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Sunday, July 15 2001
Volume 01 : Number 304

In this issue:

-History of the Middle Finger
-Ever wonder?
Same-Sex Revelry in 19th-Century Australia

From: "Dennis O"
Subject: "Giving the Finger"

(I do not know how acurate this info is, but it is a good story just the same...Dennis)

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous weapon was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew" (or "pluck yew").

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew! "PLUCK YEW!"

Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative 'F', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute are mistakenly thought to have something to do with an intimate encounter.

It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird". And yew thought yew knew everything!

NOTE from Ben Boxer: I thought I knew everything, but now I discover that yew dew, tew!
From: Joe Kelly
Subject: Ever Wonder?

Ever wonder about those people who spend $2.00 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backwards. NAIVE.

Isn't making a smoking section in a restaurant like making a peeing section in a swimming pool? if the Jacksonville Jaguars are known as the "Jags" and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are known as the "Bucs," what does that make the Tennessee Titans?

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea...does that mean that one enjoys it?

There are three religious truths:
1. Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
2. Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith.
3. Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or at Hooters.
From: Dean Hutchinson Subject: Same-Sex Revelry in 19th-Century Australia [The attachment, a genuine 19th-century drawing of .Same-Sex Revelry in Nineteenth-Century Australia. (unattributed lithograph), was taken from Garry Wotherspoon, .The View from the Novel: Homosexuality and Australian Literature,. pp. 60-91 (here: p. 60) in: .PERversions: The International Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies,. issue 3, autumn 1994, London, England. The year "1899" on the jpeg is for my own personal reference and does not indicate when the drawing was made. I would assume it to have been made much earlier, somewhere between the 1860s and 1880s.]

The following text on same-sex sex/love in 19th-century Australia was taken from Robert French, .Camping by a Billabong,. pp. 9-11, BlackWattle Press Pty Ltd, Leichhardt, NSW Australia, 1993:

.The early colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen.s Land were known generally for the laxity of their so-called .moral. arrangements. Prostitution was common and even high officials often chose looser-than-conventional arrangements. For example, Governors Phillip and King in Sydney had mistresses, as did Lieutenant-Governors Collins and Sorell in Hobart. Marriage was not a popular institution. In 1810 there had been one hundred and eighty-one marriages, in 1813, fifty-two, and in 1817, forty-seven. Whatever today.s moralists might like us to believe about the eternal nature of the nuclear family, there is very little evidence of it in white Australia.s early history.

The probable extent of same-sex activity that had been occurring in the Australian colonies was really only first indicated in the 1830s by the evidence given before a British Parliamentary Committee, the .Select Committee . [on] Transportation [and] its Influence on the Moral State of Society in the Penal Colonies,. usually called the Molesworth Committee. A variety of witnesses gave evidence on the prevalence of immorality in the colony and speculated on the level of .unnatural acts. that occurred there.

Surprisingly, the Chief Justice in the Colony of New South Wales, Sir Francis Forbes, a witness at the inquiry, admitted that the colony .had been called a Sodom in the papers., but he didn.t think that sodomy was common. Other witnesses, particularly in relation to the convict population, strongly disagreed.

A magistrate, James Mudie, was able to supply more detail than his legal superior. He elaborated on the possible prevalence of same-sex activity among the convict population, particularly on Norfolk Island. When asked about the frequency of unnatural offences in the colonies, Mudie replied that it was common.

Other witnesses similarly testified. However, one colonist, Mr Slade, thought it was only confined to the lower class of convicts. He believed that .among gentlemen convicts it would excite abhorrence!. Evidence was also given as to the supposedly greater frequency of same-sex activity in Australia compared with England. When another witness was asked how common sodomy was in the colonies, he replied .I should say that there were 100 cases in Sydney to one in the United Kingdom..

Some of the most detailed evidence is that of the Roman Catholic Vicar-General of New Holland and Van Diemen.s Land, Bishop William Ullathorne. The Bishop was a veritable goldmine of information about convicts and convict life. (Did he gain this information from the confessional?) He noted that the crimes were particularly common among stockmen in country districts, as well as being rife in the convict establishments both on the mainland and in the outpost of Norfolk Island and the colony of Van Diemen.s Land. This is the first evidence we have of same-sex activity outside convict ranks.

He also thought that the Aborigines were ignorant of homo-eroticism. When he was asked about conditions in the colonies, particularly about .unnatural acts., the Bishop noted that those crimes were unknown to .the savage. until they were taught them by the convict. We know this to be false. Anthropological evidence points to the institutional arrangements and ritual practice among some of the native groups. These ranged from permissive sexual arrangements between a man and his wife.s brother (since the latter belonged to the same marriage class as his wife) to men masturbating each other before setting out on a warrior mission. One of Ullathorne.s great concerns was with the moral contamination of the young. He laid much emphasis on the way in which boys and young men became educated about .unnatural activities..

The corruption of youth was also a concern of James Mudie and he also held the common misconception that the young were inculcated into the vice. Mudie.s evidence is interesting, since, in passing, he gives a glimpse of several aspects of same-sex behaviour. For example, he tells of the taking on of female attributes, female names, and of female attitudes to same-sex activity. He adds that he had heard a number of very horrid stories .if a boy happens to be upon a farm, and to be sent to the prisoners. barracks in Sydney, the boys will go by the names of Kitty and Nancy..

James Barnes elaborated upon this phenomenon. When giving evidence about Macquarie Harbour prison settlement on the remote western coast of Van Diemen.s Land, he pointed out that the female names were usually attributed to the .passive. partner: .Several individuals in the settlement went by female names . so common was the practice at the settlement during the period of 1827, that many convicts went by the names of Polly, Sally, Bet, etc. to designate the individuals upon whom those crimes were supposed to be committed.. Did these people use these names to refer to themselves? Was the usage common or, even, a form of abuse? We probably will never know for sure.

The good Bishop, when asked how sodomy was generally viewed by the population, thought that it probably was regarded with great distaste by the mass of the population, and even most convicts. When further asked why, if there was so much sodomy and moral pollution in the colonies, there were so few indictments and convictions, the Bishop replied that there were difficulties in getting people to act as witnesses --- indeed, the general populace were reluctant to .dob in. their mates! Or, as I suspect, did so only when rape, or perhaps jealousy, was involved. Other witnesses before the Inquiry refer to the use of the term .sod. though, again, we can.t be sure if it was used as a term of affection or abuse. Probably both. Just how the sodomites categorised themselves, if ever they did, is hard to determine as almost nothing in the way of personal records have survived. The law and the church told them they were sodomites and sinners, these were the concepts that were brought by the authorities to Australia, so presumably this is how they were conditioned to think of themselves. Nonetheless, despite being classed in this way, some convicts do seem to have derived a little pleasure from their colonial experience..

SOURCE: .Report from the Select Committee on Transportation,. UK Parliamentary Papers, 1837 and 1838. FOR A DISCUSSION ON ABORIGINAL SEXUALITY, SEE: Jim Wafer, et al, .Peopling the Empty Mirror: The Prospects for Lesbian and Gay Aboriginal History. in Robert Aldrich (ed), .Gay Perspectives II (Sydney, forthcoming)

End of silverfoxesclub-digest V1 #304