streets of several modern cities - not just public number ones, but twos!
Needless to say, it reinforced her unwillingness to shake hands with anyone using anything other than the right hand...
Mike (not PP)
From: British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Malcolm J Watkins <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: 19 October 2015 09:06
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Help me: Old English crude language
Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, and various works on the canting
language of the 16th-, 17th- centuries are worth consideration.
But this does raise an interesting question-mark over mores of the past. I
have, as a re-enactor, often wondered about the extent to which myths about
bodily functions are truths. It has been argued that (I do 17th-century) men
would urinate into the corners of fireplaces and even into their thigh
boots, but is this factual or nonsense? Women's places in church are said to
have been rich sources of saltpetre because they would urinate under their
skirts. Were people coy about voiding, or was it as normal as eating and
drinking? After all, if urine was collected for industrial uses, then it
suggests that people viewed it in a rather different way than we tends to
today, and of course the appearance, smell and taste of urine was an
important part of the physician's repertory. The evidence in some paintings
suggests that people were prepared to empty their bowels in plain sight, and
such practices are still the (admittedly unwise and unhealthy) norm in parts
of the world today, just as spitting is in others.
Taking this in context, if urination and defecation were simply natural
processes with as little embarrassment as if an animal were doing them,
surely the approach to terminology would have been far less precious than it
has tended to be in later years?
Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2015 2:43 PM Subject: Re: Help me: Old English
thanks for the help.
I finally found Robert Frank's "Sex in the Dictionary of Old English"
itself within: "Unlocking the Wordhord: Anglo-Saxon Studies in Memory of
Edward B. Irving, Jr."
However, John raised an interesting point about whether references to
sexual anatomy were or were not seen as "crude" (lewd, vulgar). And the
riddles are just confusing me - as I can't work out whether they were
more or less open about sex at that period.
On 18/10/2015 11:50, Carol Primrose wrote:
> They certainly enjoyed 'doubles entendres' . Once again I refer you to the
> Riddles, see:
> From: John Clark
> Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2015 10:59 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Help me: Old English crude language
> I just don't think you should expect to find Old English 'crude language'.
> Why assume that they felt that certain parts of the human body and certain
> bodily functions were so 'unclean' they must not be 'named' or that the
> name must not be spoken in polite society? That sounds Biblical to me.
> If on the other hand you are looking for words that they would use as a
> matter of course but that WE regard as 'crude', then looking up the
> etymology of the 'dirty words' in the OED is a good start.
> John C
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