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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: April ::
Martin Green on 'Quondam
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0837  Friday, 29 April 2005

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Apr 2005 12:37:11 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0825 Martin Green on 'Quondam'

[2]     From:   Gerald E. Downs <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Apr 2005 23:09:42 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0811 Martin Green on 'Quondam'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Apr 2005 12:37:11 -0400
Subject: 16.0825 Martin Green on 'Quondam'
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0825 Martin Green on 'Quondam'

Volume II of Manchester's biography of Churchill describes an argument
between Churchill and the Duke of Windsor when they were both in Monte
Carlo.  Manchester refers to the Duke as the "quondam king."  It gave me
a laugh, especially in light of Edward's childlessness (perhaps the only
patriotic thing he ever did).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Apr 2005 23:09:42 EDT
Subject: 16.0811 Martin Green on 'Quondam'
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0811 Martin Green on 'Quondam'

John Briggs:

 >I thought it was well known that the most likely derivation
 >of the 18th-century word 'condom' was from the Latin
 >'condominium,' in the extended sense of 'protection'.

William Godshalk:

 >If this is true (and not a joke), the OED has not picked
 >up on this likely derivation. I have just checked "condom"
 >and "condominium," and there is no indication of any link
 >between the two.

Kruck gives the etymological investigation of 'condom' a thorough study,
citing even Playboy's 'conundrum'; without mentioning
'condominium'-which is in any case unlikely.  In 1905 'condus' was
proposed, "that which secures, preserves, guards (something)." However,
as I reported earlier, the definition hardly fits a nonce-word whose
third surviving form (ending its use and beginning its study) is found
in "The Explanation of Obsolete Words," from about 500 AD.

My impression is that those who care are stumped. Those who don't
care-are surely content to allow others their interests. The OED
declined mention of 'condom' in its first edition and in the 1933
re-issue and its supplement; but acknowledged it in 1972. The editors
seemingly shared the values of James Dixon, a contributor in 1888:

    I have marked my envelope 'private,' because I am writing
    on a very obscene subject. . . . It is a contrivance used by
    fornicators, to save themselves from a well-deserved clap
    . . . . Everything obscene comes from France . . .

Bruce Richman:

 >My original editions of the OED and Skeat's Etymological
 >Dictionary of the English Language both discreetly omit
 >"condom" entirely. My Latin-English Dictionary (David McKay
 >Publishers, NY, 1938), cites Latin "condo" as "sheathe" and
 >"to thrust into".

The first dictionary to list 'cundum' was that of Captain Grose (d.
1791), _A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue_(1785).  The
definition apparently omitted its function and the word was dropped in
later editions. The second listing (1889) described it as a "French
letter." Kruck notes that "The device itself was banned in a papal bull
of 1826" (reported in German as "diese Erfindung [invention] verdammte .
. . ")

In 1928 _Bilder-Lexicon_ reports "many authors" explaining the word as
'condere gladium' (to keep the sword; 'scabbard' or 'sheath'). Kruck
found none of the "many authors" nor any such reference to the French
letter. Modern references before Kruck obviously conflated sources for
convenient retelling.

Martin Green:

 >This appearance of the word "quondam," used as a noun,
 >to designate a former member of a monastic order . . .
 >may provide the solution to the mystery

I reread this note in _Wriothesley's Roses_ before raising the issue
here. 'Quondam' seems always to refer to some 'former' state, even as a
noun. There is no evidence that the term was transferred to the clothing
of 'quondams', clerical or otherwise. Because this step is speculative,
the odds for a solution are lessened. In contrast, 'condum' is defined
as 'cup' by 1594, when speculation needs only to accommodate the metaphor.

Martin Green's larger argument does not rely on the quondam/ condom pun;
his discussion is an aside devoted rather to an interesting and ongoing
etymological question. Yet I would not disagree with him on any issue
without suggesting that the worth of his books on the sonnets should be
generally better acknowledged.

Objection is made to the Q/C pun because 'quondam' is an adjective and
'condom' is a noun. Most sexually related and punned-on terms in
Shakespeare are nouns. Yet the deciding factor for a double-entendre is
sound, not the part of speech.  'Quondam' is further restricted by its
meaning (former). Still, the lines noted by Green are fitted to these
conditions with little trouble. As Green further relates, difficulty in
imposing complete sense to bawdy word-play is as much a sign of the
intent as evidence against it.

Gerald E. Downs

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