SLOVARUS.

Another serendipitous discovery while googling: Slovarus.info (or Словарный запас), a collection of searchable dictionaries of English, Greek, Georgian, Icelandic, Chinese, Mongolian, Russian, Sanskrit, Ukrainian, Faroese, Hindi, Romanes, and Estonian; some of them (e.g., Mongolian, Sanskrit, and Hindi) are searchable in English as well as Russian.
And I’ll toss in another random dictionary find on Google Books (I had actually been looking up a Russian word, but a Greek word had been mis-scanned): Dictionnaire grec moderne français by Félix Désiré Dehèque (1794-1870), from 1825; naturally, I looked up the dirtiest word that came to mind, and sure enough, there it was on page 144: “Γαμῶ, expr. obscène, avoir commerce avec une femme.” By 1825 the Greeks had been in revolt against the Ottomans for several years and Philhellenism was sweeping Europe, which explains why a dictionary was published, but who Dehèque was and how he came to write it I have no idea.

Comments

  1. Perhaps you might have said, You have no idea who the heck Deheque was?
    XD

  2. More seriously, isn’t γαμω the the word from which we derive words like gamete and monogamy? How then did descend to the level of meaning only our f-word? And what word replaced it for the more, shall we say, polite meanings?

  3. Kári Tulinius says:

    Well, you can get a Dehèque jigsaw from Amazon.

  4. avoir commerce avec une femme
    What’s so vulgar about doing business with a woman? I must be too pure in heart to get the reference, I guess. Thanks very much for the Hindi dictionary, the more the merrier.

  5. Here’s another Mongolian dictionary with Cyrillic letters (from read, who is Mongolian).

  6. What’s so vulgar about doing business with a woman?
    Is there no special word for doing business with a man?

  7. More seriously, isn’t γαμω the the word from which we derive words like gamete and monogamy? How then did descend to the level of meaning only our f-word?
    Words have a lamentable (or enjoyable, depending on your point of view) tendency to descend. (Cf. baiser in French.) The odd thing in this case is that the related noun, γάμος [γámos], is still perfectly respectable and is indeed the normal way to say ‘marriage.’ (Of course, that’s also true of the noun baiser, which still means ‘a kiss.’ Language is weird.)

  8. In my experience, one doesn’t use baiser in polite conversation any more, as it no longer means to kiss in modern French. The only exception is baise-main (kiis the hand), as I understand it.

  9. In my experience, one doesn’t use baiser in polite conversation any more, as it no longer means to kiss in modern French.
    That was my point: one doesn’t use the verb, but one does use the (homophonous) noun.

  10. Sorry, I should have said one doesn’t ever use it as a verb.

  11. Is there no special word for doing business with a man?
    Business.
    As a kid, I read that there is supposedly an Arabic saying: “women for business, boys for pleasure”. That’s pretty macho, in a strange sort of way.

  12. “Doing your business” = defecation.

  13. Wikipedia wants to attribute Grumbly Stu’s proverb (you left out the melons) to Burton’s Kama Sutra introduction. Not that Dirty Dick was above that sort of thing; it’s just that he doesn’t seem to have written it, at least based on the text now readily available. No, it seems to have been an imperial army officer quoted by Havelock Ellis. Likewise, Wikipedia’s “also reported in similar forms from the Arab countries, Iran and North Africa” may well be true, but isn’t substantiated by the footnote; it’s just as often claims for the Greeks.

  14. Richard Burton the scholar attributed something like that to Afghans.

  15. but melons for sheer delight.
    Does anyone know what he meant by this? If he was talking about eating them he should have specified, for example, “cantaloupe melons”.

  16. but melons for sheer delight.
    Does anyone know what he meant by this? If he was talking about eating them he should have specified, for example, “cantaloupe melons”.

  17. Does anyone know what he meant by this?
    The basic idea in the proverb is that women are best employed in carving melons to resemble boys. This could be a precursor of the artisanry that Woody Allen noticed at his grandfather’s funeral, a replica of the deceased in potato salad.

  18. The Manichaeans believed that melons were infused with particles of light and thus were the perfect food. Fact.

  19. Richard Burton the scholar attributed something like that to Afghans.
    Do you recall where? Certainly the “Terminal Essay” is all around the basic idea, but what it specifically claims for Afghans is Kuch-i safari. For proverbs, its quotation from The Deipnosophists comes as close as anything, but as I said, that’s the Greeks.

  20. Somewhere in the Arabian Nights, or else nowhere.

  21. Richard Burton the scholar attributed something like that to Afghans.
    The saying is attributed to Burton in Kama Sutra: the Hindu art of lovemaking and if I’m interpreting it correctly is supposed to be part of a discussion of the role of masseurs. It is quoted by more than one author but it certainly isn’t to be found in the text of The Vatsayayana Kama Sutra The Classic translation of 1883 by Sir Richard Burton that MMcM links to. The saying is supposed to be Pathan.

  22. Could the ‘business’ the saying refers to be simply reproduction?

  23. I’m not sure which of the various commenters referring to “business” are joking and which not, but the phrase “avoir commerce avec une femme” here means (as we would now say) ‘to have sex with a woman.’ No business is expressed or implied.

  24. Yes, “business” here is “breeding”. I have come to the tentative conclusion that the proverb was not as naughty as it may seem to prudish moderners. It is neither macho, pederastic nor homosexual. Consider this passage from the Terminal Essay of Burton’s translation of the Nights, as quoted in the Wikipedia article to which MMcM links:

    The Afghans are commercial travellers on a large scale and each caravan is accompanied by a number of boys and lads almost in woman’s attire with kohl’d eyes and rouged cheeks, long tresses and henna’d fingers and toes, riding luxuriously in Kajawas or camel-panniers: they are called Kuch-i safari, or travelling wives, and the husbands trudge patiently by their sides.

    Boys provide a pragmatic family-planning alternative to women, in an age and area where there was no reliable contraception. Boys have hardly any body hair, in contrast with men, and like women are easier to boss around then men. The attitude expressed in the proverb is not macho, because the men are clearly interested in having sex with something that looks female. I suspect they would prefer women, were not for the risk that the women would get pregnant while the caravan is on the road. That also eliminates the pederastic and homosexual imputations.
    In any case, many non-intellectual men, to judge by some of my acquaintances, don’t really care what they’ve got in front of them when they’re horny. A handful of ground round wrapped in lace underwear is just as good as a boy or the real McCoy.

  25. Conversely, “commercial intercourse” is not prostitution. We need language reform.
    That also eliminates the pederastic and homosexual imputations.
    I do not exactly understand.

  26. JE, what don’t you understand? If a guy likes sex with boys/men, then he wants boys/men to have sex with. He doesn’t want a rouged and henna’ed parody of a woman. There are men who like that, but I’ve never understood how that works. Some people offer as explanation that such men are trying to hide from themselves the “fact” of their homosexuality. I don’t see any “facts” in such a situation, I just don’t know what the individual reasons may be.
    My definitional take on all this is crudely physical: if you’re a man and you like dick, then you’re gay (or bi). If you’re wondering whether you’re gay, but don’t crave access to any part of the male body that is missing on the female body (shoulders don’t count, for instance), then you can stop wondering, because you ain’t gay. Everything else is just self-inflicted psychobabble.
    So, as far as travelling wives go, my surmise is they are merely a contraceptive device. The boys wouldn’t be dolled up and shlepped around like women if the men were homosexual, in the sense I use it as explained above. The men merely need an outlet, ground round spoils in the heat, and boys are nicer than camels.

  27. the phrase “avoir commerce avec une femme” here means (as we would now say) ‘to have sex with a woman.’ No business is expressed or implied.
    When LH says “I looked up the dirtiest word that came to mind,” I’m not quite sure if maybe the French don’t think religious-based swear words are the dirtiest, but since he’s American I’m assuming he used an English word, the f-word, but in French. Working backwards, and not knowing any copulation type words in French, I’m also assuming whatever French word got typed in has a secondary “dealings or communications” meaning just like “intercourse” does in English, which used to mean something like trade or conversation but has used so much as a euphemism that the other meanings have been forgotten. But a bit of an odd definition for Γαμῶ, “avoir commerce avec une femme.” ‘to have sex [trade, commerce] with a woman’– makes it sound like a word that only applies to straight men and lesbian women. Does Greek have a different word for “commerce” with men–le commerce avec un homme or for that matter, commerce avec une pastèque? What were those 18th century Greeks up to? On the one hand, it seems remarkable that in that era such a word would be in a dictionary at all; on the other hand, the definition is a bit odd.

  28. “That also eliminates the pederastic and homosexual imputations.”
    That certainly does not.
    Homosexuality is as imaginatively various as heterosexuality. Some gay guys are attracted to actual males who’ve made efforts to embody (in addition to, or to make up for not, naturally embodying) whatever their cultures have set up as ‘feminine’– but are never attracted to actual females. (“Feminine” meaning not the differentiating parts, necessarily, but rather the ‘personality’, not excluding body parts.)
    Likewise, lots of straight guys are attracted to tomboys (but never to other men), while plenty prefer girly chicks. Also likewise, the diversity among gay women, some of whom are attracted to butch gals but never to men.
    To put this perspective crudely corporeally: some gay guys like sticking dick in other guys (or in boys) who’ve feminized themselves, but not in actual females.
    However culturally normal or even ethically gracious an erasths/eromenos relationship might be, pederasty and homosexuality are fully imputable.

  29. I’m also assuming whatever French word got typed in has a secondary “dealings or communications” meaning just like “intercourse” does in English
    Why would you make such an assumption? Reread what I wrote: “I looked up the dirtiest word that came to mind, and sure enough, there it was on page 144: Γαμῶ…” I looked up the Greek word for ‘fuck,’ and there it was. French is irrelevant except it happens to be the target language of the dictionary.

  30. Also, I agree with deadgod about the multifarious nature of human sexuality and gently suggest that Grumbly is (uncharacteristically) oversimplifying. Besides, there is a long tradition of boy-love in Afghan, Persian, and Arab society, completely apart from the caravan context; see the collected poetic works of those cultures (there are also, of course, scholarly citations).

  31. > And what word replaced it for the more, shall we say, polite meanings?
    “Marry” is now παντρεύομαι, from ὑπανδρεύομαι “to become under a man, to submit to a man”. It’s now completely bleached in gender, so men and women both παντρεύονται.

  32. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: I’m not quite sure if maybe the French don’t think religious-based swear words are the dirtiest
    You are referring to Canadian French usage. In that formerly priest-ridden society it is not that those swear words are “dirty”, they are considered blasphemous, and to utter them is (in principle) one of the gravest of sins.
    avoir commerce
    LH quoted from: Dictionnaire grec moderne français by Félix Désiré Dehèque (1794-1870), a work dating from 1825;
    He said: naturally, I looked up the dirtiest word that came to mind, and sure enough, there it was on page 144: “Γαμῶ, expr. obscène, avoir commerce avec une femme.”
    LH looked up a Greek word, which was marked as “obscene”, but the French definition was not obscene at all (it was an explanation, not a word equivalent in meaning and usage). Also, observe the date of the dictionary: avoir commerce avec is very, very old-fashioned French, which to me is typical of the 18th century. One might as well quote Jane Austen for examples of current English slang. Nijma is right that commerce here had the old sense that intercourse used to have in English, and it is only the added avec une femme which (again at the time) implied the sexual meaning using words acceptable in polite society. In past centuries some people were accused of avoir commerce avec le diable “to have dealings with the devil”, which did not have sexual implications. That too is a very old-fashioned, not to say archaic expression.

  33. sure enough, there it was on page 144
    Ah, I see it now, just using it as a dictionary–I was thinking in terms of the search function (and probably being unnecessarily intimidated by google books). Curiously, a search for femme and commerce will both bring up that page, but not a search for Γαμῶ. Apparently it can only search in French. I recently bought a concert ticket online and the “recaptcha” spämbøt security check was a two word photocopy of a text in English along with the notation that typing in the two words separated by a space would “Digitize One Word at a Time” and that “By entering the words in the box, you are also helping to digitize books from the internet Archive and preserve literature that was written before the computer age.”

  34. I also don’t happen to know of a Greek word for “fuck” that’s distinct for male or female targets. Our records of obscenity are not as good as they should be, but I have no reason to think it was different 200 years ago.
    One distinction that *did* come across from the constructions of sexuality at the time (and are not that different from those of antiquity) is that between the male homosexual “top”, the male homosexual “bottom”, and the male heterosexual. Greek slang records ζαμπαράς “woman-fancier” as the latter, borrowed from Persian. Modelled on that is κωλομπαράς “arse-fancier”, for a top. Being a top was not (then) stigmatised; as in antiquity, it is being a bottom that had a stigma, and the loanword for that, πούστης (from Persian) was a swearword then as now. In fact, it was a swearword much beloved of the mountain Greek, to dismiss townsfolk.
    The other artefact of how sexuality was constructed is the invisibility of lesbians. I’ve only seen one old slang term (as in, pre 1950): πλακομούνες, “cunt-bumpers”. Not much more visibility of bisexuality: αλλαξοκωλιά “exchanging arses” is an old slang reference to intimate friendship, but I don’t think its point was alternating sexuality.
    The dirtiest words in French are indeed religious, which is why Québec was such a delight to me (câlisse!). When Greek wants to amp up swearing, it combines the religious and the sexual; the verb which started this discussion is targeted at “your Virgin Mary”, “your Cross”, “my faith” (an expression of exasperation akin to the Southern US “losing my religion”); and if you’re Kazantzakis and not overly concerned with good interfaith relations, “your Prophet’s beard”. (I have heard “your Prophet” from my grandfather.)

