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Posted by Smokey Stover on December 04, 2009 at 07:44

In Reply to: Birds posted by David FG on November 15, 2009 at 20:36:

: : : : : Why are so many sexual euphemisms related to birds? Bird, tit, shag, booby, cock, chough, the list is long.

: : : : I wouldn't call those euphemisms; rather the opposite! But the names of other animals are just as commonplace: bitch, foxy, wolf whistle, dogging, and so on. (VSD)

: : : And then of course, there are 'the birds and the bees'.

: : : A thought does occur to me: many (most?) people will never have seen a wild mammal mating (come to that, outside the farming community, most won't have seen a non-wild mammal mating) but everyone has seen pigeons, sparrows and so on thus engaged. Might this have given rise to a tradition that birds are particularly active in this area?

: : : Though I believe the fact that a number of our cruder words for sexual activities and bodily parts are also the names of birds is more coincidence than anything else: for example, I believe 'tit' as in the bird species is not related to 'tit' as in breast.

: : : DFG

: : I'm not sure that people see birds mating more often than mammals. The birds and bees don't have to be seen mating in order to be used as harmless illustrations of where babies come from--if that's what "the birds and the bess" actually conveys. (What exactly IS the story of the birds and the bees?) I don't know the etymology of shag in a sexual sense. In fact, before the movie, I had never heard the word used in a sexual sense. It's mostly an Eastpondian thing, I imagine, like chough, perhaps. The Western hemisphere is largely free of shags and choughs, whether ornithological or vulgarian. In North America to shag usually means (or meant) to chase down a baseball.

: : Most of the music composed for my favorite TV series, BtVS, was composed by one of two men, the second being Thomas Wanker. It was only through a fake British character on the series that I learned that there is a sexual meaning attached to the word "wanker."

: : I subscribe to the coincidence theory. Booby=breast has its own etymology, quite independent of booby=bird. and ditto t i t s. I had no idea that a chough was anything but a bird.
: : SS

: As I said, it was an idle musing on my part.

: Thanks for the Thomas Wanker information - that has brightened my life a little. He would have had a very rough time at any Eastpondian school.

: As far as 'chough' goes, it is not a word I am familiar with either (well, other than as a red-billed Crow species anyway), so I looked it up. It is (apparently more usually spelled 'chuff') one of the seemingly endless words for the female genitalia.


I took the trouble to look up chuff. One meaning is "churlish fellow," but with "chuff, n.³" we get "Slang. The buttocks or backside; the anus." The earliest citation with this meaning in the OED is 1945. A 1964 example is quoted as: "Someone started singing to a tune from Carmen, 'There's no need to be so rough--take your hand off that poor boy's chuff--there's no need to be so cruel--poor little bugger only just left school.'"

For "chuffed" the OED says, "a. Pleased, satisfied. b. Displeased, disgruntled."