Sexual Vocabulary and Where OE Lexicography has Gone Astray

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The foundational lexicographical aids for Old English (OE) were largely created in the Victorian era, a period marked by discomfort with the sexual body. Dictionary-makers of this era provided imprecise definitions of sexual vocabulary that obscured
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  1 Bethany Christiansen NAAHoLS paper, 9 January 2015Portland, O !1" #Se$ual %o&a'ulary and (here Old )n*lish Le$i&o*raphy has Histori&ally +one AstrayLet-s pretend that .e-re doin* a /reeasso&iation e$er&ise /  .ere to say the .ord #se$, is the /irst thin* you thin3 o/ #di&tionary4 t-s possi'le But not ery li3ely /  .ere to say, #An*loSa$on )n*land, 'ein* the 6aterial and te$tual produ&tion o/ Britain rou*hly /ro6 the /i/th to the eleenth &entury, is your /irst thou*ht #se$4 t is possi'le, 'ut een less li3ely that you asso&iate An*loSa$ons .ith se$ than di&tionaries .ith se$ So .e /ound so6ethin* less se$y than a di&tionary, e$&ellent start !2" n 1995, Hu*h 7a*ennis .rote an arti&le &alled #8No Se$ Please, (e-re An*loSa$ons-4 7a*ennis re6ar3s on the # &learly eident reti&en&e o/ An*loSa$on poets and prose .riters indealin* .ith 6atters o/ se$ and loe :1; He &lai6s that Old )n*lish poetry e$presses, at 'est, #an an$iety and dis&o6/ort on the part o/ the erna&ular .riters &on&ernin* the e$pression !o/ se$ual" the6es :<;, and at .orst, a 3ind o/ ase$uality #&hara&teristi& o/ the +er6ani& heroi& tradition :1=; 7a*ennis-s re6ar3s did not arouse 6u&h surprise> a/ter all, &onentional .isdo6has lon* held that the early 7edieal period is a parti&ularly unse$y ti6e ?he .ritin*s  produ&ed in An*loSa$on )n*land that hae suried to the present ti6e represent a hi*hly s3e.ed &anon@ .ellrepresented *enres in&lude ho6ilies and poetry, and the na6ed authors list isdo6inated 'y 6on3s li3e A)l/ri& and Cyne.ul/ ?hese .ritin*s and .riters are lar*ely e&&lesiasti&al and not li3ely to .rite 6u&h or .rite /ondly o/ se$ual topi&s !" And yet  i/ the situation is as dire as all that, i/ there is no se$uality to 'e /ound in An*loSa$on )n*land, or in Old )n*lish in parti&ular, then .hy does the  Thesaurus of Old English , other.ise a reputa'le sour&e, list thirty/our .ords and phrases that &an 6ean #se$ual inter&ourse4 7a*ennis .as loo3in* /or se$ in all the .ron* pla&es@ in ha*io*raphies, .hi&h o/ten e$pound on the *lories o/ ir*inity> in Old )n*lish poe6s, 6ost o/ .hi&h are la6ents> and in other /i&tions translated /ro6 Latin, 6any .ith a reli*ious 'asis He 6ay 'e ri*ht that the An*loSa$on authorsand translators do.nplayed se$uality in these reli*ious stories, 'ut other *enres, su&h as la. &odes, penitentials, and 6edi&al te$ts, tell a di//erent tale !=" Old )n*lish 6edi&al te$ts are espe&ially use/ul in dis&ussin* se$uality in An*loSa$on )n*land, thou*h the se$uality o/ these te$ts has 'een lar*ely i*nored 7edi&al te$ts o/ the pre6odern period are o/ten inested in /ertility, su&&ess/ul &on&eptions and lie 'irths> the Old )n*lish 6edi&al te$ts are no e$&eption ?he Medicina de quadrupedibus , /or instan&e, a short 6edi&al treatise suriin* in /our Old )n*lish &opies, has nearly 20 o/ its 6aterial relatin* to se$ual and reprodu&tie health And unli3e the penitentials and le*al &odes, the  2 6edi&al te$ts see6 to operate outside the reli*iousphilosophi&al paradi*6, proidin* a *round /or neutral analysis e&ipes /or se$ual arousal in 