Evolution in Terms

(This blog contains colourful language.)

Oftentimes, we like to believe that the past was a simpler, easier place to live. Nothing could possibly top the past. People put more emphasis on their family, crime rates were lower, grammar was used with higher proficiency, and the general population excreted diamonds according to some accounts. Putting aside slavery, witch trials, and people throwing their shit in the streets (among a plethora of other things we like to think don’t exist anymore) there are some fantabulous words of great merit that have dwindled into disuse. You will find a (petit) lion’s share of those on my blog, but there are some that truly highlight just how far we have come. It is on these glorious morsels that I shall focus this entry.

  Electric sunstroke. Those of you who are, as I am, obsessed with Downton Abbey should know about the furore with which electric light was met. As the name implies, it was believed that exposure to too much electric light could cause sunstroke like symptoms. Whether we have simply advanced to the point where we no longer experience these symptoms or whether it was simply unfounded balderdash (MSG giving you headaches) created by profiting gas lamp companies (all non-Chinese restaurants) is for you to be the judge.

  Glory hole. Ah yes. Where ever would a maid have been without her glory hole? Why, her job would have been just plain inconceivable. In fact, many houses had a glory hole, specifically for the maids. Wassat? Heavens! is that how it’s used these days? … Well, that sounds rather naughty/enjoyable/naughty… but, no. In the past, it was a neat little hidey-hole or cupboard in which maids could stash their rubbish, tools, or utensils. So I suppose, from the aspect of shoving one’s junk into it, the meaning has changed very little indeed.

  Fasting spittle. Oh lads and lassies, are you in for a treat! Do you know someone on the 40 Hour Famine? Well, collect their spit and bottle that shit! For the longest of times the spit from a man (possibly woman too, but difficult to tell with yesteryear’s writers being such sexist prats) who is fasting was said to hold magical healing powers. Read this excerpt, ‘A cure for ringworm: Put a new shilling three times round the crook, spit a fastin on it, and with it rub the affected parts.’ [Gregor Walter. Folklore of North-East Scotland, 1881] For extra effects, drop it down your shirt and pull it out the bottom before rubbing yourself.

  Cut legs. Oh, it’s a jolly good game that two horse carters could play to pass the time while resting, watering, and feeding their horses. Basically, the two carter chaps stand one or two paces apart and lash each others’ fucking legs with horse whips until one of them calls ‘HOLD’! After which, the loser treats the winner to two pints. Young lads these days with their gay chicken… Kissed a lad did you? Well, by all rights I should be the most masculine sod of the lot of you.

Last one!

  Gill-gatherer. Finally! A serious one. Packs of working ladies, defying convention, getting their hands dirty, and earning a living. So what was it that they did again? Leeches you say? Marshes you say? It seems, my faithful readers, that these young girls would collect leeches from the marshes to save the sick. You don’t see this job on Seek.com every other day…

So there you have it. Do you feel how far we’ve come ? Have waves of reassurance lapped over you? Our work, sex, play, medicine, and common sense have evolved exponentially. It’s just unfortunate that they have evolved into something equally ridiculous.

– Blair


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