"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."
Monday, 5 April 2010
In an interesting condition
To be in an interesting condition was a euphemism for pregnant. Since the 18th century women were said to be in an interesting state or interesting situation and subsequently there would, hopefully, be an interesting event - childbirth.
In 'Roderick Random' (1748) Tobias Smollett wrote - "So that I cannot leave her in such an interesting situation, which I hope will produce something to crown my felicity." Charles Dickens in ' Nicholas Nickleby' (1838) wrote of "Mrs. Lenville (who, as has been before hinted, was in an interesting state)."
The Westmorland Gazette in June 1899 reported the birht of Maria Romanov as an "'Interesting event' at Peterhof. Another daughter!"
The actual words 'interesting condition' are first found in America in an 1846 edition of the Hagers-town Torch Light of Hagerstown in Washington County, Maryland : ... "the elopement of a blacksmith named Samuel Fellows and a Mrs. Betsey Reynolds. Mrs. Reynolds is about 31 years of age, and is good looking. She took her family of five children with her. She was also in an interesting condition. Fellows took his two children - making quite an interesting company."
Interestingly a number of sexual euphemisms are remarkably similar in English and Russian which is not the case with other expressions and "An interesting condition” has been a favorite expression of the Russian lower-middle class.
My daughter Helen commented in November 2008 in her Blog that she was now keeping a notebook of new words that she came across during her reading. "This week I bought a lovely little leather bound book to write new words in as I read them . I've added a few from "1984", but my favourite has to be persiflage (from the French persifler) which means banter." I later discovered that my older daughter, Bryony, also kept a similar notebook.
This inspired me to create a Word blog. This will include both new words, favourite words and the origins of phrases that we commonly use. A definition and some comment, perhaps even a relevant quotation, will acompany the word or phrase.
“I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.” - Winnie the Pooh
I'm a blogger - nowadays that seems to be my main occupation and Rambles from My Chair is my main blog. I’m a retired local government executive - now studying how to survive a neurological disorder that gives me various problems but, hopefully, a whole new outlook on life and an increased sense of humour and perspective. I enjoy all manner of communication apart from the telephone and am constantly e-mailing, texting, writing postcards and letters and commenting on other people's blogs.
Scriptor Senex is Latin for Old Writer and my real name is John but I've almost forgotten that nowadays...
“He’s not so old. He’s just the age that he is, that’s all.” (Gerald Hammond)