  35. The dirtiest words in French are indeed religious
    Only, as m-l says, in Québecois French.
    When Greek wants to amp up swearing, it combines the religious and the sexual; the verb which started this discussion is targeted at “your Virgin Mary”, “your Cross”, “my faith”
    This is a Balkan thing; see Bernard Nežmah’s “Fuck this Article” (linked in this LH post).

  36. marie-lucie says:

    NN: Québec was such a delight to me (câlisse!)
    Try that expression (the local pronunciation of calice ‘chalice’) in France and nobody will know what you mean, even if you use the “international” pronunciation. Even if they identify the word (and that is doubtful out of context), they will have no idea of why you are using it and will probably laugh at you. Only persons familiar with the Canadian context would be able to understand you.
    Religious-based swearwords in France have (or had?) the word Dieu ‘God’ in it, as in Bon Dieu!, literally ‘Good God!’ but that is not the innocuous exclamation it is in English. One of my grandfathers used it with abandon, as well as its reinforcement Bon Dieu de bon Dieu! when he was angry, but no one else in the family did. Québec French swears by the cult objects, not by the sacred persons.

  37. mollymooly says:

    “That’s pretty macho, in a strange sort of way.”
    There are cultures where only the submissive male is identified as homosexual, including I believe much of Latin America: “Carlos Menem is so macho that he fucks other men”.

  38. French writer, b. in Paris, Oct 9, 1794 ; studied at the Paris Ecole Normale, 1813 : elected member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles
    Lettres, Nov. 1859. Author of ‘ La Cbarte constitutionnelle traduite en Grec moderne,’
    1822 ; translator of the Ludwig * Poesies Cypriques d’Andreadis,’ 1837 ; and other works.
    those other works include Poésies de Christopoulos (1831)and Anthologie grecque (1863)
    http://www.archive.org/stream/handbookcontemp01martgoog/handbookcontemp01martgoog_djvu.txt
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acad%C3%A9mie_des_Inscriptions_et_Belles-Lettres

  39. Not knowing the language I was told that Spanish speakers use ‘machismo’ for what we call macho.

  40. Not knowing the language I was told that Spanish speakers use ‘machismo’ for what we call macho.

  41. Thanks, dany!

  42. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, Spanish “macho” is an adjective meaning ‘male’, which you can use for a dog, for instance, or in the plural for a group of boys. But “machismo” is a noun (“-ismo” is like “-ism” in English, so imagine a word “maleism” meaning the promotion or cult of stereotypical male qualities).

  43. Also, I agree with deadgod about the multifarious nature of human sexuality and gently suggest that Grumbly is (uncharacteristically) oversimplifying.
    < Rant BEGIN >
    Not this time. Read carefully the words I wrote! My comment was directed to a very specific thing, namely my opinion about what people are pleased to call homosexuality. I wrote “there are men who like that, but I’ve never understood how that works”, “I don’t see any ‘facts’ in such a situation, I just don’t know what the individual reasons may be”, “my definitional take on all this”, “my surmise is they are merely a contraceptive device”.
    Not in any way did I suggest or state that I don’t think human sexuality is multifarious. I am claiming exactly the opposite: human sexuality is multifarious and also very individual, so it’s way off-course to bandy categorical words like gay, homosexual, and boy-love as if it were clear what they mean and where they apply. All these “gender studies”, all this “queer theory”, were cottage industries that by now have become gigantic international enterprises of discourse – but it’s still all hogwash, in my humble opinion.
    I make bold to claim that very many people (heterosexuals for the most part, I don’t doubt) don’t seem to know what they’re talking about when they utter opinions about homosexuality. As a gay man of the crudely physical persuasion for all my life (no late conversion here!), it pisses me off to read judiciously ignorant discussions of feminine personality, boy-love etc., in which every effort is being made to classify people on the basis of their sexual behavior. As I tried to indicate in my comment, the least contentious meaning for the word “homosexual” that I know of is the physical craving one, and the same holds for “heterosexual”. That may not be much, but what more is reasonable or necessary or helpful to say? In my opinion, not much. The only justification for trying to identify the sexual proclivities of someone is when you yourself are sexually interested in them and want to calculate your chances.
    Although I’m a great fan of sex, I feel strongly that it’s not worth harping on about. Sexual proclivities do not support the superstructures erected on them by psychoanalysts and those strange people who live by “gender studies” and “queer theory”. Sure, there are often concrete problems with coming out for men – for instance – but even the idea of coming out is itself problematic. People tell themselves all kinds of stories to get their thoughts straight, and are told stories by other people for the same reason. These stories often take the form of “I am gay” or “could it be that I am gay?” or “you are gay”. But, sez I, who knows, and anyway what do those stories mean? If you crave something, can’t you just go get some? Is it a lack of opportunity, or lack of technique, or some thing about being accepted (or let alone!) by other people – or are you just playing spooky music to yourself?
    My conjecture that travelling wives are a contraceptive institution will not be intelligible to those who are not familiar with the careless urge to have sex that is so typical of men in general. That was the point of my ground round analogy. Apart from gross physicality, I have not a clue as to “what homosexuality is”, or what is “at the root of” the sexual proclivities of any particular person. Given the number of men and boys I’ve been through in my life, if even I still don’t have a clue, then nobody has one. All I see is multifarious sexuality, and multifarious busybodies.
    < Rant END >

  44. Thanks, m-l.

  45. Thanks, m-l.

  46. … all this “queer theory”, were cottage industries …
    Nice one, Grumbly. (Cottaging).

  47. … all this “queer theory”, were cottage industries …
    Nice one, Grumbly. (Cottaging).

  48. Yeah, I was thinking of that!

  49. An excellent rant, Grumbly, and I withdraw my accusation of oversimplifying!

  50. marie-lucie says:

    The only justification for trying to identify the sexual proclivities of someone is when you yourself are sexually interested in them and want to calculate your chances.
    The opposite is also true: when you are definitely not interested that way and would prefer to know that the other person is not going to be either. I am pleased to know a never-closeted gay handyman who has become a great friend – there are places in my house where I would be uncomfortable having to introduce the average heterosexual repairman, even though he would probably be much younger than me, but my gay friend and helper is like a brother to me.

  51. Ah, marie-lucie, you homed right in on the very sentence that I wish I’d formulated differently. I agree completely. It’s such a relief to meet people about whom you know that there will be no “calculating of chances”. Not only am I a fan of sex, I’m also a fan of no sex. Friendship is more important to me than anything else.

  52. I agree with Stu. The whole modern thing of classifying people into three categories of “sexual orientation” (straight, gay, or bi) and predicating their social existence on it is quite ridiculous — and destructive. How many people agonise (needlessly) over which category to put themselves in? I also agree that a lot of nonsense has been written, and a lot of needless ink (physical and electronic) spilt about this issue.

  53. I would have to second m-l’s appreciation for the uncloseted gay male friend, and say it goes doubly in the Arab world, where women do not speak to men. In some places even talking to a man who is not your blood brother can put you in serious danger. Western women learn quickly to travel in pairs, since when there are two women together they will be considered to be appropriately escorted and therefore safe. When a new neighbor came to borrow water from me he brought his plastic jerry can and his two or three year old daughter as a signal his intentions were honorable, I had no problem letting them into my place and filling their can. (I had just paid $10 for half a truck of bootleg water, so I guess everyone knew I had it.) I was often challenged by others on my very obvious friendship with a gay guy and his boyfriend, and went alone into their home, but never did it threaten my safety as talking to a straight male might have. AFAIK, Jordanians don’t have a word or even a concept of homosexuality, so when I was challenged about this friendship, and once by a guy who wanted to marry me and said I had been seen talking to a man, my response was “he is my sister”. They would think about it a little bit, see that I was determined in my loyalty, then laugh uproariously. All was forgiven, no harm done, it was suddenly unimportant. I was told later the local women trusted him enough to let him do leg waxing, which really boggles.
    The harder one is when you think your roommate might be in the closet. Do you ask, does she tell? And what about backrubs? She certainly knew I wouldn’t be “calculatingly chances”. I finally decided if I asked her she would probably tell me, then decided it wasn’t important enough to ask.

  54. A vigorous “rant”, Grumbly Stu. Desiring not to add to the “nonsense” and “needless ink […] spilt” that dismay Bathrobe (and others, perhaps), I’d like to see how your “rant” jibes its introductory imperative with your own posts.

    Read carefully the words I wrote!
    “Not in any way did I suggest or state that I don’t think human sexuality is multifarious.”
    If a guy likes sex with boys/men[, he] doesn’t want a rouged and henna’ed parody of a woman. […] The boys wouldn’t be dolled up and shlepped around like women if the men were homosexual, in [my] sense[.]
    “I am claiming exactly the opposite: human sexuality is multifarious and also very individual[.]”
    If [you] don’t crave access to any part of the male body that is missing on the female body […] you ain’t gay.
    “[I]t’s way off-course to bandy categorical words like gay, homosexual, and boy-love as if it were clear what they mean and where they apply.”
    [I]f you’re a man and you like dick, then you’re gay (or bi).
    “[I]t pisses me off to read judiciously ignorant discussions of feminine personality, boy-love etc., in which every effort is made to classify people on the basis of their sexual behavior.”
    Boys […] like women are easier to boss around th[a]n men. […] The men are clearly interested in having sex with something that looks female. I suspect they would prefer women[.]
    “I have not a clue as to ‘what homosexuality is’, [and] if even I still don’t have a clue, then nobody has one.”
    [to repeat] My definitional take on all this is crudely physical: if you’re a man and you like dick, then you’re gay (or bi).

    Grumbly Stu, you emphasize how “multifarious” your perspective is, but you’ve imposed confused and contradictory oversimplifications throughout your contraception “surmise” and its defense, and, to me, your “rant” only repeats those inconsistencies.
    The “effort” made on this thread “to classify people on the basis of their sexual behavior” was yours. One example: Afghan caravan “husbands”. Another: gay men.
    (Why can’t the Afghan “husbands” both employ the “contraception” (a clever idea, I think) and enjoy the boys as males dressed up as ‘women’? And you might not “understand” gay men (and gay women?) who are attracted to ‘feminized’ men (and bull dykes, respectively), but, to put it without any “psychobabble” at all, there they are, choosing what they “like”.)

    Grumbly Stu, on this thread, there’ve been no ad hominem or narrow-minded remarks- except your own; another example: “(heterosexuals for the most part, I don’t doubt)”. What do you mean by “multifarious busybodies”?

  55. Grumbly Stu, you emphasize how “multifarious” your perspective is
    No I don’t. I said sexuality is multifarious, not my sexuality and not my perspective. I’m not in the business of one-upmanship, of “my polymorphous perversity is greater than yours”, or “my views are more liberal than yours”.
    on this thread, there’ve been no ad hominem or narrow-minded remarks- except your own; another example: “(heterosexuals for the most part, I don’t doubt)”. What do you mean by “multifarious busybodies”?
    What I implied about heterosexuals was more ad omnem et neminem than ad hominem. I said it to annoy, because I know it teases. “What heterosexuality is” is just as unclear to me as “what homosexuality is”. By busybody I mean expert. By multifarious busybodies I mean experts of all kinds and shapes. That includes experts in homosexuality and heterosexuality.
    There seems to be an argumentative problem here, of course:
    Grumbly: Experts are full of bullshit.
    Jedermann: So you’re an expert on experts?
    But what I wrote was not an argument, but a rant – you show me your views, and I’ll show you mine. I just spread my wares and leaned back in my deckchair. At least Bathrobe, marie-lucie, Crown and Hat seemed to appreciate one or the other item. Nobody actually bought anything, but that’s ok, because I’ve got other sources of income. It would be foolish to try to live off being right.

  56. “literally ‘Good God!’ but that is not the innocuous exclamation it is in English.”
    It seems to me that not everybody thinks of it as innocuous. I have certainly met English speakers who strongly objected to the use of God in expressions like that as they felt it meant taking the Lord’s name in vain. Of course, they may be a dying breed.

  57. Treppenwitz addendum:
    What I implied about heterosexuals was more ad omnem et neminem than ad hominem. No particular homo was singled out for contempt.

  58. Well played, Grumbly. I agree with most of your rant and its follow up. On the other hand I’m just as interested in whether people are gay/straight/bi as I am to know if they keep a horse, eat much salad or are expecting twins. It’s information I will file, cross-reference and may or may not utilise in some comparison to myself & how I live: the gay young man I know who works in a chain bookstore and has twenty prize-winning ponies, for instance. I don’t know what I’m going to do with that information yet, if anything, but ‘gay’ is part of why I’m interested.

