Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Thing" as Euphemism?


I promised a little bit of research on a particular meaning of "thing" - and I have only a little to report due to other duties. But I did check my OED and found that the first recorded use of "thing" to mean "privy member, private parts" was 1386 in Chaucer (page 309, middle column, Oxford English Dictionary, 1971 edition).

More recently - in the 19th century, anyway - Angela Heywood was appalled to hear women refer to a man's "thing"! Appalled, that is, that women didn't use the real word, but chose such a euphemism ("Foul-Mouthed Women," Voices of the Nation, Caroline Field Levander, 1998, page 43).

Now, set your mindset on a hermeneutic of suspicion, recall that the protagonist of the novel Daddy-Long-Legs called her 'benefactor a "Thing," and think at least bemusedly about this possibly euphemistic insult.

That's all for now . . .



At 11:02 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

At a guess, she means nothing Freudian by "Thing." The overall tone of the prose seems far too chaste for anything like sexual subtext. (I suspect you're joking regarding this point, anyway!) By the same token, if the mystery man has designs on our heroine, those designs likely aren't sexual or even amorous, although I suppose there could be something along the lines of a "your soul is mine" dynamic at work. Or would that be too satanic?

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I am exaggerating, of course, but I will nevertheless try to compose a case - just to see how plausible a case I can make.

Jeffery Hodges

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