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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: R & J Query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1544  Tuesday, 19 June 2001

[1]     From:   Leslie Simmons <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jun 2001 10:31:02 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1531 Re: R & J Query

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Jun 2001 19:01:18 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1531 Re: R & J Query

[3]     From:   Stuart Taylor <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jun 2001 02:13:20 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1531 Re: R & J Query


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Leslie Simmons <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jun 2001 10:31:02 -0700
Subject: 12.1531 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1531 Re: R & J Query

Jack Heller wrote:

>While we are on to bawdy puns, a question I have tried to answer without
>success for some time. Richard Easy is a character in Thomas Middleton's
>MICHAELMAS TERM. He is indeed "easy" to "undo" (in all bawdy senses of
>that word). He is never called Dick in the play, a pun I can hardly
>believe that Middleton would have left alone. So when did Dick become a
>genital?

OED first print usage is 1891, and there is not another cited until
1929; it seems unlikely that the verbal use of this sense would have
predated the print by 300 years, give or take, so probably sometime in
the 19th century.  Difficult to be more precise, given the lack of
documentation, alas.

Leslie

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Jun 2001 19:01:18 +0100
Subject: 12.1531 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1531 Re: R & J Query

>that word). He is never called Dick in the play, a pun I can hardly
>believe that Middleton would have left alone. So when did Dick become a
>genital?
>
>Jack Heller

_Cassell/Slang_ gives dick=penis as originating in [late 19C+], which
does seem pretty late (and no citations in C/S).  Patridge gives a
positive raft of non-sexual slang usages of "dick" (with cited sources),
mostly mid 19thC on, and among them, with characteristic delicacy,
meaning 4:

"The _membrum virile_: military, from ca. 1860"

But it +does+ seem strange that there's only one (documented) example of
+any+ slang use of "dick" before the 19C -- the one exception
(Partridge) being "dick" = 'a man' (as in Tom, Dick and Harry), in use
between late 16C-20C.  Then suddenly several different slang usages
appear.  Can anyone think of an explanation for this?

Robin Hamilton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Taylor <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jun 2001 02:13:20 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 12.1531 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1531 Re: R & J Query

Despite Robin Hamilton's efforts, I believe that a consideration of
linguistic usage supports Abigail Quart's intuition about the word,
"Peter."  It is difficult to write off certain persistent associations.

1 Aramaic: Kephas is a male name and kephas means rock.

2 Greek: (kephas means head)  Petra means rock, especially protruding
rocks at the sea (dangerous because they could pierce ships),
promontories, cliffs, etc.  Hence Jesus' pun (Matthew 16), "Thou art
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

3 French: Pierre (Peter) is a male name and pierre means rock.  Lastly,
in Vocabularia Amatoria (1895) John Farmer points out that Rabelais used
"Pierre" for penis.

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