  59. I’m just as interested in whether people are gay/straight/bi as I am to know if they keep a horse, eat much salad or are expecting twins. It’s information I will file, cross-reference and may or may not utilise in some comparison to myself & how I live
    Of course I do that too – and sometimes also indulge in titillating gossip, which you omitted to mention because you’re a nice guy. My point is that I have my own private working definitions of what gay/straight/bi mean (“something else” and “ain’t interested” are further ones that most people miss). They’re not filing categories, but rather yellow stickers on files. But the older I get, the more disorganized the files seem, and the stickers are forever falling off.
    I think that behind the current Western obsession with sexual classification is a simple, all-too-human desire (I ain’t knockin it) to have a bit of stability, a bit of predictability, in one’s dealings with other people, and with the world in general. Nobody wants to wake up every morning and have to go haring about cluelessly, trying to figure out what’s what and who’s who today. But the important expression here is “a bit”. A little goes a longer way than too much, I find.
    I too would tend to make a mental note about the chain bookstore guy, and leave it at that for the time being. The note could come in useful when you’re considering seating arrangements for a dinner party. Say one of the guests was a recently divorced woman who was looking for a new husband. You might first think it inappropriate to place her next to the bookstore guy. Then you might look at the other mental note about his being a clever guy who gets along well with women, and think wow, that’s just the guy to place next to her.
    The media clamor about sexual classification is just too crude to be useful in practice. As Bathrobe asked, “How many people agonise (needlessly) over which category to put themselves in?” My rant was not about me, but about people who have been thrown into confusion by the hype. I’ve met many people, particularly younger ones, who really suffer. What I say to them is: “The problem is not who you jump into bed with, but the emotional consequences that may have and that you’re not expecting. Don’t think that you can screw around and still maintain the same feelings about your girlfriend / boyfriend. Maybe you’re bi, and maybe you’re just a self-centered sex machine looking for a cool excuse.”.

  60. deadgod, you’re taking Grumbly too seriously, or perhaps not seriously enough. He’s a fine fellow, but he wouldn’t be Grumbly without the occasional rant. We must all try and give one another the benefit of the doubt; otherwise the goblins will get us.

  61. too seriously, or perhaps not seriously enough
    Thanks, Hat. Keep ’em guessin’, is my motto. I see myself as more of a performance artist than a logic-chopper – although I do try to keep my stage equipment sharpened. As Noetica once admonished me: “we all whirl to our own music here”.
    deadgod, of course among other things I was trying to stick pins into certain personae, but I didn’t specify who. You’re perfectly welcome to needle back if you feel miffed, but let me just give you a small hint: you’re not going to faze me with Theory-like circumlocutions and sentence-contrasting. I often have difficulty understanding your comments – and when I do think I’ve figured out a bit of what you’ve written, I still don’t grasp what you mean by it, because so much is enclosed in scare quotes, in crackling cellophane wrappers of ironic don’t-quote-me-on-this-ness. I guess I’m too dumb for that kind of approach. Usually only sarcasm penetrates my hide.

  62. To add a further gratuitous observation:
    I find it quite fascinating how “sexual liberation” in our age has come down to figuring out which of three categories you want to box yourself into (with “bi” a grudging addition to the original stark yes/no choice).
    In the old days you at least had the option of staying in the closet. This is apparently now regarded as a cowardly escape from one’s sexual orientation rather than a steadfast refusal to let other people peep into things that are none of their business.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    “literally ‘Good God!’ but that is not the innocuous exclamation it is in English.”
    bruessel: It seems to me that not everybody thinks of it as innocuous. I have certainly met English speakers who strongly objected to the use of God in expressions like that as they felt it meant taking the Lord’s name in vain. Of course, they may be a dying breed.
    I think that such people are definitely in the minority, but they can use an equivalent such as “Good grief!”. In any case, many English speakers (perhaps more women than men) will exclaim “Good God!” or even more “Good Lord!” when confronted with something they find deplorable – news of an accident, for instance. But such exclamations are not perceived as “swearwords” or uttered in a tone of voice associated with those words. In French though, Bon Dieu! is (or perhaps was) uttered and perceived as a swearword. A closer equivalent of English “Good God/Lord!” is Mon Dieu! which is unobjectionable, like “Oh my God!”.

  64. with “bi” a grudging addition to the original stark yes/no choice
    I come from the black-and-white generation. Although I hate to admit it, at the innermost level of my feelings I still don’t really, really believe that bisexuality is emotionally, genuinely possible. Carnally yes, emotionally no. But since I’ve pretty much given up on the classification business altogether, I have been reluctantly obliged to put that belief into the attic along with all the rest of it. But I know where it is, just in case. I feel like an old fart sitting on the beach, watching the young’uns misbehaving without a care in the world, and muttering to myself “there oughta be a law”.
    a steadfast refusal to let other people peep into things that are none of their business.
    My sentiments exactly, Senator! I am so fed up with all the prying and probing. I don’t understand what people get out of it. It may be that, in this age of global unease and fear, they are grasping for what seem to be the last straws of certainty.

  65. When I was about 8 years old, I innocently uttered the exclamation “Oh gee!” in front of the headmistress of our primary school. I was taken to her office and told to think what I had just said. I honestly couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong!

  66. I had a similar experience at a similar age: I was reading a science fiction story (by Kornbluth?) that used “Take it and stick it!” as a catchphrase, and I liked the sound of it and started saying it loudly in the back of the car, whereupon my father whirled around and told me sternly not to say that. I had no idea what was wrong.

  67. I hear otherwise respectable people saying “That sucks”. No one seems aware of the background and connotations of that expression. But I remember them, though, from frat language in the 60s.

  68. Drezzgown & GS, The closet: a steadfast refusal to let other people peep into things that are none of their business.
    I’d say the closet – wardrobe, as it ought to be known in England – is more of a challenge, inviting people to poke around and see what they can find in there. Almost the only place it’s a steadfast refusal is in the American (don’t ask, don’t tell) military, Hopefully, they’ll get rid of it now; it’s a frightful mess to tell perfectly normal people that they’ve got something they ought to hide.

  69. Drezzgown & GS, The closet: a steadfast refusal to let other people peep into things that are none of their business.
    I’d say the closet – wardrobe, as it ought to be known in England – is more of a challenge, inviting people to poke around and see what they can find in there. Almost the only place it’s a steadfast refusal is in the American (don’t ask, don’t tell) military, Hopefully, they’ll get rid of it now; it’s a frightful mess to tell perfectly normal people that they’ve got something they ought to hide.

  70. As I understood Drezzgown to be saying, your business should remain your business if that’s what you want. Expectations of the correctly thinking public, and orders from a superior, are an impertinence.

  71. Every couple of weeks my wife & daughter ask me why “douchebag” is a rude thing to say in English. In Norwegian, douche is a shower, like in French. As it says in Wiki,’(douchebag) is thus a notorious false friend encountered by non-native speakers of English‘. Despite its notoriety, I’ve no real knowledge of the workings of douchebags; this has so far put me off trying to give an explanation & I’ve claimed ignorance. Now I see it’s fully explained and illustrated, with advice both for and against its use; so next time they ask I shall simply refer them to the wonderful Wikipedia.

  72. Every couple of weeks my wife & daughter ask me why “douchebag” is a rude thing to say in English. In Norwegian, douche is a shower, like in French. As it says in Wiki,’(douchebag) is thus a notorious false friend encountered by non-native speakers of English‘. Despite its notoriety, I’ve no real knowledge of the workings of douchebags; this has so far put me off trying to give an explanation & I’ve claimed ignorance. Now I see it’s fully explained and illustrated, with advice both for and against its use; so next time they ask I shall simply refer them to the wonderful Wikipedia.

  73. Golly, even I knew that. Compared with a Texas upbringing, yours must been sheltered.

  74. Expectations, especially public expectations, can provoke me into doing the opposite. So I’m with you there.

  75. Expectations, especially public expectations, can provoke me into doing the opposite. So I’m with you there.

  76. Yes, there was no explanation of the workings of douchebags when I was a boy.

  77. Yes, there was no explanation of the workings of douchebags when I was a boy.

  78. Nothing about whether it ought to be hyphenated, either.

  79. Nothing about whether it ought to be hyphenated, either.

  80. I think I know how I probably learned about it. My father, the farmboy turned self-made man and radiologist, went out of his way to instill into us kids that one should not shrink from the disgusting, gory details of life. So we were inducted at an early age into those details. Jesus, the things that he explained without solicitation, and showed me in the hospital! The mysteries of the female body (the male body didn’t get much of a look-in, but then it’s not so mysterious at age 8), an intestinal worm he had identified in an x-ray and, after removal, had had preserved in a jar of formaldehyde sitting on his desk at home, a man’s hand chopped off by a lawnmower, a child who got at the bleaching liquid and drank it …
    I can’t quite remember if he pretended that these things were not really so bad once you got used to them. In any case, the final result was that I’m not fazed by things disgusting and gory. It’s been a useful attitude to have.

  81. Well, AJP, Wikipedia says that “the practice of douching is now largely restricted to the United States”, so it is no reflection on the delicacy of your upbringing that you aren’t familiar with a douche bag. I’d never seen one, either, until I read the Wikipedia article just now.

  82. I hear otherwise respectable people saying “That sucks”. No one seems aware of the background and connotations of that expression. But I remember them, though, from frat language in the 60s.
    My husband and I both understand the term to be sexual and have accordingly forbidden our adolescent son from using it. (He substitutes “stinks.”) Given his age when it first came up, I can’t imagine that we felt that it was remoteley appropriate to explain to him why the term was inappropriate. I think we just told him that it actually meant something very filthy, and we might have gone so far as to say that the term was sexual in nature. I don’t remember.
    So imagine my surprise when my father, who is in his late 60’s and by no means naive, observed us reminding our son not to use the expression and couldn’t understand what we found offensive about it. He told me that, as far as he had always been concerned, it was short for “sucks bilge-water.” He grew up in not-quite-coastal Oregon and joined the Navy between high school and college, so I guess that explains his understanding of the term as innocuous, but I’m not certain what percentage of the general population even knows what a bilge is, so I don’t know what their excuse for saying “sucks” is.

  83. And D’gown’s a man of the world who’s living in China.
    A fascinating upbringing, Grumbly. I suppose he used the hand as a paperweight, but where did he keep the child who had got at the bleach?

  84. And D’gown’s a man of the world who’s living in China.
    A fascinating upbringing, Grumbly. I suppose he used the hand as a paperweight, but where did he keep the child who had got at the bleach?

  85. Huckleberry Finn always talks about sucking eggs, as I remember. I really wish Mark Twain had let it all hang out. He did with the blasphemy is some books, but I’m not sure about the sex talk.
    Mark Twain used smoking as his euphemism for sexual nastiness and talked about it all the time. Italo Svevo picked it up. Knut Hamsun, Rudyard Kipling, and Jarolslave Hašek were also Twainians.
    And in the end Joyce was more a Hamsunian than an Ibsenian.

  86. And in the end Joyce was more a Hamsunian than an Ibsenian.
    Well we know you like Knut, but why do you say that, Emms?

  87. And in the end Joyce was more a Hamsunian than an Ibsenian.
    Well we know you like Knut, but why do you say that, Emms?

  88. #1. Joyce was an Ibsenist to begin with, and very diligently learned Norwegian to read Ibsen.
    #2. Hamsun was already famous in Norway by 1890, even if he wasn’t in England or Ireland.
    #3. Hamsun’s psychological novels had a stream-of-consciousness aspect which was unique in its time.

  89. Stream-of-consciousness was ‘in the air’ in the 1890s (depending, of course, on what you’re willing to fit into / find in the category. I think most literary historians give the pride-of-place to Edouard Dujardin (that’s who’s credited as Joyce’s great stimulation in this one stylistic regard).
    But Hamsun is surely a contemporary of Dujardin, John E.- I’d not realized how old Hunger is. I’d also not realized that the metaphor was used as a literary description first by William James.
    Damn, but you can learn new things every day, if you’re not careful.

  90. Hi Isidora! Well, I wasn’t sure what a bilge is, so I had to look it up. I also find it hard to imagine that the general landlubber use of the expression derives from that. As I wrote, I heard fraternity boys at UT Austin in the 60s say “that sucks”. From the way they said it, it was clear to me what was meant.

  91. Bathrobe, your rehabilitation of the closet makes perfect sense to me. In a Jerry-Springer world, the only thing worth closeting is reluctance to be indiscreet, as though we were best off just saying “No!” to closet exhibitionism.

  92. I think most literary historians give the pride-of-place to Edouard Dujardin (that’s who’s credited as Joyce’s great stimulation in this one stylistic regard).
    I’ve ssen the Dujardin attribution, which was what Joyced said himself, but I’m sure he had his reasons. Considering that Hamsun was the greater and more interesting writer, and considering that Joyce could read Norwegian, I think that there’s a good case. And Dedalus is a bit like a Hamsun protagonist.

  93. taking Grumbly too seriously, or perhaps not seriously enough
    Point taken, language hat- though the “or” is a bit safely inclusive.
    ‘Performance artist rather than logic-chopper’, to be sure: the comically ironic self-regard, the Arguments from Incomprehension, the clownish It would be foolish to try to live off being right. and Experts are full of bullshit., and, especially, the priceless I’m not in the business of oneupmanship — it’s quite a show.

  94. That about James was new to me as well, deadgod. “Stream of consciousness” is the title of chapter 11 of his Psychology, as I found it on the Classics in the History of Psychology website. I found his use of the word analytic startling, since I usually associate analytic with deductive, i.e. an operation on propositions (more or less the Kantian idea). But it makes sense, and James is nicely stroppy about it:

    The order of our study must be analytic. We are now prepared to begin the introspective study of the adult consciousness itself. Most books adopt the so-called synthetic method. Starting with ‘simple ideas of sensation,’ and regarding these as so many atoms, they proceed to build up the higher states of mind out of their ‘association,’ ‘integration,’ or ‘fusion,’ as houses are built by the agglutination of bricks. This has the didactic advantages which the synthetic method usually has. But it commits one beforehand to the very questionable theory that our higher states of consciousness are compounds of units; and instead of starting with what the reader directly knows, namely his total concrete states of mind, it starts with a set of supposed ‘simple ideas’ with which he has no immediate acquaintance at all, and concerning whose alleged interactions he is much at the mercy of any plausible phrase. On every ground, then, the method of advancing from the simple to the compound exposes us to illusion. All pedants and abstractionists will naturally hate to abandon it. But a student who loves the fulness [sic] of human nature will prefer to follow the ‘analytic’ method, and to begin with the most concrete facts, those with which he has a daily acquaintance in his own inner life. The analytic method will discover in due time the elementary parts, if such exist, without danger of precipitate assumption.

