It's interesting you mention cultural taboos, because it seems that
there are a number of interrelated concepts:
And obviously, trying to work out what things meant in the past,
requires some idea of all the above.
I can't find the quote, but somewhere I read that if a man walked in on
a naked woman in a bath, in the UK, they would hide their breasts and
pubes, in Scandinavia only their pubes, in some countries, their face,
in another their belly button. That I assume means what is obscene and
taboo are related and culturally dependent. However, I'm not sure I
could believe someone could call another "you belly button" in the same
way as we might use it.
On 19/10/2015 12:46, Ryan McNutt wrote:
> I'd suggest having a read through Melissa Mohr's book here:
> It is popular history, but it goes through the important bits of linguistic
> development of swearing, which is that it is almost always linked to
> cultural taboos, and is socially formed and directed. She covers the
> development of swearing from Roman through Medieval into the 20thC, and
> it's quite an interesting read. A Guardian review here provides a better
> Ryan K. McNutt, PhD
> The Gregory Building, Rm 219
> Department of Archaeology
> School of Humanities / Sgoil nan Daonnachdan
> University of Glasgow / Oilthigh Ghlaschu
> Office: +44 0141 330 6862
> Mobile: +44 7411 033726
> email:[log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
> Aut inveniam viam aut faciam
> --Hannibal Barca
> On Mon, Oct 19, 2015 at 11:21 AM, Mike Weatherley <
> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> A few observations to help in your quest, Michael:
>> If you read, The Last Legion, by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, which is set in
>> the late 5th c., at one point a Roman soldier (it may have been Vatrenus,
>> but memory fails me) tells a bunch of invading Visigoths what to go do with
>> themselves in Latin (modesty forbids that I repeat it on here, of course :-)
>> Then again, if you're also interested in the Celtic languages, the movie
>> Centurion premiered on Channel 4 last night (you may be able to watch it on
>> catch-up/Channel 4 +24 or whatever). At the start, the eponymous hero
>> repeatedly swears (mildly) at his (Pictish?) assailants when captured in
>> the highlands, somewhere near Inchtuthil. Though since we have so little
>> evidence for what the Picts/Caledonians actually spoke to each other before
>> they were colonized by the Gaelic Scotti from Ireland, I'm guessing the
>> script-writers used something more like the latter.
>> There was also a delightful sketch on the Dick Emery show, decades ago,
>> where he played an amiable old vicar coming out with (pseudo) Anglo-Saxon
>> profanities in front of his daughter and her boyfriend (don't know if any
>> of it was actually genuine). You could check by consulting:
>> My namesake (he forms my middle initials), William Somner, who compiled
>> the first Anglo-Saxon dictionary (as opposed to Johnson's English one) in
>> the mid-17th c. I believe Canterbury Cathedral have a copy in their
>> As for riddles being confusing, I suspect that's the whole idea... :-)
>> From: British archaeology discussion list<[log in to unmask]> on
>> behalf of Michael<[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: 18 October 2015 14:43
>> To:[log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Help me: Old English crude language
>> John, Carol,
>> 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
>>> This email has been checked for viruses by Avast antivirus software.