No announcement yet.


No announcement yet.

Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Mark McCutcheon

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Mark McCutcheon

    Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms
    "The Writers Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s" by Mark McCutcheon, Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1993.

    Although seldom found in print, swear words or taboo words were undoubtedly uttered just as profusely in the streets as they are now. In polite or mixed company, of course, euphemisms were used, especially by women and children. Many connotations of words used today remain curiously unchanged from the nineteenth century to the twentieth. In cases where no definition appears, the reader can use his or her imagina- tion and extrapolate from current usage. Also note that some words that seem harmless today were considered highly vulgar not so long ago.

    adventuress: euphemism for a prostitute or wild woman.

    ass, ass-backwards (also bass-ackwards), asswipe: used throughout the century.

    balls: shortened from ballocks, used throughout the century.

    bastard: used throughout the century.

    bitch: in the sense of a slutty, promiscuous Person (as a dog in heat) and actually applied to either sex early in the century. Its useto denote a crabby person, especially as applied to a female, came much later.

    blame: euphemism for damn, used throughout the century and especially in New England.

    1840s: I wasn't goin'to let Dean know; because he'd have thought him- self so blam'd cunning. Mrs. Claver's Western Clearings, P. 70

    blazes: euphemism for hell or the devil.

    bloody, British swear word, from mid-1700s on.

    boat-licker: the equivalent of an ass-kisser.

    breast' not used in mixed company. "Delicate" citizens went so far as to call a chicken breast a bosom.

    bull: a taboo word due to its association with sexual potency. Polite folk spoke of a cow brute, a gentleman cow, a top cow, or a seed ox.

    bull: in reference to lies or exaggerations, widely popularized by Civil War soldiers, from 1860s on.

    cherry: vulgar term for a young woman, from at least mid-century on.

    clap: for venereal disease, from the 1700s on.

    cockchafer, cocksucker, cockteaser: all from at least mid-century on.

    condom: taboo because contraceptives were illegal for most of the century.

    crap: euphemism for ***** from at least mid-century.

    ****: highly vulgar, used throughout the century.

    cussed: a somewhat acceptable swear word, meaning cursed, contemptible, mean, etc.

    1840: Blast the cussed old imp! Knickerbocker Magazine, xvi, p.323

    1841: Billy, Billy, you are a cussed fool! S. Lit. Messenger, vii

    1869: I told Simpson I didn't want to go among a set of folks who were such cussed fools they couldn't speak English. Barnum, Struggles and Triumphs, p.250

    1880: At another time she stopped them by planting herself directly on the track, out of pure cussedness. Harper's Magazine, April

    1892: This is the cussedest business I was ever in.

    Harper's Magazine, January, p.287

    dad: a euphemistic form of God, e.g., dad-blame it.

    1834: I'll be dad shamed if it ain't all cowardice.

    Carmthen, Kentuckian I, p.216

    1845: I'll tetch 'em together quicker'n lightnin,-if I don't, dad burn

    me! W.T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, p.182

    damn: a more powerful swear word in the nineteenth century than now. Acceptable euphemisms included blame, dang, darn, dern, ding, and others. Gol was sometimes used as an euphemistic prefix, e.g., the Golderned idiots.

    devil: a more powerful expletive in the nineteenth century than now.

    dickens: a euphemism for devil, e.g., What the dickens are you going

    on about now? Popularly used from the second half of the century.

    drafted: a mild expletive, sometimes used as an euphemism for damned, throughout most of the century.

    1840s: I was never so dratted mad; for the fellows were coming in in gangs, and beginnin' to call for me to come out and take the command. Major Jones's Courtship, p.22

    fart: used throughout the century, e.g., I don't give a fart. Not worth a fart in a whirlwind.

    french pox: euphemism for syphilis.

    fuck: used throughout the century.

    bell: euphemistically known as blazes, heck, Jesse, Sam Hill, thunder, and others.

    bell-fired: euphemistically known as all-fired orjoe-fired.

    horny: sexually aroused. Used throughout the century.

    inexpressibles: euphemism for pants or trousers. See Pants. (See also Clothing and Fashion, p. 116.)

    Jesse: hell. To give one Jesse is to give one hell or to beat the hell out of him.

    1845: He turned on the woman and gave her Jesse.