  95. Besides Mark Twain, Hamsun credited Bret Harte abd even Artemus Ward.

  96. the comically ironic self-regard, the Arguments from Incomprehension, the clownish … it’s quite a show.
    Why, thank you, deadgod! A little diversion from solemnity is such a relief, don’t you think? Of course “comically ironic self-regard” is pretty funny itself. The general public does tend to confuse the actor with a role.

  97. the “or” is a bit safely inclusive
    Only if you don’t understand what it means.

  98. the “or” is a bit safely inclusive
    Only if you don’t understand what it means.

  99. I don’t think you’re right, John. Check this (2 pages).
    Sorry to keep coming back to this, but how come Joyce didn’t let someone know that Et dukkehjem should be translated as ‘A Doll’s Home’, not ‘A Doll’s House’?

  100. I don’t think you’re right, John. Check this (2 pages).
    Sorry to keep coming back to this, but how come Joyce didn’t let someone know that Et dukkehjem should be translated as ‘A Doll’s Home’, not ‘A Doll’s House’?

  101. The Ibsenism was a smokescreen. You see, if Joyce had really been an Ibsenian, he would have been a much crappier writer than he actually was. But he was a darn good writer, so he must have been a Hamsunian. QED. Probably Hamsun helped Joyce escape from Ibsen’s tedious influence, if only partially.
    I did Google that same link, but found it inconclusive.

  102. It was only Dionne Warwick, much later, who discovered that a house is not a home.

  103. much later,
    I believe Warwick is found in Shakespeare.

  104. much later,
    I believe Warwick is found in Shakespeare.

  105. No, I’m wrong. That was Polly Adams, a “famous New York madam” in 1953.
    Boy, how that Warwick song takes me back to 1965 in Austin.

  106. I don’t really see how you can confuse Dionne, Earl of Warwick with a 1953 famous New York madam.

  107. I don’t really see how you can confuse Dionne, Earl of Warwick with a 1953 famous New York madam.

  108. I never had good grades in history. What is the motivation to learn about things that are so passé?

  109. Come to think of it, I never had good grades in anything except math. I believe the explanation ultimately found was that I was not being sufficiently challenged. Boredom and ignorance ruled my youth.

  110. I did Google that same link, but found it inconclusive.
    Well, it’s work I haven’t read, but he talks about Bjørn Tysdahl’s ‘Joyce’s Use Of Norwegian Writers’ 1969 (Tysdahl also wrote Joyce & Ibsen, A Study in Literary Influence, 1968) which says/implies that Bjørnsterne Bjørnson & Knut Hamsun were (equally) the more important of several Norwegian writers, including even Sigrid Undset, for god’s sake, as influences on Joyce’s work (FW & Exiles). That’s not that inconclusive.
    Hamsun was one creepy nazi bastard. I recently discovered that Hamsun hired the same Swedish structural engineer who designed our house (built from rammed-earth) to come and live with the Hamsuns in the mid 1930s in order to supervise the construction of a fjøs, or cowshed, which the engineer (named Ellington) did. He stayed for two weeks, disappearing on the morning of the last day when the building collapsed. So, ha ha. Our house (built 1923) is still in perfect condition.

  111. I did Google that same link, but found it inconclusive.
    Well, it’s work I haven’t read, but he talks about Bjørn Tysdahl’s ‘Joyce’s Use Of Norwegian Writers’ 1969 (Tysdahl also wrote Joyce & Ibsen, A Study in Literary Influence, 1968) which says/implies that Bjørnsterne Bjørnson & Knut Hamsun were (equally) the more important of several Norwegian writers, including even Sigrid Undset, for god’s sake, as influences on Joyce’s work (FW & Exiles). That’s not that inconclusive.
    Hamsun was one creepy nazi bastard. I recently discovered that Hamsun hired the same Swedish structural engineer who designed our house (built from rammed-earth) to come and live with the Hamsuns in the mid 1930s in order to supervise the construction of a fjøs, or cowshed, which the engineer (named Ellington) did. He stayed for two weeks, disappearing on the morning of the last day when the building collapsed. So, ha ha. Our house (built 1923) is still in perfect condition.

  112. Hamsun’s best books were written 30 years or so before Fascism was invented.

  113. Nick Nicholas: I also don’t happen to know of a Greek word for “fuck” that’s distinct for male or female targets.
    Thank you, it appears Dehèque was just trying to be discreet with his avoir commerce avec une femme.
    It also seems he assumed only men would be reading his dictionary. Not that unusual even now–I have a contemporary Pimsleur CD where the correct answers are given as if the language learner is always male!

  114. A closer equivalent of English “Good God/Lord!” is Mon Dieu! which is unobjectionable, like “Oh my God!”.
    Not everywhere. As Bathrobe points out:
    When I was about 8 years old, I innocently uttered the exclamation “Oh gee!” in front of the headmistress of our primary school. I was taken to her office and told to think what I had just said. I honestly couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong!
    The “gee” of course could be construed to be short for “Jesus” and therefore breaking the commandment that says not to take the name of the lord in vain.
    I ran into a similar thing in the Middle East when I uttered the word “wallah” meaning “really” late one night on a bus. Someone on the bus explained to me that the word really meant “by Allah” and might be objected to by very religious persons. I suddenly had absolutely no doubt that such a person was seated nearby at that very moment and with the most pious expression I could muster, attempted (unsuccessfully) to learn the pronunciation of several other words that were presented to me as alternatives.

  115. My conjecture that travelling wives are a contraceptive institution will not be intelligible to those who are not familiar with the careless urge to have sex that is so typical of men in general.
    Where to even begin with this. Is it supposed to mean that all men are willing to have sex with a man or a boy, given the opportunity? Does it mean all men are predators? Or that only men are sexual? Is it meant to give permission (for men only) to treat their sexual partners like appliances? Or to say that men are not expected to have control over their actions? If so, it’s a sad commentary on male sexuality. But now that I think about it, the men in my family aren’t like that, the men I went to school with aren’t like that, in fact, I don’t know any men at all like that. But looking just at the “contraceptive theory” part of the statement, that is just wildly out of step with what I know about eastern culture from having lived there for several years. You can’t really extrapolate in terms of western culture. I’m with Johannes Burckhardt, who observed a lot of the things I did and puzzled over the possible sexual explanations, then finally concluded a western person would never be able to understand the eastern way of thinking.

  116. I found his use of the word analytic startling, since I usually associate analytic with deductive, i.e. an operation on propositions (more or less the Kantian idea).
    And thank you, Grumbly Stu, for this diversion from the solemnities of philosophical conversation! Marvelous expert-drag — as funny as that ‘hissy-icky harrumpher’ role.

  117. John E., I think Joyce could resemble Hamsun, in that he wrote some parts of Ulysses (and Portrait ??) that affect you in the (technical) way that Hunger does (I’m guessing that’s your idear), but that Joyce was more excited and moved by Ibsen. In other words, while he was a loyal Ibsen fan, he actually wrote in a way that causes one to feel as one does while reading Hamsun. In order to achieve the latter, there’s no need for Joyce to have been influenced by Hamsun, except to the trivial extent that he was influenced by dozens (hundreds?) of writers, that is, by everything he read.
    To me, it’s sometimes intriguing when great writers are excited by, eh, less great writers. Think of Baudelaire and Mallarme reading Shakespearean depths in . . . Poe, or Eliot and Stevens discovering a kind of foundation in the delicate suggestiveness of Laforgue.
    I think Joyce both loved Flaubert and (of course) Shakespeare and experienced them as threats. Ibsen, whom Joyce writes nothing like (to me), is more of a charmingly avuncular inspiration.

  118. I don’t despise Hamsun half as much as I loathe Descartes, to cite an earlier discussion of people I hate.
    Sure, Hamsun’s best books were written before Fascism. There were plenty of appalling characters living before Fascism, it’s no excuse. His last book was published after he’d been obliged to plead insanity as a consequence of his attitude to nazism. But the nynorsk Wiki article says: Den siste boka han skreiv var Paa Gjengrodde Stier (1949). Det er utenkjeleg at ein mann med svekka sjelsevner kunne ha skrive ei slik bok. (The last book he wrote was On Overgrown Paths (1949). It is inconceivable that a man with impaired mental faculties could have written a book like that.) So – just because, for example, in 1935 he opposed the Nobel Peace Prize being given to Carl von Ossietzky, and he gave his own Nobel prize to Goebbels, and he wrote Hitler’s glowing obituary in Aftenposten – he wasn’t crazy. He was just a fervent supporter of nazism, like many others in the twenties and thirties and forties and fifties. I agree that he had a positive literary influence, but life is too short to enthuse about people like that.
    He was no P.G.Wodehouse.

  119. Nijma, you quote my conjecture that travelling wives are a contraceptive institution, and ask several yes/no questions about it. The answer to each of them is no. I don’t really see how any of your questions could arise, because what I said is pretty innocuous and straightforward. To put it in other words, boys don’t get pregnant, and this convenient fact is knowingly taken into account in the institution of travelling wives.
    You go on to say this:
    But looking just at the “contraceptive theory” part of the statement, that is just wildly out of step with what I know about eastern culture from having lived there for several years. You can’t really extrapolate in terms of western culture. I’m with Johannes Burckhardt, who observed a lot of the things I did and puzzled over the possible sexual explanations, then finally concluded a western person would never be able to understand the eastern way of thinking.
    I don’t see where I am supposed to be doing any extrapolation. Nomads were surely not so stupid as to be unaware of the contraceptive advantages of their travelling wives. Perhaps I should have merely, and non-conjecturally, said that travelling wives are a conveniently contraceptive institution. In any case, I was not implying that the risk of pregnancy was a sort of problem that was solved in a scientific way by recruiting boys to have sex with, with nothing else entering the picture.
    I think the fundamental issue here is that you and others are “puzzling over the possible sexual explanations” at all, whereas I see nothing to explain and nothing to be puzzled about. Let me put it bluntly. Western heterosexuals traditionally unfamiliar with any sexual behavior except their own, and uneasy about it, will think that travelling wives require explanation and special treatment. The seasoned Western gay man, however, reading about travelling wives merely thinks: “Well, well, how pragmatic of those nomads”, and casually reaches for his mint julep.
    The discrepancy here is not eastern/western, but experienced/inexperienced. Heterosexuals are traditionally alarmed and diverted by “transgressive” behavior. But “transgressive” behavior is soooo boring when you’ve been involved in it all your life. Above, deadgod says I comment in “expert-drag”, which is apparently intended to be a snide remark, but since drag is so boringly familiar to me I see the snideness of the remark as if from a great distance, across hills and valleys. Sloterdijk recently dismissed Bataille’s work as “transgressive kitsch”. How apt!
    There may well be aspects of “the eastern way of thinking” that “a western person would never be able to understand”, but the institution of travelling wives is not one of them, on my view.

  120. a western person would never be able to understand the eastern way of thinking.
    This is classic Orientalism and really quite silly. You taught in Jordan; did you feel the Jordanians were exotic, incomprehensible Easterners? I’ve lived in both Japan and Taiwan, and found the people there to be, well, people, with different habits and cultural traditions but as understandable as anyone else.

  121. I need to be a little more careful here. Sloterdijk, discussing the different phases of Foucault’s work, mentions Bataille only in passing, in connection with Foucault’s last writings:

    Der transgressive Kitsch, den Foucault bei Bataille viele Jahre zuvor aufgelesen hatte und zu dem er dank seines mimetischen Talents selbst einige präkäre Exempel beisteuerte, tritt in den Hintergrund.

    The transgressive kitsch that Foucault had picked up from Bataille many years before, to which he had been able to add some questionable contributions of his own thanks to his mimetic talents, now recedes into the background .

  122. Misprint above, should be prekäre

  123. classic Orientalism
    I used to believe I would never be able to understand the way women think. After several decades of dealing with them, I no longer believe that. They’re just as understandable as anyone else. Of course, when you think about it, that doesn’t mean much, except that I’ve grown out of an untenable prejudice. Who knows, it might have turned out to be tenable! But that’s experience for ya. All the signs point to a banality: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  124. Where is Will, anyway?

  125. Beats me. He hasn’t contributed to this comment thread, that’s for sure.

  126. That was supposed to be just a sour joke, too good not to make. I apologize to the Goodwill donors.

  127. I’m glad you & Slots qualified that, Grumbly, my wife’s always quoting Bataille.

  128. Oh dear, I guess I’ll never be invited to visit in Norway now. Because in the same book Slots gives Wittgenstein a hard time. More precisely, the “analytic philosophy” followers of Wittgenstein get a drubbing, while Ludwig himself is sharply rapped on the knuckles.
    I’ve been concealing this fact as long as I could.
    Wait a mo’: is Crown having me on?

  129. You always think I’m teasing. No, it’s true, Here, I’ll quote my wife quoting Bataille:

    Georges Bataille describes in The Accursed Share the way in which the gift is positive and negative at the same time, because it binds the recipient to return it with an even more valuable gift.

