The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jan 12, 2011

London Tales

I've been quite lax with posts about London, so here's a couple to liven up (or, possibly, depress) your January. These are from London's history, and speak much about the kinds of things that amused Englishmen over the ages. None of that stiff upper lip until Victorian times, then?

Firstly is the story of Whipping Tom of Fleet Street, who - in the 1670s - dressed in black, covered his face, waylaid unsuspecting women as they went about their duties, and spanked them: he lifted their skirts and beat 'an Alarum' upon 'their Tobies' and cried, 'Spanko!'

He was never caught, and most people thought him an object of fun as his assaults were mainly on women of the night. The intensity of his spanking varied as well: he once 'swinged her tail' so hard 'that tis thought, she will not be capable of her Trade for some time' while at another time he knocked down a peas-vendor, who was so stunned by his assault that she couldn't resist, and then he proceeded to 'Tyranize her posteriors at pleasure.'

And then one day, he silently vanished, never to be seen again.

Next is a tale of gas: in Henry II's reign, a fellow from Suffolk called 'Roland the Farter' appeared at the King's court for Christmas, and performed (records say), "Unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum" ('one jump, one whistle and one fart)'. For this annual performance, Henry munificently granted him a manor in Suffolk.

I mentioned this story to one of my friends, who immediately responded that her hubby was from Suffolk, and notably flatulent himself. (Too much information, I thought, but there you go.)

Clearly, said my pal, 'flatulence has been bred into the Suffolk folk from early times.'

Further Reading (if you must)

On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages


Anonymous said...

Lovely. Learnt a new word today, bumbulum.

Fëanor said...

And Malayalam for 'temple' is 'umbulum'. Cool, eh?

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