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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 149

on the cloth. The American, essaying a shot, remarked that he had killed a bug with his cue. To the Englishman this seemed a slanderous reflection upon the cleanliness of his house. 47
  The Victorian era saw a great growth of absurd euphemisms in England, including second wing for the leg of a fowl, but it was in America that the thing was carried farthest. Bartlett hints that rooster came into use in place of cock as a matter of delicacy, the latter word having acquired an indecent significance, and tells us that, at one time, even bull was banned as too vulgar for refined ears. In place of it the early purists used cow-creature, male-cow and even gentleman-cow. 48 Bitch, ram, boar, stallion, buck and sow went the same way, and there was a day when even mare was prohibited. Bache tells us that pismire was also banned, antmire being substituted for it. To castrate became to alter. In 1847 the word chair was actually barred out and seat was adopted in its place. 49 These were the palmy days of euphemism. The delicate female was guarded from all knowledge, and even from all suspicion, of evil. “To utter aloud in her presence the word shirt,” says one historian, “was an open insult.” 50 Mrs. Trollope, writing in 1832, tells of “a young German gentleman of perfectly good manners” who “offended one of the principal families … by having pronounced the word corset before the ladies of it.” 51 The word woman, in those sensitive days, became a term of reproach, comparable to the German mensch: the uncouth female took its place. 52 In the same way the legs of the fair became limbs and their breasts bosoms, and lady