    You’re always welcome here Grumbly even if your friends do think my wife is kitchy.
    (That was a joke, Grumbly.)
    (Not that you’re welcome, the other part.)

  130. I was going to say: surely that’s Mauss with his Essai sur le don? (Which I’ve often heard about but haven’t yet read). Then I remembered that Bataille and Mauss were in cahoots, along with Caillois, Leiris et al. It was only this year that I learned a little about that crowd, in connection with the first Bachelard book I’m now reading, La poétique de l’espace. Slots oftens cites these guys.
    That Bataille idea contains no transgressive kitsch, of course. But if I were given something, I wouldn’t feel bound to give something even more valuable in return. More likely I would run away with my gift. What does Bataille have to say about that?
    By the way, can’t you give your wife a moniker like yours, “A.J.P. Crown”? It drives me crazy to have to refer to a woman as a functionary. “A.J.P. Crown (Mrs)” is already taken, as you will be aware.

  131. Our friend Lars Vilks suggested that rather than giving someone a pair of socks we should decorate a box marked ‘present’ and give that as a Christmas present. Rather than opening it the recipient would then pass it on to someone as a birthday birthday present; this handy little gadget would just continue being passed around.
    My wife is rightly terrified of having the shining good name she was born with tarnished by a googled mix up with my blog name. Des’s wife is ‘the Countess’, so I can’t use that, even though my wife’s first husband was a French Count and she was for a time a Countess. I can’t think of an alternative.

  132. What about A.J.Q. ? Tiara, to match Crown ? L’artiste ? The Shepherdess? (I’m thinking of separating the sheep from the goats, you can be Giles Goatboy)

  133. as understandable as anyone else
    a lot of leeway there.
    I wish I could find the exact Johann Ludwig Burckhardt quotation, I think quoted by Sir John Glubb (or maybe Bernard Lewis?) I seem not to have all the books I remember having before I moved last summer. I also seem to remember all the books under my bed went into two big boxes that went into storage…well, since everyone is quoting from memory, it goes something like this. Burckhardt is observing men on the street who hold hands, repeatedly kiss each other on the cheeks and in general are into what we in the western world would consider PDA, then the next minute they are quarreling violently. Without a fluent grasp of the language, the subject can only be guessed at, and one can only imagine they will kill each other next. Then suddenly it is over and they are murmuring what can only be endearments and caressing each others’ hands. It’s not homosexuality (and I think here Burckhardt had a more oblique way of expressing it) but it’s something else that westerners aren’t capable of understanding.
    How do you understand a people? Probably not by peering into a cocktail glass, picking one of your own cherished values that you think makes you superior to everyone else, and then assuming someone you have never seen envies or even knows about those values. It is I think difficult for the ordinary foreigner in Jordan to get close to that culture. Many expats live together in a practically gated communities with salaries from western sources, and except for their servants, who tend to be from Sri Lanka, see only other expats. I lived on a Jordanian income, rented an apartment in a Jordanian neighborhood, and knew how to sleep on a farsha, eat mansaf with my hands, and pour kerosene into a soba and light and extinguish it safely. That said, there is a huge difference between the different cultural groups that make up Jordan (bedu, filisteen, circa, iraqi, Christian, rural, urban, etc) and also between individuals.
    How do you understand a thirteen year old boy who thinks his 15 year old sister is talking to a man on the telephone and strangles her with the telephone cord–and then is acquitted by the courts? There were some 30 cases like that a year at the time I lived there. For me, that goes beyond “as understandable as anyone else”. I could mention a lot of other customs and incomprehensible everyday occurrences, but unless you either observe the people, or better yet, ask them, it is only arrogance that can make you believe you know what they are thinking or why they do something. Guessing someone else’s motives always puts you on a slippery slope.
    As far as the caravan boys, I think you would not be able to answer that question by looking into a cocktail glass either. As Hat pointed out, the tradition of–why don’t we call it what it is–sexually abusing children–is probably complex and goes way beyond travel. iirc about the campaign of Alexander, the Greek army did not travel with wives, but the army of Darius did. I also seem to remember something about the boys being eunuchs who were the offspring of conquered foes. What more could a victorious war commander want than to be surrounded by the reminder that the lineage of one’s enemies went backward but would not go forward. I also seem to remember that the eunuch boys Darius traveled with were not obtained specifically for the journey but were part of the court–they were there because they were already part of the household. Maybe someone who has read that more recently than I have can clarify that.

  134. Ms. A.J.P. is not kitchy at all. She can do my place anytime. Whether she wants to bring in moss, goats, or horses, it always looks perfect.

  135. Nijma, have you made any effort to identify customs and everyday occurrences in the USA, or elsewhere in “the West”, that you find incomprehensible? You’ve talked about such things here and in your blogs – I believe there was an incident in a bus line, for instance – but now you’ve conveniently forgotten them, it seems. As of your latest comment, all incomprehensibility is depicted as being in “the East”, while reprehensibility is, what, evenly distributed? Not 70 years ago there was plenty of incomprehensible stuff going on in Europe, not a million miles from where I write this.
    As for cocktail glasses, what is this about “picking one of your own cherished values that you think makes you superior to everyone else” (addressed to me, I suppose)? Do you really believe I feel “superior to everyone else”, just because I sometimes mock and criticize certain things and certain groups of people, just as mostly everyone at this site occasionally does? I don’t cherish being gay, I just am gay. Cherish is for other things.
    Take my remarks about “heterosexuals traditionally unfamiliar with any sexual behavior except their own” who get huffy and puffy, and/or puzzled, about travelling wives. (Although that is suddenly about “sexually abusing children”, I now learn from you.) In “the West”, although variability in sexual behavior over the last decades has probably not changed, honesty about it sure has. So huffy-puffyness, and being puzzled, just doesn’t cut any ice any more. Whoever indulges in it exposes himself to mockery, or the charge of culpable ignorance, or of pigheadedness. And a person who discusses these things sometimes, and at other times seethes with righteous indignation about them, is open to the charge of inconsistency, if not worse.
    If superior is the only word you can come up with, then sure, I do feel superior to heterosexuals who puzzle over peanuts, otherwise I wouldn’t make fun of them. But not superior to everyone. And in any case, I’m certain that such people feel superior to me! So some people sometimes feel superior in some respect to some other people. That won’t make the six o’clock news.

  136. Rather than opening it the recipient would then pass it on to someone as a birthday birthday present; this handy little gadget would just continue being passed around.
    Fruitcakes are reputed to travel around that way.
    As it happens, I really hate the fruitcake jokes. My mother made wonderful, moist, rummy fruitcakes, and when the jokes reached a certain magnitude she quit. I will never forgive my sister for being one of those who caved in to the anti-fruitcake mob, and I have a friend here who is on thin ice because she reflexively turned down a slice of what happened to be my mother’s last surviving fruitkake.

  137. Possible Norse titles for poor Ms. Crown include
    Hertuginne, Grevinne, and Dronning, but why not a unique Finnish title: Vapaaherratar.

  138. it’s something else that westerners aren’t capable of understanding.
    Again, that’s just silly. Americans (which I suppose is what you mean by “westerners”) might not be used to it, but that’s a far, far cry from not being capable of understanding it. Nihil humanum a me alienum puto.

  139. The anti-fruitcake mob?? I had no idea there was such a thing. I’ve just doubled-locked my apartment door, because I love fruitcake. I’ve never heard jokes about it, but then I wouldn’t want to. I’m definitely not going to return to America, if things have come to such a pass there. First Bush, now this!

  140. Would Mrs Crown consider using the Norwegian word for Countess? I just looked it up somewhere and got grevinne.

  141. men on the street who hold hands, repeatedly kiss each other on the cheeks and in general are into what we in the western world would consider PDA, then the next minute they are quarreling violently. Without a fluent grasp of the language, the subject can only be guessed at, and one can only imagine they will kill each other next. Then suddenly it is over and they are murmuring what can only be endearments and caressing each others’ hands. It’s not homosexuality (and I think here Burckhardt had a more oblique way of expressing it) but it’s something else that westerners aren’t capable of understanding.
    So it appears brotherly love is another thing you don’t understand. And PDA merely means “public display of affection”, right? In what way is the following, in any city in the USA, any different? :
    a man and a woman on the street who hold hands [continues as above]
    What is it with you, Nijma – why can’t you live with things you don’t understand? Live and let live? Are you afraid of something? The way you go on, I sure hope you don’t become Queen of the World. There would be such a crushing of reprehensible behavior, and 24-hour exposure to scrutiny and evaluation for comprehensibility, as even Orwell could not have imagined.

  142. Americans (which I suppose is what you mean by “westerners”) might not be used to it
    Burckhardt (1784 – 1817), who I paraphrase here, was Swiss.

  143. Ah, sorry, that was a duplicate, wasn’t it?
    My mother still makes fruitcake every December, and she always gives me one, and year after year before she does so she goes out of her way to give me a chance to tell her if I really don’t want it. This is surely the effect of all those fruitcake jokes in the world (in combination with a certain show of insecurity which is part of Mom’s persona). I eat it happily every time, but always with a sense that I am doing so in an anti-fruitcake world.

  144. And, Nijma, you’re quite wrong about non-homosexual physical contact between men being something that “westerners are incapable of understanding”. You, as a woman and as Nijma, can’t understand it, but you’re not westerners. I’ll tell you something – velly, velly late in my life I discovered that dragging some stranger into bed with me was, more often than not, just to have somebody there for the night, not to fuck. Fuck was what had to be got through to get to cuddle. So, extrapolating backwards (destrapolating ?), my thesis is: the more that guys are encouraged to have physical contact with each other when growing up, the less likely they are to become gay (if that’s one of your worries).
    As with the Turks here in Germany. It’s had an amazing effect, even only over the last 20 years. Among young German guys it is considered extremely cool nowadays to do cheek-kissing with their Turkish and German friends, hang around with their arms over each other’s shoulders etc, with and without the presence of their girlfriends. It just charms the daylights out of me. That’s what life should be like.

  145. I’m befuddled. Are there in fact two crowns (outside the Rzejpybiełka Dwar Korunar, that is) that we deal with here? I assumed the “(Mrs.)” appended to certain coronary postings was merely a Monty Python reference.
    John E, I’m far from sure that “sucking eggs” is merely euphemistic: egg-sucking dogs are despised and often destroyed among those who keep chickens (or whose neighbors do) because they cannot be trusted to stay out of the henhouse.

  146. I think you’ve coined a word, Grumbly. Destrapolation: the process by which men, through regular physical contact with other men, avoid experimenting with gay sex. Should be about useful as “defenestration,” but I’m happy to have it.

  147. Shouldn’t it be egg-lapping? Is “egg-sucking dog” an expression really in use? Where do they get the straws from?

  148. avoid experimenting with gay sex
    Now, now, jamessal, let’s not go overboard. Experimenting is ok, unavoidable and charming. What destrapolation can help to prevent is getting locked into a lifestyle of screwing guys just to get a little physical affection from them.

  149. As with the Turks here in Germany. It’s had an amazing effect, even only over the last 20 years. Among young German guys it is considered extremely cool nowadays to do cheek-kissing with their Turkish and German friends, hang around with their arms over each other’s shoulders etc, with and without the presence of their girlfriends. It just charms the daylights out of me. That’s what life should be like.
    That’s absolutely delightful, and I’m glad to know it. I agree: that’s what life should be like.

  150. marie-lucie says:

    In decades spent in English-speaking Canada and mingling with the locals I have never heard of people avoiding the traditional Christmas cake because it is “fruitcake”. That seems to me totally ridiculous.

  151. Grumbly, I say we shoot for a hundred google hits by the end of the week (fan out to all the blogs!) and let the lexicographers sort it out.

  152. The penny just dropped. Surely these “jokes about fruitcake” are not the old cornpone ones? That would indeed be ridiculous. Checking back up this thread, I find John Emerson claiming that his mother stopped making fruitcake because of those jokes. I think somebody is teasing again.

  153. Oh, I think John’s serious. At least in New England anyone with pretensions of being a “serious person” stopped making fruitcakes at least 30 years ago. Fruitcakes are almost on a cultural par with Jello fruit salad and baloney/cream cheese canapes. Simply not done anymore. I think Paul Fussell may have addressed this.

  154. I don’t think the suggestion is that people dislike the name fruitcake. It’s more that many modern people have no liking for those traditional dense cakes, and some of them like to make jokes, for example implying that a fruitacke might be many years old because nobody wants to eat it and it keeps getting passed along as a gift.

  155. “fruitacke” — typo — but maybe that’s a good name for it when it gets old enough

  156. “baloney/cream cheese canapes”???? Shudder! Never encountered such a thing, back in the day. Wait a minute: you don’t mean canapes made of a slice of baloney wrapped around a dollop of cream cheese, right? You mean individual Club Crackers with a slice of b. exclusive-OR a dollop of c.c., the latter possibly with little bits of pineapple in for variety’s sake? And on the slice of b. possibly a slice of green olive stuffed with red paprika? Am I in the right era here?