    Cornelius Mathews, Writings, p.243

    1847: You've slashed the hide offer that feller in the lower town, touched his raw, and rumpled his feathers, -that's the way to give him Jessy. Robb, Streaks of Squatter Life, p.31

    Jew: to drive a hard bargain, from early in the century; used by Jew and non-Jew alike.

    jo-fired: a variation of all-fired and hell-fired.

    1834: It's jo-fired hard, though, I'll be hanged if it ain't.

    Vermont FreeFress, July 19

    knock up: to impregnate, from as early as 1813.

    leg: considered a naughty term; limb was used as a polite substitute.

    lickfinger: the equivalent of a kiss-ass, used throughout.

    lick-spittle: same as lickfinger.

    limb: used as a polite substitute for leg, which was considered naughty.

    Mary: an effeminate homosexual, from the 1890s.

    Nancy, Nancy-boy: an effeminate man, from 1800 on.

    necessary: euphemism for the outhouse or water closet; the bathroom.

    Used throughout the century.

    Negro: considered taboo because it had been used as a euphemism for a slave during the eighteenth century.

    oath: any swearing involving the name of God or Jesus; any swear word.

    1872: 0, the cold-blooded oaths that rang from those young lips!

    James McCabe, Lights and Shadows of New York Life, p.480

    pants, trousers: not spoken of aloud in polite circles, especially during the first half of the century. Acceptable alternatives: inexpressibles, unmentionables, nether garments, and sit-down-upons.

    piss, piss spot: used throughout the century.

    piss proud: a term for a false erection, i.e., one produced in the morning and not necessarily by sexual arousal. Used throughout the century.

    prick: used throughout the century.

    puss, pussy: dual meaning. Used widely as endearing appellations for women throughout the century, but also used in the vulgar sense (female genitalia) in some circles.

    quim: female genitalia, used throughout the century.

    randy: wanton or lecherous, from 1847 on.

    redneck: a poor, white rural Southerner, &om 1830 on.

    scalawag: a mean, rotten or worthless person, from at least the 1840s.

    screw: euphemism for sexual intercourse, used throughout the century.

    Also, to drive a hard bargain, used throughout the century.

    shit: used throughout the century.

    snatch: female genitalia, used throughout the century.

    snore, swan, swow: Euphemisms used by New Englanders for the word swear, which was once itself considered a swear word. Used throughout the century.

    1848: "Welll I swant" exclaimed the mamma, giving a round box on the ear to a dirty little urchin, "what made you let the little huzzy have your specs?" Mrs. Claver's Forest Life, Vol. I., p.29

    1848: 1 took a turn round Halifax, and I swan if it ain't the thunderinest, drearyist place I ever seen and the people they call blue-noses. Letter from Hiram Bigelow in Family Companion

    sodomite: homosexual, used throughout the century.

    Son of a b!tch: a very popular epithet throughout the American West from mid-century on.

    Strumpet: a whore, used throughout the century.

    tarnal: a Yankee swear word, ftom the 1700s on.

    1825: 1 know your tarnal rigs inside and out, says 1.

    John Neal, Brother Jonathan, i, p. 158

    1848: The ship drifted on tew a korril reef, and rubbed a tarnal big hole in her plankin. W.E. Burton, Waggeries, p. 17

    tarnation, nation: euphemisms for damnation, widely used throughout the century.

    1801: The Americans say, Tarnation seize me, or swamp me, if I don't do this or that. Colonel G. Haner, Life, ii,p.151

    1824: General Key is a tarnation sly old fox, for one that looks so dull. Microscope, Albany, April 3

    1827: [The Militia system] by burning a nation sight of powder, makes way with a good deal of villainous saltpetre.

    Massachusetts Spy, October 31

    1843: You've got this child into a tarnation scrape this time. Knickerbocker Magazine, August

    1847: [He remarked to me that it was] all-nation hot inside the clap- boards. Knickerbocker Magazine, July

    twat: female genitalia, used throughout the century.

    whoremonger: not a pimp, but one who patronized prostitutes frequently.

    [edit. This article was originally submitted by Craig Hadley prior to the 2000 or 2001 Outpost event and was posted here with his permission. -PC]
    Last edited by paulcalloway; 06-30-2008, 11:51 AM.
    Paul Calloway
    Proudest Member of the Tar Water Mess
    Proud Member of the GHTI
    Member, Civil War Preservation Trust
    Wayne #25, F&AM

  • #2
    Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

    Paul, thanks for sharing that! I often wondered what words lasted throughout the century and it seems we still use the majority of them.

