Sunday, June 09, 2013

One of those unimpressed synagogue visitors, 1721

This page is an account of one English visitor to a synagogue in 1721. As you can see, he was bewildered by  the men keeping their hats on, no kneeling, calling out to get a pinch of snuff, worshipers coming in an hour, two and more late, the disharmony between some praying, some singing [prayers], and some talking of business.

Note the expression "he [who held the Torah] sat him down on his A----se with his Hat on his Head." "A----se" is, of course, "Arse." In 1721 the word was not yet the vulgarity it is today, (hence its use in a text like this), but was already emerging as an impolite word - hence the modest use of hyphens. In the prior century, in many texts the word was used normally and not considered particularly vulgar at all. But as David Crystal writes (The Story of English in 100 Words), as polite euphemisms for buttocks increased, primarily in the 18th century, the rudeness level of this word increased.

1 comment:

  1. He didn't realize that those who were only there for 5 minutes didn't actually leave; they went out to the kiddush club. In fact, that's what they came to synagogue for in the fist place.



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