My friend Pooka, of Art History, LOL, texted me with a request to write about Today's Featured Article. I figured if he sent me a text, it was pretty important. So I sat down to write about it, and...
...oh my. Pooka, you dirty bird! Tsk tsk!
I try to keep this blog family friendly, but this is a too neat to pass up. So be warned, the post contains naughty language and discussions of extramarital dalliances. If you are under 18, reader, ask your parents if you can continue reading this post. And, um, while you're at it, why don't you recommend that they start reading my blog? In fact, ask permission from all your friends. And link me on your Myspace page.
There now, back to business.
In cities throughout the British Isles, there are streets that were originally named Gropecunt Lane. I know!
The information in the article is, frankly, not very surprising. "Gropecunt, the earliest known use of which is in about 1230, appears to have been derived as a straightforward compound of the words grope and cunt...Although the name was once common throughout England, changes in attitude resulted in its being replaced by more innocuous versions such as Grape Lane." The interesting thing is that the article never definitively states that it was the name of the red light districts of medieval England, even though it does bring up that
"Organised prostitution was well established in London by the middle of the 12th century... the practice was often tolerated by the authorities, and there are many historical examples of it being dealt with by regulation rather than by censure: in 1393 the authorities in London allowed prostitutes to work only in Cocks Lane..." (Teehee!)
"It was normal practice for medieval street names to reflect their function, or the economic activity taking place within them (especially the commodities available for sale), hence the frequency of names such as The Shambles, Silver Street, Fish Street, and Swinegate (pork butchers) in cities with a medieval history."
However, we can only assume that, in a culture with regulated prostitution and streets named for economic activity, Gropecunt Lane might have been where the whores hung out. Maybe.
I can just imagine what the conversation might have been like:
Londoner of Yore: Welcome to our towne, wanderer! Pray, shall I give thee a tour?
Traveler: Aye, 'twould be most helpful!
LoY: Sirrah, here be Butcher Street, 'tis where ye may buy a side of beef. And this is Cooper Gate, where barrels be sold. And this is Gropecunt Lane!
Traveler: Ah, 'tis where a man might pay a shilling for some time with a strumpet!
LoY: Nay, the devil take your sinful tongue! 'Twas named for the parson Nigel Gropecunt, and is where we go to pray and mend the bindings on our Bibles!