    Matthew Fox
    Last edited by Rough_and_Regular; 06-21-2007, 02:21 PM. Reason: forgot to sign my name
    Matthew Fox
    Vincent's Brigade 2nd Battlion
    Iron Cross Mess
    45th Georgia
    [B][SIZE="2"][COLOR="blue"]"Boys, it's rough, but i'll tell you it's regular" Pvt. Henry 119th P.V.I, pre-dawn hours, July 2,1863[/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]


    • #3
      Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

      Always liked the "Randy Tar" restaurant in North Central Dallas off of Greenville Ave.

      Mid 1850's term for a Horny Sailor.
      RJ Samp
      (Mr. Robert James Samp, Junior)
      Bugle, Bugle, Bugle


      • #4
        Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

        redneck: a poor, white rural Southerner, &om 1830 on.
        The etymology of this word is somewhat hard to put a finger on. Being from WV I had always heard that it originated from the 15,000 (give or take a few) miners who marched on Blair Mountain and fought the mine owners, guards, and US government there in the 1920s. They wore red bandannas around their necks as their uniform. However upon looking to that wonderfully trusted source at Wikipedia they have a several other origins for the word.

        Possible Scots-Irish etymologies

        The National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant (a.k.a. Covenanters) signed documents stating that Scotland desired a Presbyterian Church Government, and rejected the Church of England as their official church (no Anglican congregation was ever accepted as the official church in Scotland). What the Covenanters rejected was episcopacy — rule by bishops — the preferred form of church government in England. Many of the Covenanters signed these documents using their own blood, and many in the movement began wearing red pieces of cloth around their neck to signify their position to the public. They were referred to as rednecks[1]. Large numbers of these Scottish Presbyterians migrated from their lowland Scottish home to Ulster (the northern province of Ireland) during the 17th Century and soon settled in considerable numbers in North America throughout the 18th Century. Some emigrated directly from Scotland to the American colonies in the late 18th and early 19th-centuries as a result of the Lowland Clearances. This etymological theory holds that since many Scots-Irish Americans and Scottish Americans who settled in Appalachia and the South were Presbyterian, the term was bestowed upon them and their descendants.

        [edit] Possible American etymologies

        A popular etymology says that the term derives from such individuals having a red neck caused by working outdoors in the sunlight over the course of their lifetime. The effect of decades of direct sunlight on the exposed skin of the back of the neck not only reddens fair skin, but renders it leathery and tough, and typically very wrinkled and spotted by late middle age. Similarly, some historians claim that the term redneck originated in 17th-Century Virginia, because indentured servants were sunburnt while tending plantation crops.

        It is clear that by the post-Reconstruction era (after the departure of Federal troops from the American South in 1874-1878), the term had worked its way into popular usage. Several blackface minstrel shows used the word in a derogatory manner, comparing slave life over that of the poor rural whites. This may have much to do with the social, political and economic struggle between Populists, the Redeemers and Republican Carpetbaggers of the post-Civil War South and Appalachia, where the new middle class of the South (professionals, bankers, industrialists) displaced the pre-war planter class as the leaders of the Southern states. The Populist movement, with its message of economic equality, represented a threat to the status quo. The use of a derogative term, such as redneck to belittle the working class, would have assisted in the gradual disenfranchisement of most of the Southern lower class, both black and white, which occurred by 1910.

        Another popular theory stems from the use of red bandanas tied around the neck to signify union affiliation during the violent clashes between United Mine Workers and owners between 1910 and 1920.

        The derivation of "redneck" was explained to some as a reference to poor, white farmers in Alabama who worked poor soil, which had included in its composition red clay. Working the soil gets someone dirty and the red clay that got on the necks of the poor dirt farmers was hard to get off. They were referred to derisively as "rednecks."
        What period accounts from the Civil War or earlier has anyone saw that used the term redneck?
        Brandon Sollars


        • #5
          Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

          can't remember the source off the top of my head, Sherman's Horsemen maybe,but I'm sure most of you recall this loose quote

          "I dreamed of you last night my Dear. we were on the bed together and I covered you 2 or 3 three times.... We joyed ourselves "tarnal" well"

          Just a private soldier trying to make a difference

          Patrick Peterson
          Old wore out Bugler


          • #6
            Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

            Another take on "Redneck".

