Roger
Posted: 07 March 2007 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Checking in OED for the etymology of the old verb roger, to copulate (it comes from the name Roger as applied to the penis, as I should have guessed) I came across something which puzzled me in the entry for the name.

Roger, noun 2

3. slang.  a. (See quot. a 1700.)
Quot. 1653 seems to be a ghost.
1653 URQUHART Rabelais I. xi. a1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Roger,..a Man’s Yard. 1719 D’URFEY Pills VI. 201. 1720 D’URFEY Pills VI. 201 Here’s a Health to the Queen, let’s Bumpers take in hand, And may Prince G{emem}’s Roger grow stiff again and stand.

What do they mean by a ghost? If, as I’m speculating, they mean a quotation or entry which was never quite completed in the original dictionary, why don’t they just excise it, or have I got the wrong idea?

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Posted: 07 March 2007 09:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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When puzzled by a dictionary’s use of a word, it’s usually helpful to look up that dictionary’s definition of the word.  Actually, the OED2 has no applicable sense for “ghost” per se, but under “ghost-word” we are referred to this citation:

1886 SKEAT in Trans. Philol. Soc. (1885-7) II. 350-1 Report upon ‘Ghost-words’, or Words which have no real Existence..We should jealously guard against all chances of giving any undeserved record of words which had never any real existence, being mere coinages due to the blunders of printers or scribes, or to the perfervid imaginations of ignorant or blundering editors.

As to why they haven’t purged that citation entirely, I can’t say, but perhaps they’re not sure it’s completely spurious.  There might have been an error on the slip for that citation, and although the word doesn’t occur at the indicated place, it’s possible that it occurs elsewhere in Urquharts translation of Rabelais and no-one has yet searched through the entire text to check.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks, Doc. You’re right, I should have checked.

BTW I find it fascinating that the first cite in the OED for Jolly Roger is 1785, almost a century after the heyday of the most notorious pirates. I wonder if we can safely assume from that that the term wasn’t used by Captain Kidd and his fellow freebooters?

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Posted: 07 March 2007 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s a fair assumption, but perhaps not completely safe. Evidence would indicate that “jolly roger” was not actually used by pirates, but the nature of slang (especially criminal slang) is such that words can have a considerable existence before appearing in mainstream sources. But nearly a century (the cite is some 84 years after Kidd’s death, and his plundering was well after the heyday of the Caribbean pirates) is a long time, even for criminal slang.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Regarding the ghost, Urquhart’s 1653 translations make up the first part of
FIVE BOOKS OF THE LIVES, HEROIC DEEDS AND SAYINGS OF GARGANTUA AND HIS SON PANTAGRUEL
Translated into English by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty and Peter Antony Motteux
(Project Gutenberg edition available at http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/2/0/1200/1200.txt )

In Book I, Chapter 3, (section?)XVIII, there’s this (emphasis added):

The women at the beginning of the world, or a little after,
conspired to flay the men quick, because they found the spirit of mankind
inclined to domineer it, and bear rule over them upon the face of the whole
earth; and, in pursuit of this their resolution, promised, confirmed,
swore, and covenanted amongst them all, by the pure faith they owe to the
nocturnal Sanct Rogero.  But O the vain enterprises of women!  O the great
fragility of that sex feminine!  They did begin to flay the man, or peel
him (as says Catullus), at that member which of all the body they loved
best, to wit, the nervous and cavernous cane, and that above five thousand
years ago; yet have they not of that small part alone flayed any more till
this hour but the head.  In mere despite whereof the Jews snip off that
parcel of the skin in circumcision, choosing far rather to be called
clipyards, rascals, than to be flayed by women, as are other nations.  My
wife, according to this female covenant, will flay it to me, if it be not
so already.  I heartily grant my consent thereto, but will not give her
leave to flay it all.  Nay, truly will I not, my noble king.

