'You b----y f-----g flaming p--s country w----s go and f--k your c--t'
February 14, 2018 2:51 AM   Subscribe

'Merely a Warning that a Noun is Coming:' a review by Bee Wilson at the LRB about Christopher Hilliard's book The Littlehampton Libels ('A Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England') about a poison-pen case in an English seaside town in the years following the First World War, and more generally about attitudes toward 'foul language' when used by women (via reddit).
posted by misteraitch (21 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you want to make me curse, Amazon, list a goddamn 200-page Kindle e-book version at $31.19.

Jeff Bezos might just need to receive a stern letter or two about this.
posted by rokusan at 3:20 AM on February 14 [8 favorites]


'You b----y f-----g flaming p--s country w----s go and f--k your c--t'

The worst Wheel of Fortune board ever, or the best?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:47 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


wow, that was some forking bullshirt
posted by gorbichov at 4:09 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


‘To the foxy ass whore 47, Western Rd Local.'

Inspiration for the MeFi card swaps?
posted by biffa at 4:12 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


"Swan through a slit in a garden shed when she saw her throw a folded piece of buff-coloured paper in the direction of the Mays’ house. The paper was addressed to ‘fucking old whore May, 49, Western Rd, Local’."

Hilarious - I fucking love this post.
posted by parki at 4:30 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Flame wars at the speed of walking.
posted by ardgedee at 5:14 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Examples of the concept go back at least to the 18th century, usually in racy tell-all tabloids or memoirs involving names of aristos who have misbehaved and whose adventures if told frankly might bring libel suits. English and French examples are common enough, don't know about other languages.

While researching a book about the Tiber river (due out this year, I hope) I found that Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire was devotee of this kind of elipsis. Once upon a time she put money into a scheme to dredge the river bottom river in hopes of extracting ancient treasure. The venture failed miserably. Beau Brummell condoled the duchess and noted:

“I allude to her mode of writing merely the initial and final letters of words, an affectation which often cost me considerable trouble in guessing at her meaning. Thus in referring to her repeated disappointments on this subject, she writes: ‘My1—t like my f—t at–s have failed!”

(The holograph is presumably lost, which makes it uncertain if she meant to separate the a and the t in the final word, i.e. "at-s" or "a t-s", or indeed, meant "at" to be a separate word altogether. I have a notion of how to fill in the spaces if the former, but would be curious to know other people's ideas either way.)
posted by BWA at 5:22 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


‘My1—t like my f—t at–s have failed!”
My latest like my first attempts have failed?
posted by aerobic at 5:25 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I will never understand what people who spell out curse words with "*" or "-" in place of letters think they are accomplishing
posted by thelonius at 5:28 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


BWA/thelonius: the ellipses are my own half-baked attempt at trying to draw people's attention to the interesting article in which the quoted phrase is given uncensored, while at the same time trying to avoid causing offence to those browsing in workplaces where such things may be looked at askance.
posted by misteraitch at 5:32 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


Yeah, thread readers: this post is PG, the LRB article and the letters themselves are R.

I wonder what happened to Swan after all that? Poor Ruth Gooding as well.

It's interesting, though, it reminds me of how much of the past is hidden by its written-ness, how much about what people were actually like we don't know because what is left to us is how they wrote and not how they spoke. These Mr. Justices who took one look at Swan and decided she was innocent, did they ever call a hapless soliciter a fucking wanker over the port at their club?

Several years ago I read Wharton's Age of Innocence in a book club, and we were discussing how circumscribed and repressed the characters' sexuality was, a book where the raciest moment is when the female lead wears a loose fur stole that reveals her bare arms. You read that, you think that's what people were like then, what they knew, how they thought.

