I recently finished reading Melissa Mohr's delightful book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing. Among other things, it's a fun, light illustration of some of the drivers behind what makes certain words taboo—granted, without discussing much in the way of formal linguistics—and should make apparent, in my view, how arbitrary many of those distinctions are.

To summarize her thesis, she divides curses into the holy and the shit: respectively, words and phrases that invoke religious ideas and bodily/sexual language.1 In the Middle Ages, religious oaths were thought to be much more offensive because they either forced God to bear witness to a lie, hence deceiving Him, or committed actual physical violence against Jesus, while words like fuckshit, and cunt were simply the most direct words for their referents. They most likely would not have raised an eyebrow.

During the Renaissance, however, sensibilities began to change. Religious curses, still reviled by some modern believers, nevertheless began to lose some of their shock value, making way for shit-words to claim a measure of notoriety for themselves, eventually culminating in the Victorian Era's extreme animus toward foul language. According to Mohr, this transition continues today, with one notable exception: racial epithets have now basically supplanted both the holy and the shit as the most shocking language.2

Anyway, I highly recommend the book, and because I am both a lover of language and an overgrown man-child who's maintained his juvenile sense of humor despite being buffeted by the mentally erosive forces of time, experience, and a joyless commitment to pessimism, I'd like to reproduce a smattering of glorious Victorian sexual euphemisms taken from a chapter in Holy Shit titled "Gamahuche, Godemiche, and the Huffle".3

Enjoy.

You'll forgive me the absurd vulgarity, I hope. File: Wikimedia Commons

You'll forgive me the absurd, gleeful vulgarity, I hope.
File: Wikimedia Commons

 

Mouse over the references to see the truly hilarious original wording of selected definitions. Also, some of these words predate the Victorian era, but the chapter seems to imply they would have been in regular, if vulgar, use during Queen Victoria's reign.

Huffle, Bagpipe: blowjob4

Gamahuche: fellatio, cunnilingus5

Larking: some sources claim fellatio, but Mohr seems to favor Gordon Williams's argument that it means, to put it in words she does not, titty fucking. She also references an engraving called "The Larking Cull" (1800) which shows a man doing just such a thing. You can view it at the British Museum's website!

To Tip the Velvet: either French-kissing or cunnilingus6

Covent Garden Ague: venereal disease

Covent Garden Abbess: bawd

Covent Garden Nun: prostitute7

Godemiche: dildo8

Lobcock: a big, rubbery one9

Rantallion: I must leave it to Grose here again: "one whose scrotum is so relaxed as to be longer than his penis, i.e. whose shot pouch is longer than the barrel of his piece"

Fartleberries: dingleberries10

Burning Shame: Grose defines this as "a lighted candle stuck into the parts of a woman, certainly not intended by nature for a candlestick"11

The following were all slang words for penis. As with many euphemisms, some of these are more innocuous than others and probably depend largely on context, which might render them either as the uncomfortable, ill-willed curses I referred to in an earlier footnote or simply as crude and goofy:

Pego
Arse-opener
Arse-wedge
Beard-splitter
Chinkstopper12
Plugtail
Thomas
Man Thomas
Machine
Tool

Euphemisms for vagina:

the Monosyllable
Quim
Pussy
a woman's Commodity
Madge

Euphemisms for sexual intercourse:

Roger
Screw
Have Your Greens

Bubbies, Diddeys: breasts

Bushelbubby: a woman with large breasts