This is a little obscure, but I think the nocturnal Saint Roger is what we’re talking about.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 09:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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choosing far rather to be called clipyards, rascals, than to be flayed by women, as are other nations

I notice in the passage quoted by Dr. Techie, that the word “clipyard” appears alongside “rascal”, and is apparently equated with it. I cannot find the word “clipyard” in the Drones Shakespeare concordance, or in any dictionary available to me --- what does the OED say about it? Is it an Urquhart invention?

Doctor (to patient undergoing medical examination) I see you’ve been circumcised. May I ask if there were medical reasons for this?

Patient: I’ve never been circumcised, doctor.

Doctor: What became of your foreskin, then?

Patient: Oh, that’s just fair wear and tear..........

(thank you for the quote, doc. That Gutenberg project is like Ali Baba’s cave)

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Posted: 07 March 2007 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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"Clipyard” is not in the OED.  It may have been a nonce formation of Urquhart’s, but I don’t think it is intended to be synonymous with “rascal”, because I’m pretty sure what the meaning is.  One (obsolete) sense of “yard” is as slang for “penis” (deriving from the original sense of of “stick, rod, staff” whence our linear measure also derives).  So those who have been circumcised have had their yards clipped.  In modern idiomatic English the passage might go “preferring to be called clipdicks, the rascals, than to be skinned by women”.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I believe “clipyard” is transparent given “yard” = “male sex organ”, just as Dr. T. says.

The original French as reproduced on-line is:

//Dont par fin despit les Iuifz eulx mesmes en circuncision se le couppent & retaillent, mieulx aymans estre dictz recutitz & retaillatz marranes, que escorchez par femmes, comme les aultres nations.//

I can’t read this perfectly, but I suppose “recutitz & retaillatz marranes” refers to persons who are said to be “marranes” and who are said to have have been “cut"/"clipped": the word “marranes” apparently refers to [former] Jews or Moslems who have converted to [Catholic] Christianity (this may have been used with a derogatory sense).

[ Edited: 07 March 2007 10:59 PM by D Wilson ]
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Posted: 07 March 2007 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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It’s not in OED, Lionello; it’s either an obscure canting term that OED missed, or a nonce word of Urquhart’s coinage. He was a wonderfully eccentric fellow and his translation of Rabelais reflects this. Where Rabelais has two or three terms, Urquhart will have four or five; what his version lacks in accuracy it makes up for in gusto. That’s what makes the translation so gloriously readable. And thank you, Doc, for taking the trouble to search out Roger.

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Posted: 08 March 2007 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thank you, all—everything is much clearer now. I was aware of the meaning of “clipyard” --- and anyway, I don’t think Urquhart could possibly have made it clearer. As for “yard” being slang for “penis” --- well, men have always been prone to brag (I really cannot visualize any woman coining that expression; it takes a woman --- like Loretta B. --- to cut a man down to size ;-). What puzzled me was the juxtaposition of “clipyard” and “rascal”, which is now much clearer. “Marrano” is indeed a pejorative term, used by Spanish “Old Christians” in reference to “New Christians” (Jewish converts). It is a word for “pig”, derived from the Arabic ”muharram”, a forbidden or unclean thing (pigs are ritually unclean to Moslems too). In the Balearic Islands, “New Christians” were referred to as “Chuetas” (Catalan for “pork chops"), because they were required on the dates of Jewish festivals to eat pig’s flesh in public, as an earnest of their enthusiasm for their new-found faith. But I don’t think Rabelais meant by ”marranes”, “New Christians” in particular. In his time, Jews in France were allowed to profess their religion openly without being put to death. The original text suggests to me that Rabelais was simply using “marranes” as an additional rude word, to make his point --- which, so far as i can see, is simply that you’d have to be a really dedicated, far-out weirdo (and suffer being called “a trimmed-back, clipped-back Jewish pig"), to choose cutting your own yard back, rather than have a woman wear it down for you, as other more sensible nations do.

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