The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2224 Wednesday, 15 December 1999.
Date: Tuesday, 14 Dec 1999 19:56:44 -0600
Subject: 10.2211 Nicknames as Surnames
Comment: Re: SHK 10.2211 Nicknames as Surnames
>A paper by David Postles (University of Leicester), " 'Oneself as
>Another' and Middle English nickname bynames", Nomina, Vol. 22 (1999),
>pages 117-132, has just been published. Although interesting, this
>paper would be considerably off-topic if the author had not discussed
>(briefly, and in passing) the question of whether the surname
>Shakespeare and its cognates Shakeshaft, Shakelaunce and Wagstaff were
>sexually-marked or -charged nickname bynames or simply indicative of
>persons with violent tempers. Other nickname bynames are unmistakably
>sexually-charged and as such are unsuitable for a moderated list ...
>Professional Honigmann sceptics may be interested to note that a John
>Shakeshaft is to be found in the Lancashire Poll Tax of 1379.
I've often wondered if the name Shagspere on his marriage license wasn't
a deliberate sexual pun. It sounds like the kind of joke an 18-year-old
groom might make in his adolescent pride of seducing an older woman.
However, mid-18th century is the earliest I can date the word "shag"
used as a slang term for sexual intercourse. It's impossible to guess
when this particular use of the word entered the language, but it seems
likely that given the rich sexual vocabulary of Elizabethans it may have
been common long before it appeared in print.