Sunday, September 4, 2011

ECCOlocation; "'junk' hits"; the bishoprick of Condom

Via Jenny Davidson, a marvelous article on OCR and eighteenth-century condoms in the latest Eighteenth-Century Studies [gated link]. It is also very pun-filled; some of the puns are a bit of a stretch (e.g., "these numbers are a little rubbery, and subject to change") but there is much that is worthwhile; a few clippings:
Gabriel Fallopius invented linen sheaths in 1564, and condoms survive from ca. 1647, but the first recorded use of the word "condom" in English is not until 1705.41 In 1708 a poem was published with the subtitle "A Word or Two in Praise of Condons"42; by the 1730s numerous poems had been written in praise of condoms; and by the 1750s they had also appeared in a number of artworks. Thereafter, they feature in lengthy prose satires, in the private journals of William Byrd and James Boswell, and in the public spats between rival condom manufacturers. Condoms also feature in medical literature, first appearing in 1713 in The Symptoms, Nature, Cause, and Cure of a Gonorrhoea, by the appropriately named William Cockburn.43

[...] In 1716, 1729, 1741, and 1744 condoms, however spelled, are referred to as "The New Machine" or "machines"; in 1723 White Kennett's "Condom, A Poem" was retitled "Armour: A Poem"; in 1726 the word "preservative" is used; and in the 1760s Boswell refers to "sheaths" or "armour." In 1740 Stretzer refers to condoms circuitously as the "Cloathing worn in Merryland"; other writers describe them as "Lamb's bladders" (1748), a "scabbard" (1763), or "commodities" (1773).

[...] Looking at these results, we soon discover that there are literally hundreds of false or "junk" hits. The reason for this is that "Condom" is a city in southwestern France in the department of Gers, and since the city was a bishopric from 1317 to 1792, it is also the name of twenty-eight bishops, many of whom either wrote or were written about.51 It is not easy to remove these false-hits from the search for "condom."

("Merryland" is described further in some of the excerpts in the appendix; its proximity to Virginia is relatively beside the point.) Related previous posts: Hanseatische Gummiwerke, A Side-Splitting Tale

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