A turd in your teeth (and other colourful insults)

Image by reki-woo- Unsplash

I came upon this pungent epithet in a book by Ruth Goodman on renaissance Britain. Roughly translates as “eat shit”! Many people know that popular swear words like “struth” originated in the more religious times of pre Reformation England when “shock factor” in swearing came from using sacred words to add colour and emphasis to speech. (“God’s truth”). That one evolved (or lingered?) in Australia. Anyone heard this being used elsewhere in the English-speaking world?

Parts of the body on the other hand – those parts which now are regularly used as insults were once used quite matter of factly, and were not considered “rude”, resulting in common place names like “Gropecunt Lane” in Cheapside, London. There was a wide variety of puns in use for body parts as well. Arse was the usual term for backside, which everyone knows today, but perhaps not “postern” as in postern gate (an entrance), stern (as in the back of a ship) or (my favourite for being totally obscure) caudel, which was a popular hot drink for pregnant women and invalids, because “cauda” is Latin for tail.

Sex acts naturally spawned (sorry) a wide range of jokey terms and euphemisms. “Riding St George” was an imaginative term for sex with the woman on top, while “milking” was sex-for-one.

I was surprised to learn that the term “bobtail” meant not only a horse with its tail docked but a loose woman. Gave a somewhat different meaning to the bedraggled and defeated army in Tawny Sash arriving at Basing House.

The drums, silent for much of the night, started up again so that the tag, rag and bobtail crowd might march through Garrison Gate like soldiers.

What the heck – I decided to leave it in. And “ladybird” apparently means the same as “bobtail”. Which the nurse calls Juliet… but of course everyone knows the nurse is not sweet and innocent. Makes me wonder though why a dear friend gave me a teacup covered in ladybirds.

Image Vincent van Zalinge – unsplash

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