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Horn-Horny
Posted: 15 April 2014 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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In my original posting I was curious about the word randy, which I think is the equivalent to USA’s usage of horny. Does anyone know if this continues to be a common usage today in Rightpondia.

It does, to the extent that the American name ‘Randy’ strikes us as amusing - any Englishmen baptised Randolph, if they shorten it at all, are likely to call themselves ‘Ran’ or some such.  Like much American slang, horny is perfectly well understood, just not something we would find natural to use ourselves.

I disagree, for horny derives from horn; horn representing a phallic symbol.
Etymology is irrelevant to current use, and therefore to current meaning.

I think it’s a fairly dead metaphor anyway; has anyone used horn to mean ‘erect penis’ in the last few decades? But even if they had, I suppose that horny could as reasonably be used to signify ‘wanting a horn’ as ‘having the horn’. (Where that leaves randy lesbians is moot, of course.)

The origin of this, which appears in so many European languages, and, seemingly, even in late Greek in phrase κέρατα ποιεῖν τινί (Artemidorus, Oneirocritica II. 12) is referred by Dunger ( Germania XXIX. 59) to the practice formerly prevalent of planting or engrafting the spurs of a castrated cock on the root of the excised comb, where they grew and became horns, sometimes of several inches long. He shows that German hahnreh or hahnrei ‘cuckold’, originally meant ‘capon’.

I’m afraid that this story started my bullshit-detectors swivelling madly. Can anyone show that you really can graft a capon’s spurs on to its comb and that they grow as horns? Or that this was ever a prevalent custom? Who was this person Dunger, anyway? I don’t think the fact that the Germans used their word for capon to mean ‘cuckold’ proves anything; a capon was a type of impotence, even more so than a gelding (which was at least strong, active and useful).

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Posted: 15 April 2014 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I’m afraid that this story started my bullshit-detectors swivelling madly

hardly surprising, with a Dunger lurking about the thread.

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Posted: 15 April 2014 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Some relevant material from a posting at the Humanist Archives forum. The thread is on Moses’ horns but this post touches on our topic. Apologies for the formatting.

Since this thread has gotten quite long now, I thought you mgiht be
interested in the raisonnement given by Kluge’s Etymologisches Woerterbuch
der deutschen Sprache. I just looked up its entry for Hahnrei `cuckold’ and
got the following, which I translate:
“Hahnrei `cuckold’, masc. Middle Low German (16th century) _hanerei,
hanreyge_; brought into Early New High German from Lower Saxony from the 16th
Century. The point-of-departure meaning is `castrated rooster, capon’. From
this arises the Modern German meaning `betrayed husband’, as in the
expressions: `to put horns on someone, to wear horns’: in order to
distinguish them from the others, one put the spurs of a capon in his comb,
where they grew and formed a sort of horns. The (impotent and therefore)
betrayed husband is thus sneered at as `capon’. This is why the spouse of
the unfaithful wife is called in French _belier_ `ram’ (actually `castrated
ram’), _cerf_ `horned one’ (actually `stag’) and _cocu_ `cuckoo’. The second
part of _Hahnrei_, which must mean `castrated one’, is explained by East
Frisian _hanrune_ `capon, betrayed husband’; here _rune_, Modern Dutch _ruin_
`castrated horse’ is the second part (see _wrinschen_)… Further information
in Dunger, Germania 29, 62ff.; Zeitschrift fuer deutsche Wortforschung 1, 64;
3, 228; 14, 166.”

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Posted: 15 April 2014 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I’m afraid that this story started my bullshit-detectors swivelling madly. Can anyone show that you really can graft a capon’s spurs on to its comb and that they grow as horns? Or that this was ever a prevalent custom? Who was this person Dunger, anyway? I don’t think the fact that the Germans used their word for capon to mean ‘cuckold’ proves anything; a capon was a type of impotence, even more so than a gelding (which was at least strong, active and useful).

These questions have been answered in Graber, Robert Bates and Gregory C. Richter, “The Capon Theory of the Cuckold’s Horns: Confirmation and Conjecture?” The Journal of American Folklore, 100:395 (Jan–Mar 1987), 58–63. Graber and Richter had the same bullshit detector going off.

Yes, you can graft a rooster’s spur onto any other part of the bird and it will grow to its regular size. (If grafted onto the abdomen, however, growth of the spur will be stunted.)

Yes, this was a custom; it’s well attested. One or two spurs would be grafted onto the capon’s comb. The purpose is to easily distinguish the capons from the rooster in the barnyard. The capon is physically emasculated, just as the cuckold is figuratively emasculated.

Dunger, Hermann. 1883. “‘Hörner Aufsetzen’ und ‘Hahnrei.’” Germania 29:59–70.

The one problem with the explanation is the dating. The capon practice is attested to as far back as 1600, but the metaphorical horns of the cuckold are mentioned as far back as c. 200 C.E. That leaves a 1400-year gap between the known use of the practice and the metaphor. It’s possible that people were grafting spurs on capons much, much earlier, but we can’t assume they were.

However, prior to 1600, it was common to refer to a capon’s horns being dual, but starting around 1600 most of the references were to a single horn. It is possible that the capon practice, if not the origin of the metaphor itself, influenced this shift.

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Posted: 16 April 2014 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I would put it this way: men are, on the whole, more brutish, more violent, more self-centered, and (like other male mammals --- dogs, rats, baboons, etc.) more keen to drop everything, and fuck just about anything that moves, at a moment’s notice.

Again, this is a cultural meme, one of those things that “everybody knows,” but that does not make it true.  Your description of “men” does not, for example, fit the vast majority of the men that I know.

