We have our different reasons.
The cats twitch their tails and lick their lips at the sound of birdsong. Meanwhile I relish the names of the birds and the disclosures of their intimate habits.
The bird who has caught my attention lately is the Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa). This is because the female of the species seems to me to live the life of polyandrous Riley.
Here’s a photo of a pair of them, by Dominic Sherony, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The female Jacana spinosa lives out that aphorism - acting like male of many a species. Unfortunately she also acts like jerk with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
She chooses her mates, seduces them with her plumage, has her way with them. Then she leaves them to look after the eggs and chicks while she goes off in pursuit of new males.
Here’s a Northern Jacana foraging for delicacies (picture by Hans Hillewaert, Wikimedia Commons).
Here’s a picture of a Northern Jacana acting provocatively, if you want my opinion. This one is by Benjamin Keen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Thinking about this avian 'hussy' drew my mind to an issue I have long found interesting. In a bad way.
Why are there so many insulting words for a woman who has a lot of sex? And why so few for men?
One of my favourite resources, given that I write a lot of 18th century, is Francis Grose’s A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
Here are some of the words in it for women who have a lot of sex: a cunning baggage, a wanton baggage, a biter, a bobtail, a buttered bun, a bureck, cleaver, a cleft, a coming wench; a forward wench, a breeding woman, a demy-rep, a doxy or a dodsey, a Drury-lane vestal, a froe, a fusty luggs, a giggler, a lady of easy virtue, a left-handed wife, a woman of the town, a harlot, one who prays with her knees upwards, a quean, a rantipole, one who lets out her fore room and lies backwards, a trollop, a wagtail, a woman of pleasure, a hedge whore, a mob or mab, a strumpet, an Athanasian Wench, a Quicunque Vult, a demanders for Glimmer or Fire, a bawdy Basket, a doxy, a Kinching Mort, a Kinching Co.
And for a man? A very few. The worst I could find was a ‘beard-splitter’.
In other sources, one might find ‘a Casanova’, ‘a bit of a lad’, ‘a ladykiller’ (and not in the Jack the Ripper sense’ or a snickering ‘one for the ladies’. Nothing very judgmental. In fact one imagine each of these phrases delivered with a wink and even in an admiring tone.
Francis Grose also has a vast number of insulting words for men who live in subservience to a female partner, or, heaven forfend, helps her around the house. So Mr Northern Jacana might have these things said of him:
His eyes water from the smoke of Charren; a man of that place coming out of his house weeping, because his wife had beat him, told his neighbours the smoke had made his eyes water
COMB. To comb one's head; to clapperclaw, or scold any one: a woman who lectures her husband, is said to comb his head. She combed his head with a joint stool; she threw a stool at him.
COT, or QUOT. A man who meddles with women's household business, particularly in the kitchen. The punishment commonly inflicted on a quot, is pinning a greasy dishclout to the skirts of his coat.
CURTAIN LECTURE. A woman who scolds her husband when in bed, is said to read him a curtain lecture.
DISHCLOUT. He has made a napkin of his dishclout; a saying of one who has married his cook maid.
A little later, in 1860, there appeared the Dictionary of Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words Used at the Present Day in the Streets of London; the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; the Houses of Parliament; the Dens of St. Giles; and the Palaces of St James. John Camden Hotten was the author.
Here we find another colourful collection of ladies of easy virtue: We still have mort and drab and mutton. Now we also have ‘a gay woman’. To which we can add a Kiddleywink, a Poll, a Shake, Shakester or Shickster, and the delightful Showfull Pullett. Less nice are a Blowen (a showy or flaunting prostitute) and a Jack, a low prostitute.
We also have a clause that I have failed to penetrate: To Joe Blake the Bartlemy, meaning to visit a low woman.
Any clarifications welcome.
Meanwhile, speaking of low, here’s an update to my last post in this place, about the brutal re-branding of a Grade II Listed building in the historic view of a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The perpetrator, the sub-tenant of a Famous Chain of coffee shops, has been ordered by the council to remove the garish illegal advertising ‘forthwith’ from the façade of historic Wharf W. That was on December 15th, a month ago. Does anyone think Famous Chain's sub-tenant might have complied? Hands up who thinks that the Borough of Southwark has done anything to make him do so. Who is convinced that Famous Chain must have rushed in promptly to deal with its tenant’s non-compliance?
Michelle Lovric’s website
The picture at the top is also from Wikimedia Commons, and is by Marc Athanase Parfait Œillet Des Murs (1804-1878).