Copulation
Posted: 12 February 2008 10:35 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Just read a fascinating article by Evan Zimroth on the Sex Diaries of John Maynard Keynes, in which there is much entertaining speculation on the code used by Keynes in one of the volumes (specifically, the meaning of the letters C, A and W.)

One of the suggestions for C is copulation, and I found this interesting:

In 1920s London the word did not necessarily always mean sexual intercourse of any variety (as we use it today) but could suggest only a kiss on the cheek (I beg your pardon, not that cheek) or a quick squeeze. In fact any flirtation beyond mere suggestive banter could come under the heading of “cop.”

Turning to OED I found that it marks modern usage of the verb as chiefly zoological. No indication is given of the sense above. Any support for this elsewhere?

OED:

copulate, v

3. intr. To unite in sexual congress. (Now chiefly a term of Zoology.)

[ Edited: 12 February 2008 10:40 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 13 February 2008 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Any support for this elsewhere?

look around you, Aldi --- human beings are still doing it ;-) ;-) ;-) (I think upper-class English people in the 1920’s who wanted to learn what copulation was really about, had to travel abroad. There’s something about it in one of Huxley’s early novels—Antic Hay, or Crome Yellow, I think)

Speaker at religious meeting: “Well, that’s all I have to say for the moment. Are there any questions?”
Person in audience: “Please, do angels copulate in heaven?”
Muttered comment from the rear: ”Do they fuckin’ hell.”
Speaker (nervously): “One question at a time, please!”

In her copulative contortions,
Despite contraceptive precautions,
Little Ermyntrude
Let a sperm intrude.
Can anyone here do abortions?

(Aside to Oecolampadius: I don’t make these up --- they are part of a rich oral tradition of scabrous prose and verse, which is probably as old as the English language. Lots of people have collected them. My favourite anthologist is Count Palmyro Vicarion)

Ed. A propos Keynes --- couldn’t W have stood for Women?

[ Edited: 13 February 2008 03:44 AM by lionello ]
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Posted: 13 February 2008 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s the 1920s flirting sense that I wondered about, Lionello, but yes, the ‘chiefly zoological’ of OED did surprise me a little, one hears copulation used with reference to humans all the time.

Yes, woman is one of the suggestions in the article, Keynes clearly swung both ways. Who knew that economists had so much fun?

Ah, Ermintrude! What ever happened to the ‘trudes (Germanic for strength, apparently)? There were old Gertrudes in abundance in my youth, all gone now and taken the name with them, along with Mildreds and Winifreds and Ethels. Saxon names seemed to wither on the vine in the UK in the space of one or two generations.

[ Edited: 13 February 2008 05:24 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 13 February 2008 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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sorry, aldi, I missed the references to “Woman”, which were all in the commentaries below, not in the article itself.  I should have read more carefully to the end. I did know what you were getting at, actually --- I just felt like having a chuckle, and thought you might feel that way too.

Isn’t it interesting, by the way, how frequently the words “homosexual”, “heterosexual” and “bisexual” are used as though they were categories of people (which I don’t think they are) rather than categories of behaviour?

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Posted: 13 February 2008 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I always feel like a chuckle, lionello, and you never fail to provide it!

Yes, pigeonholing, the great bequest of 19th and 20th social scientists to humanity. How can we ever repay them? :)

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Posted: 13 February 2008 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I very much doubt that the reference to Bacon is zoological…

Skeat, 1888

COPULATE, to couple together. (L.) Used as a pp. by
Bacon, Essay 39, Of Custom. Lat. copulatus, joined ; pp. of copulare.
Lat. copula, a band, bond, link ; put for co-ap-ul-a, a dimin. form,
with suffix -ul-. Lat. co-, for com, i.e. cum, together; and ap-ere, to
join, only preserved in the pp. aptus, joined. See Apt. Der.
copulat-ion, copulat-ive ; and see couple.

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Posted: 13 February 2008 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I very much doubt that the writings of Bacon are considered “now”. ;-)

----
“You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but mammals - let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” - The Bloodhound Gang

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Posted: 13 February 2008 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Right, Bacon’s use is not in reference to sex, either human or animal.  It just means “coupled”.

But if the force of custom simple and separate, be great, the force of custom copulate and conjoined and collegiate, is far greater.

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Posted: 13 February 2008 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Turning to OED I found that it marks modern usage of the verb as chiefly zoological. No indication is given of the sense above.

The fascicle that included copulate was published in 1893 and presumably the definition was written some time previously; it would be expecting a lot to expect it to anticipate colloquial London usage several decades later.

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Posted: 13 February 2008 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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languagehat - 13 February 2008 09:29 AM

Turning to OED I found that it marks modern usage of the verb as chiefly zoological. No indication is given of the sense above.

The fascicle that included copulate was published in 1893 and presumably the definition was written some time previously; it would be expecting a lot to expect it to anticipate colloquial London usage several decades later.

I thought they were working slowly through the alphabet revising all the entries? I’m sure I recall someone saying that an entry hadn’t been revised because they hadn’t reached that part yet. Surely they’ve got to the letter C?

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Posted: 13 February 2008 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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As has been mentioned in these discussions many times, they started (in March 2000) at the letter M--deliberately starting in the middle to balance out the effects of the original edition starting at A, so that the earlier part of the alphabet was done with less experience--though perhaps more energy and optimism.

The current revision is now up to the Q’s: the last update covered “purpress-quit shilling”.  You can find a description of the quarterly updates at http://dictionary.oed.com/help/updates/

[ Edited: 13 February 2008 11:39 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 13 February 2008 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I had a feeling I might be wrong, My apologies for not checking this myself.

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