Via Nick J. comes a Vancouver Sun story by Nick Miliokas about a new book, The Lover’s Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex, by Mark Morton. I don’t know how qualified Morton is to judge etymologies (he’s an assistant professor of English at the University of Winnipeg), but at least he recognizes that the fact that there are hundreds of words in the English language that first appeared in Shakespeare “doesn’t mean that he invented them.” And this seems like a fair statement: “Whenever Shakespeare could make a dirty pun, he would. He loved bawdy language, that’s for sure.” Plus there’s an informative bit about everybody’s favorite weird bawdy word, merkin:

…To set the stage: cast your mind back to the 1700’s. Syphilis is running rampant; indeed, there is no cure for, or reliable treatment of, veneral disease in general. Females embarrassed by hair loss in the vicinity of a certain private body part find comfort in the merkin—a “genital toupee, a pubic wig,” as Morton puts it.
“You would think they’d have more important things to worry about, under the circumstances,” he says. “But it’s funny the sort of things people worry about. I think it parallels cosmetic surgery in this day and age.”


  1. Ah.
    So that’s why the merkin president’s called Bush.

  2. good one cb.

    It’s the coffee, and the trough in recognition these last few days have been, but I went right from the little delta rug and the cosmetic surgery parallel to…
    vaginal silicone implants!
    I know I know, but it made me just that little tinkle more optimistic, because as near as I can tell, it hasn’t been done yet. A good sign.
    More soberly, is the pandemic STD thing the cause of our inherited prudishness? The seeming anti-life proscriptions on genital recognition and sexual description a terror of disease?
    I’m one of those auto-didacticals who think at least some of the inexplicable taboos were a bestowal of wise guidance upon people for whom rational explanation would serve no purpose, them lacking the scientifical fundamentals necessary for comprehension.
    Begs the question from whence cometh though doesn’t it?

  3. In my weblog, a sickly thing that suffers from the neglect of its father, my second post was about a quaich used in an eighteenth-cenury sex club, and how it was up for auction. This Salon article goes into a bit of detail concerning some of the rituals and merriment discussed in The Beggar’s Benison: Sex Clubs of Enlightenment Scotland and Their Rituals by David Stephenson. Although in a way opposite to the merkin, the “Wig Club” shows you that where some people saw a badly made wig, others saw a chance to make naughty, naughty monarch-blessed sex club material.

  4. When we were kids our dad brought home a poodle, and named it Merkin! Yup, that was our family pet.

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