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Posted: 16 April 2014 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Your description of “men” does not, for example, fit the vast majority of the men that I know.

You belong to a (numerically) very small social and intellectual elite, in a cultural enclave very limited in physical scope, which is relatively civilized compared with most of the world, and very far from representative of it (by “civilized”, I mean that the worst social excesses are curbed to some degree). In other parts of the world, the picture’s totally different. In societies which are more wholly dominated by men, the qualities I mentioned are given more free expression.

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Posted: 16 April 2014 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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At the risk of stating the obvious, I would note that even if we assume for the sake of argument that men in fact have a stronger sex drive than women, it doesn’t follow that the word “horny” itself connotes male rather than female horniness.  By that logic, “orgasm” would connote a male orgasm, because men are more driven to seek one and more likely to have one in any given sexual encounter.

As a further side note, ISTM that, in the realm of word-meaning-development, the biological reality is less important than the social norm or memes about that biology.  But, cultural norms are a funny thing: one cannot confidently predict which direction those stereotypes will “push” the associations of a word, or if they will push them at all.  In fact, it makes sense to me that, in some cases, a word may end up being disproportionately used to refer to a man or woman who does not conform to a given stereotype than to one who does, which could lead to the word taking on the connotation of referring to whichever gender is NOT culturally expected to fit that type. 

Of course, since Logophile has invoked biological “fact” in support of his argument for the connotations of “horny”, it is fair to question those assumptions on their own terms.  (And like others here, I am skeptical that this is an established fact.)

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Posted: 16 April 2014 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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lionello - 16 April 2014 08:17 AM

Your description of “men” does not, for example, fit the vast majority of the men that I know.

You belong to a (numerically) very small social and intellectual elite, in a cultural enclave very limited in physical scope, which is relatively civilized compared with most of the world, and very far from representative of it (by “civilized”, I mean that the worst social excesses are curbed to some degree). In other parts of the world, the picture’s totally different. In societies which are more wholly dominated by men, the qualities I mentioned are given more free expression.

Age has a lot to do with it too. At one point in my youth, alas, the majority of males I knew were indeed brutish, self-centred, violent and ready to fuck anything that moved. And that number included, terribile dictu, myself.

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Posted: 16 April 2014 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 15 April 2014 10:48 AM
In my original posting I was curious about the word randy, which I think is the equivalent to USA’s usage of horny. Does anyone know if this continues to be a common usage today in Rightpondia.

It does, to the extent that the American name ‘Randy’ strikes us as amusing - any Englishmen baptised Randolph, if they shorten it at all, are likely to call themselves ‘Ran’ or some such.  Like much American slang, horny is perfectly well understood, just not something we would find natural to use ourselves.

Thank you for the information. Randy, at least to my ears, seems a little less offensive.

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Posted: 16 April 2014 10:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Of course, since Logophile has invoked biological “fact” in support of his argument for the connotations of “horny”, it is fair to question those assumptions on their own terms.  (And like others here, I am skeptical that this is an established fact.)

I introduced the biological to try to substantiate my theory on the words horny-horn, but then it seemed that the thread was deviating from my initial topic; that wasn’t my intention. I should have stuck to the word’s origin and extrapolated from there.

Let me see if I can better articulate my position.

Jtab4994 asked, “Is the OED entry just old?” b. Sexually excited; lecherous. (Chiefly used of a man.) slang. Cf. horn n. 5c.

I don’t think it is. A few of OED’s entries for Horn: c. An erect penis; an erection. Also in phr. to have (get) the horn , to be sexually excited. (Not in polite use.)

1889 A. Barrère & C. G. Leland Dict. Slang I. 475/2 ‘To have the horn’, to be in a state of sexual desire. refer to a man’s penis, horn being a phallic symbol. From horn( Dave correct me if I’m wrong) we get horny; therefore, I would deduce that horny is chiefly used for a man. OED did not stipulate, “exclusively” used for a man.”

In addition, since men are more overt with their horniness it would seem logical that the term would apply more to them. 

The debate on whether there are as many horny women in the world as men is debatable in the biological sense, but a discussion for another thread. Mea culpa for introducing it into this thread.

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Posted: 16 April 2014 10:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Randy, at least to my ears, seems a little less offensive.

It’s certainly not offensive in the least, and it’s - how shall I put it? - an unimpressed sort of word.  Teenage boys make crude remarks to the girls at the bus stop and you think ‘Randy little sods, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Try the top shelf of the newsagent instead.’

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Posted: 17 April 2014 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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You belong to a (numerically) very small social and intellectual elite, in a cultural enclave very limited in physical scope, which is relatively civilized compared with most of the world, and very far from representative of it (by “civilized”, I mean that the worst social excesses are curbed to some degree). In other parts of the world, the picture’s totally different. In societies which are more wholly dominated by men, the qualities I mentioned are given more free expression.

Once again, you are vigorously stating something which you firmly believe but of which you have no proof.  I have lived in a fair number of very different countries and I do not agree with your assertion.

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Posted: 17 April 2014 10:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I have six thousand years of history to back me up. But I’m happy to know that there exists a social milieu like your own, where what I said isn’t true. It holds out a ray of hope for the rest of humanity.
Clearly, we differ profoundly, in both experience and outlook. I suggest we agree to differ on this one, and proceed to the next point of contention ;-)

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Posted: 28 April 2014 05:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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This article is relevant to much of this discussion, particularly # 7 and #8. (Although it’s not relevant to word origins.)

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Posted: 29 April 2014 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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That’s an excellent article; thanks for posting it.  Most people are not willing to examine their unexamined assumptions, but at least the information is out there.

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