            Dave Wilton, Sunday, March 04, 2007

            A redneck is a white, working class US southerner, often with provincial and insular attitudes. It is most likely a reference to the sun-burned necks of those who work in the fields all day. But it could be a reference to either anger or pellagra, which can both turn the neck red.

            Use of redneck dates to 1830. From Anne Royall’s Mrs. Royall’s Southern Tour of that year:

            This may be ascribed to the Red Necks, a name bestowed upon the Presbyterians in Fayetteville.

            The “Presbyterians” in the quote are probably poor, Scotch-Irish farmers. By the 1890s, the term was in widespread use. From the 13 August 1891 Pontotoc Democrat (Mississippi):

            Primary on the 25th.
            And the “rednecks” will be there.
            And the “Yaller-heels” will be there, also.
            And the “hayseeds” and “gray dillers,” they’ll be there, too.

            And from Hubert Shands’ 1893 Some Peculiarities of Speech in Mississippi:

            Red-neck,...a name applied by the better class of people to the poorer inhabitants of the rural districts.

            Thousands of miles from the American south, the Afrikaans Rooinek, which literally means redneck, is a term the Boers applied to the British. Originally disparaging, it is often applied somewhat affectionately and even used among British immigrants to South Africa to refer to themselves. The similarity is probably due to multiple coinages, sun-burned necks in hot climates are common, rather than lexical borrowing between the southern US dialect and Afrikaans. Douglas Blackburn, writing under the pen name Sarel Erasmus, wrote the 1890 Prinsloo of Prinsloosdorp:

            One morning he was on the market with his waggon when two men—English Rooineks—came and said: “Piet, do you want to make £15?”

            The term is explained in Lambert H. Brinkman’s The Glory of the Backveld from 1924:

            The word “rooinek” (red-neck) is an epithet for “Englishman,” due to the fact that, as a rule, an Englishman coming to South Africa, and unaccustomed to the hot, glaring sunshine, burns red in face, neck and hands. When a Boer addresses an Englishman by the epithet it is a sure sign that he is well disposed towards him and counts him as a friend, otherwise he would take no such liberties.

            There is also a tale in which it referred to striking coal miners who wore red bandannas as a means of group identification. Given what we do know of the origin of the word, this explanation can be safely discounted.

            (Sources: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition; Dictionary of South African English; American Speech, Vol. 76, No. 4, Winter 2001)

            Ron Myzie


            • #7
              Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

              Here's another one, from a letter written by William Davenport to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, November 04, 1864, in the American Memory collection of the Library of Congress.

              This is their transcription:
              Such men as Genl. Boyle, Genl Hurlburt, Col Bruce, Col E A Straling, Col True ,Col Craddock are men who rebels and C-Heads like to administer law for them-- Craddock I am informed was one of Paynes triers; an honest man might as soon expect to get justice in Hell, with the Devil on the bench. He is a down right C-head
              I'd guess that the C stands for cunt. Um, can I say that here? Does that seem right?

              Hank Trent
              Hank Trent


              • #8
                Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

                Ummm...more likely "copper", taken in context.
                Becky Morgan


                • #9
                  Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

                  Originally posted by Hank Trent View Post
                  I'd guess that the C stands for cunt. Um, can I say that here? Does that seem right?
                  Any chance it just stands for Copperhead?
                  Bernard Biederman
                  30th OVI
                  Co. B
                  Member of Ewing's Foot Cavalry
                  Outpost III


                  • #10
                    Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

                    Originally posted by Becky Morgan View Post
                    Ummm...more likely "copper", taken in context.
                    LOL! If this had been a Rohrschach test, it would certainly prove who has the dirtier mind!

                    Copperhead surely makes sense. But why would he carefully bleep out the "copper" of "copperhead" twice? It was a common word, showing up in newspapers everywhere, and I've never seen it bleeped before even in public. And he certainly doesn't hide what he's trying to say or his anger elsewhere, spelling out "rebels," "devil" and "hell," as if the mysterious C word was worse than that.

                    Was copperhead sometimes bleeped? Why?

                    Hank Trent
                    Hank Trent


                    • #11
                      Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

                      Looks like he was just abbreviating. Look at all the Cols and Genls and N. Orleans.
                      Becky Morgan


                      • #12
                        Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

                        No basis for this
                        Could the c be for c0ckhead
                        just a guess and speculation
                        Russell L. Stanley
                        Co.A 1st Texas Infantry
                        Co.A 45th Mississippi
                        Co.D 8th Missouri (CS)
                        Steelville JayBirds Mess


                        • #13
                          I particularly like Craig's article on Appalachian Speech, which Paul posted last year. One Appalachian term is missing though, which derives it history from Western Virginia & Tennessee during the 19th century, and is still used today..."SHIVAREE!!!"