And then you find out that among Wharton's papers, after her death, was found a fragment of a story depicting an extremely explicit and incestuous sex scene. So much of the heat and dirt and life of the past is still hidden from us...
posted by Diablevert at 6:07 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


misteraitch, sorry, I thought you were quoting!
posted by thelonius at 6:20 AM on February 14


Am I alone in being sad that “foxy” in “foxy ass” is connected to the foxing of paper (ie spotted or discolored) rather that a compliment in a sea of mildly bizarre abuse?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:38 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


Well, when you get to a certain age, your ass can definitely be both foxy and foxy.
posted by JanetLand at 7:10 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


Am I alone in being sad that “foxy” in “foxy ass” is connected to the foxing of paper (ie spotted or discolored) rather that a compliment in a sea of mildly bizarre abuse?

OED's got your back:
foxy, adj.
2.b. Painting. Marked by excessive predominance of reddish tints; over-hot in colouring.
Ex.: George Walter Thornbury, The life of J.M.W. Turner "In some of the England series there is a violent foxy tone, very hot and oppressive."

3. Used to denote various defects of colour and quality resulting from atmospheric conditions, improper treatment, etc. Cf. also fox-mark n.
Ex.: Michael Donovan, Domestic Economy "Salt..stiffens the clammy soft dough made from new flour, and gives it a fair colour, when otherwise it would be foxy."

4. Of beer, wine, etc.: Turned sour in the course of fermentation, not properly fermented."

Particularly interesting (though unlikely to apply here) is this usage from Edward Manley Peacock's A glossary of words used in the wapentakes of Manley and Corringham, Lincolnshire: "Turnips when they turn leathery are said to be foxy."
posted by likethemagician at 7:23 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


From the LRB article: "The phrases ‘poxy ass’ and ‘foxy ass’ often pop up in the libels. The ‘foxy’ in question did not mean ‘sassy’, Hilliard points out, but decaying like a foxed book."

I read the whole piece and the story is fascinating and sad. I'd have bought the book as a gift at a sensible price, as it is I've forwarded the link. Not exactly a review, more an extended articulation of the whole sorry chain of events. Don't know how I'd feel about the vitals of my small circulation masterwork being ripped out and reconstructed for magazine or click fodder.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:46 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


My latest like my first attempts have failed?

That's the current favorite, for which many thanks.
posted by BWA at 7:57 AM on February 14


You read that, you think that's what people were like then, what they knew, how they thought.

If you take the basic assumption that people throughout history were just as filthy-minded as in the present, and it's merely a question of what filtered through to the written records and other formal expressions of "appropriate" behavior, you will rarely go wrong. Wharton also had a torrid affair with a younger man.
posted by praemunire at 8:44 AM on February 14


On foxy-ass language: A paradoxical-ass word. "As a suffix, –ass is used to form ‘generally negative (but increasingly positive too) adjectives and occasionally nouns’, notes Green’s Dictionary of Slang. This Janus nature recurs in slang, as in the contradictory shit vs. the shit. And you can’t spell Janus without anus." (Language nsfw, but it is, after all, from the Strong Language blog.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:22 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I will never understand what people who spell out curse words with "*" or "-" in place of letters think they are accomplishing

They’re marking a taboo. The taboos of a culture set their boundaries, and tracking allusions to words helps track what a culture values over time. I’m particularly struck these days by the shift from profanity being taboo to slurs being taboo in the US in particular; it seems to be marking a change in US values which doesn’t easily show up elsewhere.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:19 AM on February 14


I personally love it when names are spelled out as "a certain Mrs. D_______" and so on.

Anyway, this is awesome. This book looks awesome. It's fascinating that the judge refused to hear evidence against Swan.

And yeah, it's a very safe assumption that people were foul-mouthed as far back as humanity itself. I have a bunch of documents from the 1860s and 1870s, and there's lots of swearing in them. One guy is even put on trial for calling someone's wife a "goddamned whore" and for calling someone else a "useless son of a bitch." This same person shows up in official correspondence when people lodge formal complaints that he hasn't paid them the money he owes, and also he's very unkind. It's always hilarious to come across a word like "fuck" in flowery Spencerian script.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:37 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


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