Elizabethan curse-hurling and other words

bmorem@thetribunenews.comJuly 18, 2012 

With the Renaissance Festival at El Chorro Regional Park set for full tilt this weekend, trotting out the fine art of Elizabethan curse-hurling simply seems like the right thing to do — in the interests of public service, mind you.

Before we do that, though, let’s get something straight from the git-go: Renaissance curse-hurling has about as much in common with today’s cussing as a Nash Metropolitan has with a Maserati; they may have similar origins, but there’s really no comparison. Alas, today’s efforts at leveling an oath, as compared to an Elizabethan’s, are shriveled attempts at trying to find new combinations in describing body parts and functions.

On the other hand, have you heard anyone say lately that thou art truly a beslubbering clapper-clawed lap dragon? Yeah, me neither, but then again, I’m little more than a cockered beef-witted canker-blossom who doesn’t get out enough.

No, somewhere along the line between William Shakespeare’s Elizabethan epithets and today, we’ve let a very fine tradition of creative profanation get away from us.

It’s been within my lifetime alone that we’ve pretty much lost such exclamations and curses as gee whillikins, bejaisies, and I’ll be cow-kicked and hornswoggled.

So how do we reintroduce some of the deeply melodic maledictions of yore? Easy. Simply take a word from each of the three groups below and preface it with “thou.”

• Clouted • Boil-brained • Flirt-gill
• Craven • Dread-bolted •Hedge-pig
• Fawning • Earth-vexing • Horn-beast
• Fobbing • Fen-sucked • Hugger-mugger
• Gleeking • Flap-mouthed • Jolthead
• Mammering • Guts-gripping • Lewdster
• Pribbing • Half-faced • Maggot-pie

While on the topic of language and its usage, Juliane McAdam of Los Osos — a former English teacher — has come under the spell of her adopted community, warts and all. In her case, those warts include malicious mischief to the English language and spelling.

For example, several months ago, while leaving the Los Osos Post Office, she noticed a sign on the building that proscribed the posting of “circulars, ect.”

“Then, a while later,” she wrote me, “I was in the checkout line at (a store) in Los Osos and saw the following sign: ‘COME TAKE A LOOK AT OUR NEW BARGIN BINS ON ISILE #16.’

“Mercifully, when I went back a couple of days later, there was a new sign with all words spelled correctly. But then I noticed the street sign marking the intersection of Los Olivos and ‘Mountian View,’ which has now been corrected.

“This is getting just a little scary for me; I should think it would be scary for others, too. Can anything be done? (I’ll now take my tongue out of my cheek long enough to say that I absolutely love living in Los Osos, quirky spellings and all!)”

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or at 781-7852.

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