Nunnery
Posted: 27 November 2018 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet in act 3 scene 1 Hamlet advises Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery.” A footnote informs the reader that, “ ‘Nunnery’ could mean either convent or brothel.” Interesting!
OED

b. slang. A brothel. Now histBold emphasis added
1593 T. NASHE Christs Teares 79 b [To] some one Gentleman generally acquainted, they giue..free priuiledge thenceforward in theyr Nunnery, to procure them frequentance.
1594 Gesta Grayorum (1914) 12 Lucy Negro, Abbess de Clerkenwell, holdeth the Nunnery of Clerkenwell.
a1625 J. FLETCHER Mad Lover IV. ii, in F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher Comedies & Trag. (1647) sig. C4v/1 Chi. Ther’s an old Nunnerie at hand. Clo. What’s that. Chi. A bawdie House.
1781 Compl. Mod. London Spy (title-page) The characters of many well-known Persons who are now frequenters at Gaming-Houses, Bagnios, and other Nunneries, Night-Houses,..Taverns, [etc.].
1785 F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue Nunnery, a bawdy house.
1846 ‘Lord Chief Baron’ Swell’s Night Guide (new ed.) 126/2 Nunnery, a brothel.
1977 J. T. Shipley In Praise of Eng. 194 To the antipapist Tudors nunnery was a slang term for a brothel.

Has anyone encountered the word being used in this context? Fascinating how some words can have antithetical meanings.

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Posted: 27 November 2018 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Though it’s not entirely illogical - in pre-Reformation Europe, convents and brothels were the only two types of establishment where groups of women lived communally.

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Posted: 27 November 2018 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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And the religious orders were frequent targets of bawdy satire. There are lots of tales of sexually promiscuous nuns and monks in medieval literature, although this particular slang sense of nunnery only dates to the late 16th century. The association between cloisters and sex was well established.

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Posted: 27 November 2018 05:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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How cool! One word = two extreme meanings. Oh, the humanity of it all.

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Posted: 28 November 2018 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Nunnery was sometimes used sarcastically in Elizabethan times and later to mean a house of ill repute, a bawdy house, a brothel. Abbeys and convents had long been connected in the public mind with all sorts of covert sexual practices and in the Protestant mind this connection persisted to the 19th century and beyond, resulting in many popular books, Escape from a Nunnery and the like. I have an example from the 1890s detailing the trials and tribulations of a young English girl put into a Portuguese convent by her uncle and what she endured there. It’s soft porn of course masquerading as a religious text.

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