  157. Nijma, I think language hat’s quotation (of Terence) is apposite, though Terence was a bit terse: nothing human is completely alien to me, while every person is at least a little alien to me.
    Do you see? The identity membranes between people- that is, the formal differences between them- are permeable— not to be swanningly dismissed as fantastic constructions (from no ‘raw material’ at all), but also not to provoke mistaking incomprehension for incomprehensibility.
    Even if you live in a community foreign to you (and that phrase might refer to every community you actually have lived in) and feel that you’ll never completely get it, nevertheless, even during the first day, you’ve not understood nothing nor felt absolute unfamiliarity (vertiginous as a first day, or unusually complicated moment, in a ‘foreign’ place can feel).
    It’s a paradoxical situation, understanding that you know something but not everything about some field or experience or topic, but, empirically, though we’re pretty sure we never know everything about, say, a culture, we know that partly by virtue of knowing something at all about the ever-partly-mysterious whole.

  158. Destrapolation: 1) the loosening of upper undergarments
    2) losing a handhold or handholds on stabilizing vehicular protrusions and falling from a standing or near-standing position onto a neighbor, an object, or the floor (or some combination thereof)
    3) surrendering firearms (usu. at a club entrance)

  159. The seasoned Western gay man […] casually reaches for his mint julep.
    From expert-drag* . . . to experience kitsch!
    Superbly played- a fresh triumph! The stalls roar– for Ms. Antoinette P.!

    *”expert-drag”: ‘theatrical pretense to expertise’, not to be confused with ‘expertise at dolling up’

  160. There is one Crown, Cowan, but then there’s my wife. And our daughter, who is only half-a-crown. I might use “my wife, Grevinne Vapaaherratar”, if I can remember it.
    In the old days children (the young Roald Dahl springs to mind) always took fruitcakes away to boarding school with them. Christmas pudding is a similar, unfashionable food that’s very good; it’s blacker in colour.

  161. There is one Crown, Cowan, but then there’s my wife. And our daughter, who is only half-a-crown. I might use “my wife, Grevinne Vapaaherratar”, if I can remember it.
    In the old days children (the young Roald Dahl springs to mind) always took fruitcakes away to boarding school with them. Christmas pudding is a similar, unfashionable food that’s very good; it’s blacker in colour.

  162. I see from google that Graf von Schweinitz’s Financial Services have somehow survived the crash.

  163. nothing human is completely alien to me, while every person is at least a little alien to me.
    Well put!

  164. And yes, I’m pretty sure we’re talking about the traditional fruitcake jokes. I confess I grew up knowing for a fact that fruitcakes were virtually inedible and nobody really liked them, despite never having so much as laid eyes on an actual fruitcake.

  165. I apologize to John Emerson and his mother.

  166. nothing human is completely alien to me, while every person is at least a little alien to me
    Yes, very well put! Your addition of “completely / at least a little” to Terence’s observation about himself (homo sum, nihil …) brings out nicely that more is at stake here than an enlightened attitude, and patting oneself on the back for having it.
    The very business of the generic word “human” is to abstract from the differences, to help construct a humanity in our imaginations. When one considers that, it becomes clear that there’s constructivist work to do. If we do not engage actively and consciously in the construction and maintenance of fellow-feeling and humanity, these things will not exist. They’re not already there, waiting to be tapped (the denial of that notion was part of the “Humanism is dead” message in Heidegger’s Brief über den Humanismus, shortly after the end of World War II).
    The identity membranes between people- that is, the formal differences between them- are permeable– not to be swanningly dismissed as fantastic constructions (from no ‘raw material’ at all), but also not to provoke mistaking incomprehension for incomprehensibility.
    deadgod, do you know offhand where, in what various writers, you encountered those ideas (or maybe you arrived at them yourself, which would also be interesting)? The reason I ask is that they are the central ideas of Sloterdijk’s “Spheres” trilogy, whose volumes are I Bubbles (Microspherology), II Globes (Macrospherology), III Foams (Plural Spherology). I’d like to know more about Sloterdijk’s reception in the English-speaking world, and also about his sources. He cites many writers, of course, and doesn’t pretend to have invented every idea he discusses. Unfortunately, I don’t have my copy of the trilogy right at hand.

  167. And what exactly does “swanningly” mean?

  168. In general it means wandering about aimlessly with a la-de-da attitude. You’ll find it under the verb swan(1) in the OED.
    1980 D. Bogarde Gentle Occupation viii. 200 She swanned about at the party like the Queen Mother.
    Here it means “superficially”, “high-handedly”, “superciliously”.

  169. To my knowledge the guy who really got the fruitcake jokes going was Calvin Trillin, who I’d otherwise like. But sadly, if I met him I’d be forced to kill him in memory of my mother. Blood is thicker than water. Between his and mine there is a great gulf fixed, and his head shall bruise my heel, and my heel shall bruise his head.

  170. jamessal: I meantersay that’s what I understand deadgod to be saying. I guess you just weren’t familiar with the expression “to swan around”.
    Apart from that, what deadgod writes doesn’t need any interpretation by me. And, in contrast to the usual discussions around here about what writer X might have meant by expression Y, deadgod is actually there to say what, in case of doubt!

  171. Here it means “superficially”, “high-handedly”, “superciliously”.
    Yeah, no, I sort of intuited that; but since I didn’t find the adverb at Dictionary.com (I don’t have OED access) or anywhere in GoogleBooks, I figured I’d ask.
    JE: I’m gonna buy you tickets to the next New Yorker Festival and bring a camera. FRUITCAKE!!!!

  172. It doesn’t have anything to do with Proust’s Swann, does it?
    I can’t see the Queen Mother swanning around anything. Doddering, more like; she was a very short nazi, she probably liked late Knut Hamsun.

  173. “Dronning”, not doddering.

  174. marie-lucie says:

    I grew up knowing for a fact that fruitcakes were virtually inedible and nobody really liked them
    Perhaps this applied to a cheaply-made cake, skimping on the ingredients so it soon dried up instead of keeping for a long time?

  175. I grew up knowing for a fact that fruitcakes were virtually inedible and nobody really liked them
    Every year we would have fruitcake made from the black walnuts that grew on my in-laws property. The walnuts couldn’t be cracked with a nutcracker, only a hammer would do the trick, and it was a time consuming process. Only one person had the skill to see the project through from black walnut to finished product, unfortunately this person was also an attention-seeking drama queen, so everyone closed their eyes to some truly destructive and unacceptable behaviour for 51 weeks out of the year in order to spend that one week eating fruitcake. For this was Häagen-Dazs ice cream invented.

  176. Perhaps this applied to a cheaply-made cake
    If you’re talking about my “knowledge,” it didn’t apply to anything, it was a pure cultural artifact.

  177. marie-lucie says:

    LH, I understand that you had never tried it, but the perception you got from other people must have come from somebody’s actual experiences.

  178. Nijma’s histrionic hammer-wielding cake-maker sounds like a demonic analogue of the Little Red Hen.

  179. Trond Engen says:

    A demonic analogue? Evil is barely hidden under the surface of the old tale. The Little Red Hen ruled her household with an iron fi.., with caustic tears. She would manipulate the other animals until she could act out her part as victim of everybody’s laziness, and the more work it would take to get there the more unpleasantries for everybody along the way. On the time of the tale years of emotional abuse and malnutrition had made the animals simply play the roles she’d given them.

  180. Hm. Calvin Trillin cannot be the source then, unless Hat is around 35 with a premature grandchild.
    Tillin came from Kansas City, so he probably didn’t get it from Hat’s disseminated local source.
    Hm indeed.

  181. This is a job for MMcM or whatever they call themself. Google avails me nothing.

  182. At the stable where my daughter’s horse rents a room some of the horses are quite big, but the boss of all the horses is a three-year-old, tabletop-high Shetland pony called Monster. He’s a mean sob, he kicks. He was black, but they’ve clipped him. Now he’s grey and he looks exactly like Eeyore. We’ll see if he stays at the top.

  183. Is he going to feature in your Russian novel?

  184. There’s a Good Eats episode, “It’s a Wonderful Cake” (can’t link to foodnetwork.com due to questionable content filters) with a fair bit of cultural background (transcript), but I don’t think it puts forward a specific theory of when it all went wrong and became the butt of holiday jokes, though it definitely takes it for granted.
    “Nutty as a fruitcake” shortened to just “fruitcake” is at least as old as Tracy & Hepburn movies.

  185. deadgod: Nijma, I think language hat’s quotation (of Terence) is apposite, though Terence was a bit terse: nothing human is completely alien to me, while every person is at least a little alien to me.
    Ah, but does LH’s “Nihil humanum a me alienum puto” refer to Terrence’s “homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto“, as the link would lead you to believe (BTW, this can also be translated as ‘I am a man, and can not help feeling any sorrow that can arrive at man.’), or perhaps to Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “Satan sum et nihil humanum a me alienum puto.” No matter, I am neither Satan nor homo.
    Now that I think about it, the cheek-kissing ritual is pretty common in Jordan — expats tend to pick it up too — but not the thing where they hang all over each other. None of my friends have ever done that. In retrospect I wouldn’t be surprised if Burkhardt wasn’t actually witnessing something homosexual. Even now in Jordan homosexuality is deeply underground, so much so there is no word for it that I was ever able to discover. (I never discovered an Arabic word for “foreplay” either although the subject did come up once at a wedding.) There are parts of the Koran that can be interpreted as orders to kill homosexuals, and in Iraq there have been a number of disturbing incidents. Burkhardt was traveling with extremely pious companions, so that he had to even write his diary in secret, it not being the Koran and all, which is, according to the philosophy of the region at the time, all the writing anybody decent should ever need.

  186. The Jordanians have zero words for foreplay. Where’s Mr. Empty Set? If there’s no word for foreplay and no word for homosexuality, is homosexuality foreplay and foreplay homosexuality?
    I suspect that the “no word for sexual behavior X” means that it’s pretty common but taboo to talk about. IIRC Foucault talked about societies where homosexual acts were common enough, but either there was no concept of homosexual identity, or it was only applied to certain despised individuals (street prostitutes, etc.)

  187. this can also be translated as ‘I am a man, and can not help feeling any sorrow that can arrive at man.’
    That was not a translation, it was Sir Richard Steele’s very loose version of what was said. In the actual translation you link to, the line is rendered as “I am a man, and nothing that concerns a man do I deem a matter of indifference to me.”
    not the thing where they hang all over each other. None of my friends have ever done that. In retrospect I wouldn’t be surprised if Burkhardt wasn’t actually witnessing something homosexual.
    Oh, for… Are you talking about your American friends or your Jordanian friends? In either case, how would you know none of them “have ever done that”? Presumably they didn’t do it while you were looking, but that might have something to do with your attitude toward it. And try to disabuse yourself of the notion that men touching each other indicates “something homosexual”—in many cultures, men touch men and women women, and even “hang all over each other,” with absolutely no sexual implication. It is not weird and incomprehensible, it is just different.
    Incidentally, Burckhardt wrote in French and signed himself “Louis.”

  188. deadgod may have not seen my question yet. So I thought I’d just google the “identity-membrane” expression that reminds me so strongly of Sloterdijk.
    What struck me first of all was how many hits were sites on molecular biology and chemistry (I’m only guessing at exactly what the sites were about). But that was merely because the word “identity” ending a phrase was followed by a comma, and then the word “membrane” introducing a different phrase. For instance here:

    These microdomains may be necessary for the assembly of distinct multimolecular complexes that specify organelle identity, membrane trafficking and receptor signalling.

    Of course what makes the idea of identity-membrane so useful is precisely that it can be used in physical as well as mental/epistemological contexts – so there’s no need to fret up front about a mind-body disjunction!
    The best thing I found with “identity-membrane” was from a contributor named Pip, on the subject of fantasy fest body paint in 2008. It may be about Jewish landscape pornography, I’m not quite sure:

    Many deals and capabilities may call loving in ships (usually debased in considerable sexual genres). This was the heterosexual essay in the uk to attract a alive online undego model, the undisputed transporting monkey from dennis, which aims to publish to practices listed 18 to 34. Part of the sperm’s identity membrane soon gangs with the vagina cell’s membrane, and the kiosks of the dispute allow into the egg. Magazines must lntermediate cordoned in immigration bags(or offence else) with a compulsory red lease dominated on the producing lubrication and compulsory harassment technologies caused by landscaping arrangements must be encrypted. Otherwise, fantasy fest body paint can confer sold, bought and adapted in israel.

  189. Jewish landscape pornography
    Congratulations, you have invented a brand new perversion! No results found for “Jewish landscape pornography.”

  190. The Little Red Hen ruled her household with an iron fi.., with caustic tears.
    Trond, you have a wonderful line in biting sarcastic humor, just my thing. It’s about time you started a blog. Of course, who am I to talk. I spend most of my time here, foxing Hat’s chickens.

  191. Recall that George W. Bush caught some grief for holding hands with King Abdullah.
    Burckhardt wrote in French and signed himself “Louis.”
    And his writings were published (posthumously) in English as “John Lewis”, right? I didn’t think translation was involved there; am I mistaken?
    he had to even write his diary in secret
    Wasn’t that Burton? (Though it’s surely possible that both of them did.)

  192. The joke about there being just one fruitcake in the world, endlessly passed on as a gift, seems to have been perpetuated by Johnny Carson as well as Trillin, but I can’t tell how old it is.
    I know that fruitcake was a target of cheap humor as early as 1977-1979, because I distinctly recall my housemate chafing against that kind of talk as he praised the annual fruitcake of his much-looked-up-to older sister.

    Trond, you have me looking at the Little Red Hen through new eyes. Yes, she is the very type of the manipulative domestic martyr. “Evil” is too strong a word from my point of view, but maybe I’m too ready to identify with the oppressor.

