Philobiblon: Have a good swear

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Have a good swear

Was woken this morning by a phone call about a problem at work, sleepwalked my way through a yoga class, and am now wondering what life would be like without living in a perpetual state of sleep-deprivation.

I can remember waking up about three weeks ago one day before the alarm went off, having had more than nine hours sleep and it really felt odd - good, but odd. I don't get many opportunities to follow Isobel's advice.

So that might be influencing this post, although hasty reassurance to any workmate reading, this is not directed at you.

Agnew Bowker's Cat: Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England, by David Cressy, has a lovely little collection of the abuse vented by clergymen at their congregations in the 17th century:

* Directed at someone who put his hat on during a sermon (maybe his head was cold?): "lob, saucy goose, idiot, widgeon and cuckoo, scabbed sheep, none of my flock"

* The whole congregation: "sowded pigs, bursten rams and speckled frogs"; or, "black mouthed hell hounds, limbs of the devil, fire brands of hell, plow joggers, bawling dogs, weaverly jacks and church robbers. If I could call you worse I could."

* When members protested about ceremonial changes: "black toads, spotted toads, and venomous toads, like Jack Straw and Wat Tyler". (all p. 157)

Nice to know they were restrained by being "men of God".

Translations: lob - a lazy, clumsy person, a lout; widgeon - a type of duck (although I don't know why it is a term of abuse); "bursten ram" - perhaps a reference to diseased genitals?; plow joggers (a term of abuse that continued into the 19th century and I guess means roughly "peasant"; weaverly jacks????

This reminds me of an Australian play that I read for my HSC. I can't of course remember the title or the author, but I do remember it was set in the early 20th-century federal parliament and involved lots of unparliamentary language of a colourful sort. It was where I learnt the world scrofulous, which does roll off the tongue beautifully as an insult. Anyone recognise the play?

A tag:

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was the play "The Legend of King O'Malley"?
Not sure if that was ever an HSC text.

- boynton

2/14/2005 01:16:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Excellent yes, I'm sure that's the one. Thanks - I've been trying to remember that for years. And for anyone interested, here is a bit about the main character and a bit about the context in which it was written.

2/14/2005 03:09:00 pm  

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