                          The "Shivaree" was a 19th and early 20th century Appalachian custom (originally dating back to sixteenth-century France) of teasing a married couple on their wedding night or shortly thereafter. The bride was carried around in a tub at times, and the groom was ridden on a rail. In Tennessee the custom was more commonly called “serenading”, and in western Virginia the term “belling” also referred to this raucous, spontaneous celebration.

                          "One of the things that people really looked forward to was when a couple got married, they would have what they called shivaree. Everybody that was going to take part in it, they would slip right easy, and nobody would know they was anywhere about until the guns went to shootin'.

                          They would just march around the house shooting guns one right after another. When they would go so many rounds around the house shooting their guns, and then they would go to the door and stick a fence rail through the door and the man would get on the rail and they would ride him around the house on the rail or down the road.

                          Sometimes the women would join in and push the man's wife in a tub and carry her. I was shivareed. They put me on a rail and rode me around, and I fell off of it and I just got up and went in the house and told them that was all the riding on a rail I was going to do."
                          Oral Page, Monroe County, KY

                          Rosa Walden, a Pi Beta Phi Settlement School (Gatlinburg, TN) teacher, and Tacoma, Washington native Ruth Sturley participated in a serenade in September 1919, and described the event in a letter to her family:

                          “One of my girls Flora Reagan has a sister who was married . . . and the young people got up the affair in their honor. Abbie [Runyan], Evelyn [Bishop] and I went with three of the school girls and a dozen more youths. Lillard Maples took us girls in his Ford three miles up to the Forks of the river [to the newlyweds’ home]. . . .

                          We stopped and assembling our forces proceeded to march round and round shouting--blowing ox horns--ring cow bells--sheep bells and I know not what. My noise was produced by clapping together two tin pan covers--then some sticks of dynamite were set off--by this time strange to say the cabin was astir.”


                          Lynwood Montell,Monroe County Folklife , Ed. Monroe County, KY: privately published, 1975. p 72


                          Nick Miller
                          33rd O.V.I., Co. F
                          Mudslinger Mess
                          Acorn Boys
                          [B][SIZE="3"]N.E. Miller[/SIZE][/B]

                          [SIZE="2"][B][CENTER][I]"Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts"
                          -Marcus Tullius Cicero[/I][/CENTER][/B][/SIZE]


                          • #14
                            Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

                            Ahh yes...I fondly recall the sticks of dynamite that were set off at my
                            Tom "Mingo" Machingo
                            Independent Rifles, Weevil's Mess

                            Vixi Et Didici

                            "I think and highly hope that this war will end this year, and Oh then what a happy time we will have. No need of writing then but we can talk and talk again, and my boy can talk to me and I will never tire of listening to him and he will want to go with me everywhere I go, and I will be certain to let him go if there is any possible chance."
                            Marion Hill Fitzpatrick
                            Company K, 45th Georgia Infantry
                            KIA Petersburg, Virginia


                            • #15
                              Re: Swear Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms: by Craig Hadley

                              Originally posted by Mudslinger View Post
                              I particularly like Craig's article on Appalachian Speech, which Paul posted last year. One Appalachian term is missing though, which derives it history from Western Virginia & Tennessee during the 19th century, and is still used today..."SHIVAREE!!!"
                              That brings back memories. My wife and I were married at a reenactment in West Virginia, and everyone knew a chivaree was coming that night. I don't think anyone told anyone, it was just assumed. After dark, I told her I'd better head down to the sinks and get that over with so I'd be sure to be back at our tent in time for it.

                              Coming out of the sinks in the dark, I ran into a group of men clustered around the water source with tin plates, cups, spoons, etc. The leader was saying, "Now we have to be careful, because he's smarter than the average person..."

                              Oh no! I'd walked right into the chivaree gang, unintentionally. I tried to walk by without them spotting me in the dark, but one did. Suddenly, they began rinsing off their plates and cups. "We're all just doing the dishes together here! Nice evening, huh?"

                              I went on back to our tent, and after a while, big surprise, the chivaree gang came, banging plates and spoons.

                              But anyway, yes, shivaree/chivaree is a good one.

                              Hank Trent
                              Hank Trent