Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Swearing and sex, medieval style

The blog Historical Boys has a nice guest entry from Jeri Westerson. She also has a blog called Getting Medieval. Both of these are on my blogroll. The entry concerns medieval "swear words", which were quite different from "swear words" nowadays. "S-words" and "f-words" would simply have described bodily functions or bodily activity, I don't have much to add to this, except that in Anglo-Saxon times, calling someone a "nithing" was considered an insult --- though it wasn't a "swear word". "Nithing" was an insult because it implied that the person so named had done something so horrible that he was basically outside society. On the other hand, people in medieval times probably would not understand what all the fuss with some hip-hop artists is all about. And on still another note, Nan Hawthorne has some "cautionary tales" about medieval attitudes toward sex. She correctly points out that the manuals directed at couples, were written by monks, therefore not precisely objective. Again, I don't have a whole lot to add here, other than that the advice in these manuals apparently varied, depending on the monks who wrote them. Some of them apparently felt that, while sex was a duty for procreation only, enjoyment could be mixed with "duty" since "enjoyment" was, according to these monks, more likely to produce children. I suppose what they actually observed was, that if the couple truly enjoyed each other's company, they were more likely to spend the right sort of time in each other's company, that would insure that children were produced! Still, even if they came up with the right answer for the wrong reasons, it definitely suggests that medieval people were not the mealy-mouthed puritans some of us imagine today.
Anne G

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