6edi&al te$ts   are deoid o/ 6oral &onde6nation, and een re&ipes /or /e6ale se$ual pleasure are in&luded ?hus, these te$ts  proides .itness o/ a ta&it a&&eptan&e o/ hu6an se$uality not usually /ound in Old )n*lish .ritin*s!5" ?he three *enres  6entioned  6edi&al te$ts, la. &odes, and penitentials  ea&h hae an interest in re*ulatin* the se$ual 'ody, in one /or6 or another As Dou&ault .ould re6ind us, re*ulation o/ se$ is &arried out throu*h dis&ourse Eis&ourse is, naturally, lan*ua*e> and .e &an-t understand a .orldie. until .e understand the lan*ua*e that underpins it ?his is the &entral tenet to 6y 'elie/ in studyin* pre6odern se$ualities, espe&ially /or &ultures .hose lan*ua*es areas di//erent /ro6 our o.n as An*loSa$on )n*land-s ?o understand a &ulture-s Weltanschauung,  .e 6ust understand the .ords they use to 'uild it  and that-s .here le$i&o*raphy &o6es in !F" But 'e/ore  *et to the real 6eat o/ this paper,  /irst .ant to *ie a ery 'rie/ introdu&tion to ho. Se$uality Studies is /arin* in the An*loSa$on /ield Broadly spea3in*, 7ediealists .eren-t 6u&h interested in se$uality until Dou&ault-s History of Sexuality: An ntroduction :/irst pu'lished in 19<F; ! Dou&ault-s #history 'e*ins .ith a lin*erin* loo3 at the se$uality o/ the an&ient +ree3s and o6ans, then /ast/or.ards to the early 7odern period, *iin* short shri/t to the 7edieal Dou&ault-s .or3, and the a&ade6i& tu6ult it &aused in the ei*hties, spurred 7ediealists into a&tion ?hey s&ra''led to /ill in the 'lan3s Dou&ault le/t  'ehind Literary historians o/ the later 7edieal period .ere the Gui&3est to 6a3e their 6ar3, and so6e o/ the /irst i6portant studies .ere on 6ale ho6ose$uality and 6atters relatin* to se&ond.ae /e6inis6 et een into the ei*hties, pro*ress on pre6odern se$ualities &ould 'e, shall .e say, li6p 7u&h s&holarship on se$uality .as tied up .ith &on&erns li3e #ho6ose$uality as a so&ial &onstru&t ?hese de'ates .ere o/ten led 'y those .ith a ested interest in re&reatin* the past, in /indin* 7edieal roots /or 6odern sensi'ilities, and in atte6ptin* to &reate #ne. 6ytholo*ies 'y those dis&ontented .ith the status Guo :Bullou*h 10; !<" Se$ s&holar %ern Bullou*h notes the e//e&t o/  personal /ear on s&holarship, pointin* out that een the suspi&ion that you .ere ho6ose$ual &ould 'e enou*h to deny you tenure A third pro'le6 .as and is that the #apparatus, so to spea3,is not yet in pla&e to allo. .idespread resear&h on se$ual topi&s@ 6ost indi&es neer list su&h topi&s as ho6ose$uality, nor een 6ention the .ords #se$ual inter&ourse, and di&tionaries, o/ten datin* /ro6 the %i&torian period, o//er little help Ei&tionaries o/ Old )n*lish o//er an interestin* &ase study in the deelop6ent o/ an #apparatus that 6ay help or hinder resear&h into se$uality Ei&tionaries are the /irst :and so6eti6es last;  port o/ &all /or the historian or literary historian *rapplin* .ith a /orei*n lan*ua*e li3e Old )n*lish> .hen di&tionary de/initions are in&o6plete or 6isleadin*, s&holarship su//ers !I" ?a3e, /or instan&e, an other.ise e$&ellent paper  heard at the nternational 7edieal Con/eren&e in   Leeds@ a youn* historian .as e$a6inin* &ases o/ "erboten  6arria*es a6on*st the 6aor orderso/ the &ler*y He &a6e to a se&tion o/ the la. &ode /or'iddin* 6arria*e that had 'een s&rat&hed out, and repla&ed 'y the .ords, riht is thaet preostun lu#e claenlicne $i%%an to gebeddan  1  He interpreted this as #it is ri*hteous /or a priest to ta3e an upri*ht .o6an as a house6ate :pro'a'ly