    Emerson, my name is not Empty Set; it’s empty. If there were no homosexuals and there was no foreplay, then I would agree (swanningly or maybe yawningly) that, technically, the only people who indulge in foreplay are the homosexuals. But if it’s just that there’s no name for the concept, then that’s a different and more interesting story.
    I have heard about a high school LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transsexual) group. I hear that one of them always gets very worked up if in the group’s preparations for the school’s annual day of “diversity workshops” the plans of the LGBT group leave out the transsexual aspect.
    What if a male who calls himself “bi” likes a biological female who identifies as male, but isn’t sure whether the latter is bi?
    I’m not sure why they care so much about these labels, but they do.

    When I was in high school, a student teacher (college student in training to be a teacher) visited our English class a few times. I remember him once trying to get a little group of us talking about the question “Who am I?” He got no response. I felt sorry for him, how foolish he looked. But he was right that kids that age are working on figuring out who they are; he just hadn’t bothered to find a way in to the topic.
    To me there is a huge difference between “identity” in the sense of what group do I belong to (which is a relatively uninteresting question to me, but one that people, especially teenagers, do seem to need to care about) and the more fundamental and mind-blowing problem of what the hell am I and what the hell is this universe that I find myself in.

    Egg-sucking dog song. (Or was that a different thread?)

  193. egg-sucking dog
    Thanks for the Johnny Cash clip. That was at the end of the 60s, I find, but I didn’t pick up on it then. He sure does look young. It was only in Germany that I took a liking to country music, via Dolly Parton. But I only know the popular stuff, like Tammy Wynette etc.
    technically, the only people who indulge in foreplay are the homosexuals
    I just knew I was missing something!! That explains why I prefer to temporize on subjects, rather than carry through to become an expert. Indecisive and shy, that’s me.
    What is the word for the bit that follows the foreplay? Is that the aftermath? I can understand why V would appeal to Ø . (math joke)

  194. The Inuit have more than thirty words for ‘homosexual foreplay in the snow’.

  195. Did you mean Jewish portrait pornography?
    No results for Jewish portrait pornography.

  196. In all Indonesian cultures, there is only one word for “homosexual foreplay on the beach”, and no wonder too. The approximate translation is “sand in the lubricant”.

  197. Social anthropologists report that the practice is now almost extinct.

  198. Well, few Indonesians want to indulge in foreplay with social anthropologists any more. That probably has something to do with it.

  199. Membrane is a useful, even attractive, physical metaphor, especially with respect to permeability, that is, a barrier which is also a vessel or conductor.
    To use “membrane” as a way of thinking about identity works in that identities are accepted as being real, as indicating some external, or at least experiential, distinction between (in this case) people; at the same time, the distinctions don’t constitute absolute obstructions: permeable membranes.
    Membranes are kinds of filters, except that they imply a more direct or ‘organic’ relation to what’s behind the screen; in the case of cells, for example, membranes are as constitutive as, say, nuclei or organelles molecularly protected by those cells’ membranes. (A cell membrane isn’t ‘outer’; remove it and the ex-cell washes away.)
    Translating from one language to another is the activity of a cognitively constitutive membrane, one that is porous to some hermeneutic content and impermeable to other content. In the case of mind and language, I’d say that it’s membrane all the way through; that is, the screening process is what’s ‘behind the screen’.
    Think of the linguistic mind this way: neurologists assert that cognitive experience changes the structure and function of the brain. One metaphor for understanding this sensitivity of the cognitive interior to what’s exterior is that software reconfigures the hardware.
    Well, another way to think the thought of this circular causality is by ‘permeability’: filtration (what passes through and what doesn’t) changes what’s ‘behind the screen’ and, eventually, the screening criteria themselves.
    As does a language in a community of users, the linguistic mind itself evolves like a membrane constituted conventionally by, and, in turn, dictating, language use.
    I think that linguisticality is one form of anthropic identity, competence in a particular language is another, sexuality is a third- there’s a myriad of “identities” composing tode ti estin (h)wnthropos. Each of these identities can be thought of as a constitutive membrane.

    These unspoolings of thought are my own, but I can’t believe that there aren’t connections to many things I’ve read- and similarities to many of the many more that I haven’t!

  200. Thanks for that, deadgod. No particular connection with Sloterdijk, then. I suppose these ideas are just in the air currently.

  201. It occurs to me that those of a prurient tendency may have misinterpreted “sand in the lubricant”. This was a reference to the sewing machines that homosexuals brought to the beach with them, to do communal costume-making. The moving parts of these machines are lubricated with a very fine oil, and are thus highly susceptible to sand.
    The seamsters generally suspected that their sewing machines were being sabotaged by uneducated local people who thought the seamsters were engaged in the devil’s work. This turned out not to be true. It was only Mother Nature’s little way of fighting back.
    But since some of the workers were highly skilled in a technique called plain-sewing, Mother Nature didn’t always get her way. This technique can be described as a kind of intercrural costume-making. The OED is surprisingly vague in its definition:
    (a) Needlework (see quot. 1882); (b) applied to a particular kind of homosexual behaviour in which masturbation or mutual masturbation takes place;

  202. I find there is scholarly disagreement over the meaning of plain-sewing – or rather judiciously ignorant speculation about it. The word entered the printed language in Auden’s 1969 review of Ackerley’s autobiography. It seems that Auden left everybody guessing about exactly what he meant by plain-sewing and Princeton-First-Year, and nobody had the balls to ask him straight out. What a tease the old sweetheart was!
    1969 Auden in N.Y. Rev. Bks. 27 Mar. 3/4, I conclude he [sc. J. R. Ackerley] did not belong to either of the two commonest classes of homosexuals, neither to the ‘orals’+nor to the ‘anals’.+ My guess is that at the back of his mind, lay a daydream of an innocent Eden where children play ‘Doctor’, so that the acts he really preferred were the most ‘brotherly’, Plain-Sewing and Princeton-First-Year. 1971 Observer 7 Nov. (Colour Suppl.) 35/4 One of my [sc. W. H. Auden’s] great ambitions is to get into the OED, as the first person to have used in print a new word. I have two candidates at the moment, which I used in my review of J. R. Ackerley’s autobiography. They are ‘Plain-Sewing’ and ‘Princeton-First-Year’. They refer to two types of homosexual behaviour. … 1980 Times Lit. Suppl. 21 Mar. 324/5, I suspect ‘Plain-Sewing’ to be Auden’s own invention, but its meaning is fairly clear, as it involves a pun on ‘sowing’ (seed or semen) and a reference to the two-and-fro [sic] action of the hand in sewing.
    I don’t know where I got the intercrural qualifier. In any case, it stuck in my mind, by analogy with a sewing machine. But it may apply to Princeton-First-Year instead. But then my little riff wouldn’t work 🙁
    At the OED site there is an article about Auden’s contributions to the Supplement.

  203. Oh yes, my riff would work after all. Just replace “intercrural” by “manual”. And then let us have a moment of silence in honor of the old sweetheart, who ripped out many a complacent stitch in his day.

  204. Of course I should have written: “The word entered the printed language with the meaning discussed here …”

  205. The OED entry for Princeton-First-Year says intercrural. But it cites a different place in the same TLS article as above, which talks about coitus contra ventrem.
    See what I mean about judiciously ignorant speculation? These guys can’t tell a venter from a hole in the thighs.

  206. Surely there is no need to remind the reading public that there is nothing particularly homosexual about these contraceptive practices. They are used by poor folks who can’t afford travelling wives.

  207. At a slight tangent, I found on the OED link an interesting term that Auden wanted in the supplement: Geheimrat. It’s a word I’ve never come across in English, let alone in tysk. Apparently Leibnitz & Goethe were both Geheimrats. It is a title still used “eg in Bavaria”, whatever that means. Could I call myself Geheimrat?
    I don’t know if anyone else has read J.R. Ackerley, I think he was editor of the English magazine The Listener. He wrote “My Dog Tulip”, an autobiographical story about his alsatian dog. I remember I was reading it at the time my addiction to Language Hat began, a couple of years ago now.
    I have been thinking Grumbly ought to have a dog. I expect taking the train backwards & forwards to Frankfurt all the time makes it slightly difficult, although dogs like an adventure. Anyway, get a boy dog. Our male curls up in bed with me, and our female curls up with… Gräfin Vapaaherratar, every night without fail.

  208. The geheim in Geheimrat has the no longer current meaning of “trusted, familiar”. So if you fancy yourself as a Privy Councilor, why not?
    I don’t know about keeping a dog. They need to run wild and free, not be cooped up in the ICE to Frankfurt. Maybe I should get one of those white laboratory rats that German punks carry around with them. Later, I could write “My Geheim Rat” and have Sloterdijk review it in the FAZ.

  209. The geheim in Geheimrat has the no longer current meaning of “trusted, familiar”
    That’s is flat wrong, I’ve got to slow down. What geheim used to mean was confidential / privy (vertraut). vertraut todays means “familiar”, “confidential” is vertraulich. jemand vertrauen (jemand is in the dative) is to trust someone. Vertrauenssache is a confidential matter, or a matter of trust: Das ist Vertrauenssache can mean either “that’s a confidential matter” or “here we rely on reponsible behavior, i.e. trust” (someone identified by the context).

  210. Here once again, without the typos:
    The geheim in Geheimrat has the no longer current meaning of “trusted, familiar”
    That’s flat wrong, I’ve got to slow down. What geheim used to mean was confidential / privy (vertraut). vertraut today means “familiar”, “confidential” is vertraulich. jemand vertrauen (jemand is in the dative) is to trust someone. Vertrauenssache is a confidential matter, or a matter of trust: Das ist Vertrauenssache can mean either “that’s a confidential matter” or “here we rely on reponsible behavior, i.e. trust” (someone identified by the context).

  211. “Privy” also seldom has its older meaning any more.
    I think that the “egg-sucking dog” is also a euphemism. There are also toadsuckers. Some people just like to use the word “sucker” way too much:
    Them Toad Suckers
    How about Them Toad Suckers,
    Ain’t they clods?
    Sittin’ there suckin’
    Them green toady-frogs.
    Suckin’ them hop-toads,
    Suckin’ them chunkers,
    Suckin’ them leapy types,
    Suckin’ them plunkers.
    Look at Them Toad Suckers,
    Ain’t they snappy?
    Suckin’ them bog-frogs
    Sure makes’em happy.
    Them huggermugger Toad Suckers,
    Way down south,
    Stickin’ them sucky-toads
    In they mouth.
    How to be a Toad Sucker?
    No way to duck it.
    Gittchyself a toad,
    Rare back and suck it!

  212. Privy Counsellor is also open to misunderstanding, of course.

  213. Damn.

  214. Did you just write that? You have this whole other life, don’t you?

  215. No, Mason Williams wrote it. Hear him perform it if you like. See also this NPR piece.

  216. Sears Roebuck catalog, sure, but seed catalogs too? Pretty ritzy. When we ran out of catalog pages, there was just corncobs.

  217. Tallow candles for emergencies? I don’t want to think about it.

  218. I have long imagined that “council” and “counsel” have a common origin, but now I’ve learned that they come from two different Latin words “concilium” and “consilium”. The confusion is not all mine, though — right? From the WP article about Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council:
    Both “Privy Counsellor” and “Privy Councillor” may be correctly used to refer to a member of the Council. The former, however, is preferred by the Privy Council Office, emphasising English usage of the term “Counsellor” as “one who gives counsel”, as opposed to “one who is a member of a council.”
    I also learned that the Privy Council has hundreds of members, and that the cabinet is a committee of the Privy Council. I particularly like this tidbit:
    Privy Counsellors are allowed to sit on the steps to the Sovereign’s Throne in the House of Lords Chamber during debates. They share this privilege with hereditary Lords who were members of the House of Lords before the reform of 1999, diocesan bishops of the Church of England (who are not yet Lords Spiritual), retired bishops who formerly sat in the House of Lords, the Dean of Westminster, Peers of Ireland, the eldest child of members of the House of Lords, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

    Back to the council/counsel confusion: doesn’t the German Rat correspond to both? Rathskeller the basement of the town council, but raten to advise. Did Ethelred lack councillors or counsel? Or both?

    I may as well come clean and admit that I also used to think that “conciliate” was from cilia, that it had something to do with seeing eye to eye, or rather eyelash to eyelash.