dra.in* on Clar3Hall-s de/inition o/ #*e'eddan as #&oha'itation; O/ &ourse, Clar3Hall-s de/inition .as euphe6isti& /or #se$ual inter&ourse, and this s&holar too3 it literally, not realiKin* the i6pli&ations So .here is the se$ in An*loSa$on studies4 t-s &o6in*, 'ut slo.ly ?he 6oe to.ard in&orporatin* se$uality studies into the An*loSa$on /ield has la**ed 'ehind the *eneral 6edieal trend ?his &ould 'e e$plained, perhaps, 'y the apparent silen&e o/ the 6ain *enres   poetry and reli*ious .or3s  on 6atters o/ se$ (e hae, un/ortunately, no An*loSa$on eGuialent o/ rap lyri&s to tell us ho. the aera*e person .ent a'out #doin* it But  shouldn-t 6a3e it sound li3e the An*loSa$on s&holars today are se$less@ in /a&t, a /e. e$&ellent studies hae 'een done> nota'ly, the &olle&tion o/ arti&les pu'lished in the olu6e, #Se$ and Se$uality inAn*loSa$on )n*land in 200= ntil s&holarship on se$uality in the An*loSa$on period  'e&o6es isi'le, it .ill &ontinue to 'e i*nored 'y historians o/ se$ualityOne o/ the 6aor 'arriers /or s&holarship on An*loSa$on se$uality, as 6entioned, is the poor or 6isleadin* de/initions /ro6 di&tionaries datin* /ro6 the 1I00s, and 'ased on *lossaries datin* /ro6 the 1<00s 7any o/ the 'asi& se6anti& studies /or Old )n*lish .ere &ondu&ted around the ti6e o/ the in/an&y o/ Co6paratie Lin*uisti&s, .hen Classi&al s&holars turned to.ards +er6ani& lan*ua*es, in&ludin* Old )n*lish, to loo3 /or their preChristian ori*ins !9" ?he di&tionary6a3ers, s&holars, and editors o/ Old )n*lish te$ts in the late ei*hteenth and nineteenth &enturies 'elieed that they .ere un&oerin* the roots o/ )n*lish &hara&ter eerend Joseph Bos.orth, /irst Pro/essor o/ An*loSa$on at O$/ord, .rote the /ollo.in* in the Pre/a&e tohis &o%pendious 'ictionary of Anglo(Saxon , pu'lished in 1I<F@nstead o/ &ontinuin* to asso&iate .ith the +othi& tri'es, nothin* 'ut i*noran&e, &ruelty, and 'ar'arity, let us eer re6e6'er,  that .e are inde'ted to the6 /or our stron* physi&al po.ers, our nerous lan*ua*e, and our unrialled /reedo6 under our *lorious &onstitution,  that they stilllie in our popular traditions, and perpetual dis&ourse 'isgusted by the e)e%inacy and "ices of the *o%ans, they subdued the e%pire, and beca%e its %oral refor%ers  !" (hereer these tri'es appeared, li'erty preailed ?hey thou*ht and a&ted /or the6seles ?hey .ere /ree, and loed the lan*ua*e o/ /reedo6 : e%phasis added ,2; 1 London, BL, Cotton Nero A1  = !10" ?he An*loSa$on ra&e, a&&ordin* to Bos.orth, are the 6oral /or'ears o/ the 6odern )n*lishnation He /inds the ori*ins o/ 6odern )n*lish lan*ua*e in the lan*ua*e o/ the An*loSa$ons, .ritin*@ !"n )n*lish there are a'out I,000 .ords O/ these, a'out 2,000, or 6orethan /ieei*hths, are o/ An*loSa$on ori*in Not only in the nu6'er o/ .ords, 'ut in their pe&uliar &hara&ter and i6portan&eit 6ust 'e uniersally a&3no.led*ed that An*loSa$on &onstitutes its prin&ipal stren*th At the sa6e ti6eour &hie/ pe&uliarities o/ stru&ture and idio6 are essentially An*loSa$on !"  .ords e$pressie o/ the dearest &onne$ions, the stron*est and 6ost po.er/ul /eelin*s o/ nature :i;Dor Bos.orth and his &onte6poraries, to re&oer the lan*ua*e o/ the An*loSa$ons is to re&oer a part o/ essential )n*lish nationhood and personhood ?his ideolo*y, *rounded in the se$ual ethi&s o/ the nineteenth &entury :repressie 'y today-s standards; underlies all o/ his le$i&o*raphi&al .or3 t is no .onder then, that the di&tionary de/initions o/ an a&tion so distaste/ul to the %i&torian palate should hae su//ered /ro6 relatie ne*le&tLet-s loo3 /irst at so6e entries in Bos.orth-s &o%pendious Anglo(Saxon 'ictionary  t is in this di&tionary that the reti&en&e in de/inin* an Old )n*lish .ord to 6ean #to hae se$ual inter&ourse is 6ost pro6inent +- .orlicgan / &o6posed o/ the root licgan , #to lie .ith,    plus the so&alled #doo6 pre/i$ for( / is   a ery ne*atie .ord /or se$, usually resered /or adultery and prostitution, 'ut .hi&h inthe la. &odes &an also 6ean rape or other 3inds o/ unla./ul se$ ?he .ord and its related /or6s are a6ply de6onstrated in this list> 'ut /or Bos.orth, #unla./ul se$ &an only 6ean #adultery or  prostitution, and he 6a3es no re/eren&e to rape For-legennys, -legernes, -legnes -- adultery For-legere --  An adulterer, v. ligere.For-legis, -legystre --  An adultress, S. -- For-liegan, -liggan [licgan to lie ] To commit adultery. For-licgend, -liggend, es; m. An adulterer, S. For-ligenes --  Adultery. For-liger, es; n. Adultery For-liger, adj ;  Adultery For-ligere, es; m. Adulterer For-liges  A prostitute B. For-liggang  A prostitute, a place of prostitution For-ligrian To commit adultery, L.  5 !12"  H0%an / deried /ro6 the .ord /or #ho6e, h1%   ori*inally 6eant #to 6arry, as in, #to lead a .o6an ho6e But, as Andreas Dis&her notes, this early 6eanin* eentually &a6e to  'e repla&ed 'y the 6eanin* #to hae se$ual inter&ourse so6eti6e in the later An*loSa$on  period ?his 6eanin* is 'y /ar the 6ost attested in the &orpus, yet 6any di&tionaries, as .e .ill see, priile*e the earlier 6eanin*, #6arria*e, oer the later 6eanin*, #se$ ?his 6ay 'e partly out o/ relu&tan&e to de/ine anythin* as #se$ unless a'solutely ne&essary> 'ut it 6ay also de6onstrate a priile*in* o/ early *lossarial 6aterial, in .hi&h h0%an or its deriaties are *lossed as #6arria*e, oer the later &ontinuous prose 6aterial, in .hi&h h0%an and its deriaties al6ost al.ays 6eans #se$ But in the &o%pendious 'ictionary , Bos.orth has not een 6ana*ed this 6u&h@ he de/ines h0%an as #to lie .ith, &oha'it, to &o66it adultery, and the deer'al h0%ed as #A lyin* .ith, &oha'itin* Al6ost eery one o/ the de/initions in this list .ould 'e &han*ed in the 1II2 edition o/ the Anglo(Saxon 'ictionary, and seeral are *ien /urther reision 'y ? North&ote ?oller-s Supple%ent in 1921 ?he 6ost i6portant &han*e to note is that .hile the 1I<F di&tionary :listed in 'la&3; de/ines h0%an and h0%ed2ing .ith the .ord #adultery, these hae 'een o6itted in the 1II2 ersion n the &ase o/ h0%ed2ing , #adultery has 'een repla&ed .ith #Carnal inter&ourse, enery .hi&h is still a ne*atie ealuation o/ the .ord, een thou*h the eiden&e points to.ard the /a&t that h0%an and 6ost o/ its deriaties hae a neutral &onnotation .hen 'ein* used to 6ean #se$ hæ󰇣man To lie with, cohabit, to commit adultery. 1882: To lie with, have intercourse with, to marry hæ󰇣mdo  A marriage hæ󰇣med  A lying with, cohabiting1882: A lying with, sexual intercourse, marriage hæ󰇣med-ceorl  A husband1882: A married man hæ󰇣med-gemana Marriage hæ󰇣med-þing  A cohabitation, adultery, propagation.1882: Carnal intercourse, venery, matrimony hæ󰇣med-þingian To cohabit hæ󰇣medwīf  A matron, wife1882: A married woman hæ󰇣mere, es; m. A fornicator1882: One who lies with another !1" n all te$tual e$a6ples that -e en&ountered thus /ar, h0%an only una6'i*uously 6eans #adultery .hen 6odi/ied 'y so6e other ele6ent ?he 'est e$a6ple o/ su&h a 6odi/yin* ele6ent
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