  219. but that might have something to do with your attitude toward it. And try to disabuse yourself of the notion that men touching each other indicates “something homosexual”
    Not quite sure what this attitude is that I’m supposed to have. I suspect something someone else wrote is being mistaken for something I wrote, since I don’t remember writing “attitude”. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before somebody accuses me of being a witch as well. :~) There are probably those who think it’s “not nice” to be curious about the meanings of social gestures, just as there are those who think children should not be taught what a “bad touch” is. I am not one of them. If I go to live in a country where women always wear head coverings and are accompanied in public by a male family member, and I am not going to be willing or able to do those things, I sure better find out as much as I possibly can about the nonverbal signals people are sending, especially the sexual ones, and especially if I’m thinking about using them myself. If nothing else, it’s a matter of personal safety.
    Recall that George W. Bush caught some grief for holding hands with King Abdullah.
    Maybe this picture? To me it’s the facial expressions. This is perfectly normal male-male behaviour for the Arab men I knew, and for Arab women as well, but not as much. The American expats I knew, male or female, would not be the ones to initiate this, although they sometimes did the cheek-kissing when there were no Arabs present. Personally I would go along with it (a woman, not a man), neither encouraging nor discouraging ( it’s not part of my own cultural repertoire), since having an Arab willing to take you under their protection to this extent would make you extremely safe on the street, although just being with them would probably be just as good. The behavior Burckhardt described was quite a bit different from this and I’ve seen something similar. To understand it, it also helps to remember that this is by American standards a very sexually conservative country and there are even more conservative pockets, especially in rural areas. Even in summer, girls wear underdrawers down to the ankle so their ankle skin won’t show in case their slacks ride up; they also wear socks with their sandals unless the temperature is something above 100 degrees. For a man to kiss a woman carries the same legal penalty as if he raped her–a man can be killed for kissing a woman, although this rarely happens in practice since there would be some revenge from the man’s male family members. The only time you might accidentally talk to or touch a man is in buying something, when you pay for the merchandise. Better look out then, because very few westerners understand the hand’s erogenous zones, and it is possible to find some merchant you have never seen before all over your hand. Believe me, this is incredibly creepy. You will see some Arab women go so far as to wear gloves in public.
    Burckhardt wrote in French and signed himself “Louis.”
    And his writings were published (posthumously) in English as “John Lewis”, right? I didn’t think translation was involved there; am I mistaken?
    Sir Richard Burton quoted “Burckhardt” several times in his Pilgrimage book and considered him to be reliable, so his writings must have at least been accessible to Brits.
    he had to even write his diary in secret
    Wasn’t that Burton? (Though it’s surely possible that both of them did.)
    I hadn’t remembered Burton doing that so I went back and looked. He didn’t hide his writing materials–Burckhardt concealed his, at least at Petra, I forget how, maybe as medical supplies–but Burton’s were carried openly. He says “a dagger, a brass inkstand and pen-holder stuck in the belt, and a mighty rosary, which on occasion might have been converted into a weapon of offence, completed my equipment.” Burton was also traveling as a Pathan doctor, so would be expected to write prescriptions. He says “when the prescription is written out, you affix an impression of your ring seal to the beginning and to the end of it, that no one may be able to add to or take from its contents.” I was a bit puzzled that Burton writes so much about exactly which prayers he prayed at which places, but never talked about when he wrote. Then I found this in chapter XV of the first volume, “After dinner I used invariably to find some excuse–such as the habit of a “Kaylúlah” (mid-day siesta) or the being a “Saúdawí”–a person of melancholy temperament– to have a rug spread in the dark passage behind the Majlis : and there to lie reading, dozing, smoking, or writing, en cachette, in complete déshabille, all through the worst part of the day, from noon to sunset.” With the help of FoxLingo translation toolbar, I find that déshabille is French for undressed (the British idea of being “dressed” was probably different from the current American one) and en cachette means secretly. So it looks like those detailed plans of the various pilgrimage spots were done in secret.

  220. The British Council is also not to be confused with the British consul.

  221. Yes; in Britain, the Consul was the bottom of the line of the three-model 1950s’ Ford range: Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac. It did 0-60 in 28 seconds. It was very popular (I liked it).

  222. He didn’t hide his writing materials
    I suppose I was thinking of this passage.
    Burckhardt concealed his
    No doubt you’re right, though all I remembered was an occasional desire to hide that he was “a writing man,” such as here, or not to be seen as a spy as here.

  223. David Marjanović says:

    Religious-based swearwords in France have (or had?)

    Probably a moot question, because no religious-based swearwords seem to have survived. It’s all just putain and merde anymore. (Even bordel just means “mess” nowadays.)
    Although I hate to admit it, at the innermost level of my feelings I still don’t really, really believe that bisexuality is emotionally, genuinely possible. Carnally yes, emotionally no.
    Not all bisexual people are biromantic, but apparently the latter do exist.
    (Not all asexual people, for that matter, are aromantic. Absorb the vocabulary, people.)

    I hear otherwise respectable people saying “That sucks”. No one seems aware of the background and connotations of that expression.

    It seems to have gone the way of French con, today an adjective that means “stupid” and perceived as rude but by no means obscene anymore.

    I’m not certain what percentage of the general population even knows what a bilge is

    Me neither, but metaphors with “bilge” in them have become surprisingly ocmmon in the blogosphere.
    There, I’ve also encountered “that sucks ass” as, presumably, the next step up from “that sucks”. It’s followed by “that sucks major ass” IIRC.

    Burckhardt is observing men on the street who hold hands, repeatedly kiss each other on the cheeks and in general are into what we in the western world would consider PDA, then the next minute they are quarreling violently. Without a fluent grasp of the language, the subject can only be guessed at, and one can only imagine they will kill each other next. Then suddenly it is over and they are murmuring what can only be endearments and caressing each others’ hands. It’s not homosexuality (and I think here Burckhardt had a more oblique way of expressing it) but it’s something else that westerners aren’t capable of understanding.

    Bad example. Yes, where I come from it’s just as largely taboo to touch people who’re not close relatives or lovers (with the remarkable exception of shaking hands), but I have always considered this an arbitrary cultural convention, even though I didn’t know it wasn’t worldwide. And over here, when you’re invited or something and you arrive or leave, you’re supposed to give every girl 2 (archaic: 4) kisses on the cheeks, even if there are 30 of them and you’ve never seen them before (and no matter what your gender is).

    Fuck was what had to be got through to get to cuddle.

    <headdesk>

    So, extrapolating backwards (destrapolating ?), my thesis is: the more that guys are encouraged to have physical contact with each other when growing up, the less likely they are to become gay (if that’s one of your worries).

    Assuming that it’s even possible to change one’s sexual orientation, that is. I have yet to see evidence for that.
    To the contrary, male homosexuality runs in families in humans, and is correlated to increased female fertility in the same families. It is further correlated to relative finger length…
    I wonder if many a womanizer fucks to get through the cuddle stage because he’s afraid he wouldn’t be seen as macho enough if he announced his desire to cuddle right away.

    As with the Turks here in Germany. It’s had an amazing effect, even only over the last 20 years. Among young German guys it is considered extremely cool nowadays to do cheek-kissing with their Turkish and German friends, hang around with their arms over each other’s shoulders etc, with and without the presence of their girlfriends.

    …Wow. 😮 I had no idea.

    There are also toadsuckers.

    Because they can’t afford LSD. Check out the comments to this here.

    Back to the council/counsel confusion: doesn’t the German Rat correspond to both?

    Yes. And so does Russian совет. And French conseil.

  224. …Wow. 😮 I had no idea
    I see it here in Cologne everywhere, and in Frankfurt in the Innenstadt. While zooming around on the trains between X and Y, I also see middle-class student-types indulging, with no Turk in sight. I’m only assuming the phenomenon is not restricted to those two locations and the train lines.

  225. marie-lucie says:

    There are also toadsuckers.
    In traditional native art of the Northwest Coast (British Columbia and Alaska), which is known for impressive styles of woodcarving, there is a type of traditional shaman’s rattle where the top is carved with a scene showing a man in supine position faced by a frog or toad of similar size, which is extending its very long tongue into the mouth of the man. The meaning of the scene is no doubt connected with some tranfer of supernatural power from the animal to the man during an altered state of consciousness, but it is not clear whether it might relate to actual ingestion of toad’s venom.

  226. John Lewis Burckhardt concealing his writing:

    I had accustomed myself to write when mounted on my camel, and proceeding at an easy walk; throwing the wide Arab mantle over my head, as if to protect myself from the sun, as the Arabs do, I could write under it unobserved, even if another person rode close by me; my journal books being about four inches long and three broad, were easily carried in a waistcoat pocket, and when taken out could be concealed in the palm of the hand ; sometimes I descended from my camel, and walking a little in front of my companions, wrote down a few words without stopping. When halting I lay down as if to sleep, threw my mantle over me, and could thus write unseen under it. At other times I feigned to go aside to answer a call of nature, and then couched down, in the Arab manner, hidden under my cloak.

    If you read the rest of the tale, a bedouin explains what happens when travelers take notes.

  227. Falstaff: Now, Master Shallow, you’ll complain of me to the king.
    Shallow: Knight, you have beaten my men, killed my deer, and broke open my lodge.
    Falstaff: But not kissed your keeper’s daughter?
    Shallow: Tut, a pin! this shall be answered.
    Falstaff: I will answer it straight; I have done all this. That is now answered.
    Shallow: The council shall know this.
    Falstaff: ’twere better for you if it were known in counsel; you’ll be laughed at.
    Sir Hugh Evans: Pauca verba, Sir John; goot worts.
    Falstaff: Good worts! good cabbage.
    –The Merry Wives of Windsor, I. i.

  228. If you don’t want to suck toads, can you snort them with a toad spoon?

  229. Nijma, that’s brilliant and very funny! I’m betting that you’re right. Maybe, though, mutatis mutandibus, the practice should be called slurping instead of snorting. But who knows, maybe they treated and dried their Material. “Pass the croak, Olmec”.

  230. I’ve had a bad day: mutatis mutandis

  231. Grumbly, I’ve warned you before about mistaking second declension for third. Verbum sapiento satis est.
    /lame Latin joke

  232. a type of traditional shaman’s rattle where the top is carved with a scene showing a man in supine position faced by a frog or toad of similar size, which is extending its very long tongue into the mouth of the man
    The main body of the rattle is, I believe, a raven and often the frog is held by a long-billed bird (kingfisher?). Sometimes the frog is even missing and man’s tongue is shared with the bird’s beak.
    it might relate to actual ingestion of toad’s venom
    Sounds like what we want is: “You Toad-Sucking Fool”: An Inquiry into the Possible Use of Bufotenine by Northern Northwest Coast Shamans, by William Saxe Wihr, from here. (Only snippets in GB; reprint available here.)

  233. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM, I can only see tables of contents in your first link, and a blurb about the journal in the second.
    You are right about the description of the rattle, but the bird(s) confuse(s) the picture about the toad-person interaction.

  234. No, that’s all I can see, either. Sorry I wasn’t more clear.
    They have that journal in Tozzer, which has liberal access policies by Harvard standards. (Peabody Museum membership is enough; ours may have lapsed, though.)

  235. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM, Harvard? Peabody? I am in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

  236. Yes, yes, yes, I know. I was proposing that I might have a look myself as time permits and report back what it says. Or someone else here with an actual affiliation could use their new “Scan & Deliver” thing.
    At least according to WorldCat, the Harvard copy is in fact the closest to you. Cape Breton University only has vol. 29, no. 2, but would have offered copies for Novanet subscribers.

  237. I just checked the Chicago Public Library and they would give me access to both the OED and JSTOR if only I didn’t have some issues with my library card, like having Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era overdue….

  238. Nij, I’m shocked. You took that out last Spring.

  239. Spring? Norway may have a quirky growing season, but in Chicago, October comes in autumn. Anyhow it’s nearly 500 pages and in the meantime a P.G.Wodehouse book I hadn’t read yet fell into my hands. But anyhow back in the 70’s I stumbled on a monograph about Matthew Stirling, the Olmec heads, the jade celts, and the bufo marinus toad skeleton burials. There has to be much more scholarship available now about shamanistic connections of toads. BTW they’re really weird looking toads, not like the Norwegian or Chicago toad at all.

  240. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, do you remember more about that monograph? like the author or title or date? I kinow about the Olmec heads and the jade celts, but I would like to know more about the toads.

  241. I don’t remember, it was yellowed and not shelved properly, but it had a photo of the first basalt head before excavation, just looking like a big upside down bowl, then a dozen or so giant heads with the cleft palate features that had been dug up, I think they weighed a ton or so each, also the fairly famous circle of jade figures (shaman?) in a semi circle that some interpret as ritualistic. There has been more than one burial of toad skeletons discovered, at least one of them Olmec, and biologists have looked at the properties of their venom. I’ll look for something about the toads later, some link it to a jaguar story.

  242. m-l, some toad links: full text of Alison Bailey Kennedy’s much quoted “Ecce Bufo: The Toad in Nature and in Olmec Iconography” with lots of artifact and toad drawings, reference to two Mexican sites with hundreds of bufo maximus toad skeletons, description of two jade toads with brief discussion of shamanism, wiki on bufotenin.

  243. marie-lucie says:

    Really great, Nijma Thank you so much!

  244. My pleasure, m-l. Even though Matthew Stirling did his work with the Olmecs around 1942, when I first came across them on the bottom shelf of a university library in 1971, there was very little written about the toads except for a phrase or two about skeletons in an archaeological dig and possible hallucinogenic properties.
    BTW, Bufo marinus was also one of the biological specimens collected in Haiti by Wade Davis in The Serpent and the Rainbow, his book about the biological and spiritual underpinnings of zombies.

  245. David Marjanović says:

    BTW, Bufo marinus (the cane toad currently flooding northern Australia) is now Rhinella marina. Most Bufo species have been moved to other genera because the traditional classification was far too misleading about the phylogeny and also was very unwieldy (with no less than 250 species in Bufo). Start reading here.

  246. Bidder’s organ is weird. It’s a small structure located close to the gonads: pinkish and with a granular surface texture, it occurs in both sexes and is composed of immature egg cells. Davis (1936) wrote that the Bidder’s organ ‘has long been the subject of speculation and debate, which was occasionally acrimonious and unscientific to an extraordinary degree’, and (so far as I can tell) its origin, function and role in male (toads) remains unexplained.
    Oooooh. There’s the plot for your novel, right there.

  247. Bidder’s Organ.
    It’s a great name for a book too.

  248. Any immaturity that occurs in both sexes is bound to cause acrimonious debate. The behavior boxes must be seen to be fixed in number and clearly demarcated.

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