Old 01-28-2004, 10:30 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 36
What's the origin of horny ?

Cecil wrote:

If you were to apply your vestigial mental faculties to the problem, "Ben," it would probably occur to you that "horny" is vaguely related to "horn," the phallic possibilities of which are self-evident. The term dates from the 15th century. The horn/phallus link is also the reason some Eastern cultures prize the powdered horn of certain animals, notably the rhinoceros, as an aphrodisiac. Horns have also traditionally been associated with cuckoldry. I'm told that in many European languages, being horny means you've been betrayed by your spouse. For instance, the Byzantine Greek word for cuckold, kerasthoros, means "horn bearer." It's claimed this usage derives from the practice of grafting the spurs of a capon (a castrated rooster) onto his comb, thereby creating horns. Sound bizarre to me, but it makes a good yarn.

However, I was reading Dan Brown's book "The Da Vinci Code", and in Chapter 26, Brown writes this:

"Amon [the Egyption god of fertility] is indeed represented as a man with a ram's head, and his promiscuity and curved horns are related to our modern sexual slang 'horny.' "

Who is right ?

Cecil or Dan Brown ?
Old 01-28-2004, 11:44 PM
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Welcome to the SDMB, Willmore!

Here's a link to the column to which you were referring in your post: "What's the origin of "horny"?" (It helps the rest of us out if you have a link in your initial post. But no foul. )

As to your question: I don't know the answer, but it does seem that Dan Brown is a writer in the footsteps of John Grisham and Dean Koontz: satisfying when you don't want to think too hard--plus they manage to spell most of the words correctly.

I'd go with Cecil on this one. (But watch someone with actual, you know, facts come in here and prove my faith wrong. )
Old 01-29-2004, 07:52 AM
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Given the enormous number of factual and historic errors in The Da Vinci Code, and given the clear statement that it is a work of fiction, one has no reason to believe anything in that book. Well, OK, I mean I believe there really is an island called Malta, and that there was a real DaVinci who painted, but that's pretty much about where credibility ends.

However, in this instance, the two comments are not necessarily inconsistent. The etymology of the word "horny" is covered by Cecil, but Cecil does imply that the connection of a horn with a phallus is ancient, common in many cultures, and pre-dates the English word.
Old 01-29-2004, 08:29 AM
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I am disturbed by one point in Cecil's column, however.
I'm told that in many European languages, being horny means you've been betrayed by your spouse.
"Many European languages," forsooth? Indeed, it is quite true, but one of those "Many European languages" is English. Is Cecil unfamiliar with the obscure English writers who make use of this idiom, such as Aphra Behn -- and William Shakespeare?
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. Taliessin through Logres: Prelude
Old 01-29-2004, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
I am disturbed by one point in Cecil's column, however."Many European languages," forsooth? Indeed, it is quite true, but one of those "Many European languages" is English. Is Cecil unfamiliar with the obscure English writers who make use of this idiom, such as Aphra Behn -- and William Shakespeare?
Yes, but in those languages the word is used to mean primarily either an adulterer(ess) or (as in Spanish "cornudo") a cuckold; as opposed to Modern English where its usual and customary usage is to mean the person's feeling randy.
Old 01-29-2004, 10:47 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Southern Pennsylvania
Posts: 21,599
The Word Mavens tell us this:

It turns out that some naughty people in the 16th century (including our good friend Will Shakespeare) decided that horn was a euphemism that would help them get away with talking about erect penises in public. Gremio, after receiving a size-does-matter insult in the Taming of the Shrew, responds, "Am I but three inches? Why thy horne is a foot and so long am I at the least" (1594).

Well, this witty turn of phrase really caught on. It was used by great literary authors, like Melville in Moby Dick (yes, I know): "The Earl of Leicester, on bended knees, did. . .present her highness with another horn" (1850). And it was used by the man in the street -- or the man in the bathroom, as is the case with this urinal graffiti: "Bulls with short/ horns stand up close" (reported in Lexical Evidence, 1937).

Well, this use of horn naturally lead to our adjective horny and its lesser-known synonym horn-mad. Horn-mad appeared as early as 1726: "As horn-mad as a Buck in Rutting time" (William and Mary Quarterly). Horny made its debut one hundred years later in Secret & Sacred: "[Feeling] so horny" (Bleser, 1826). Horny has shown impressive staying power, looking less dated than groovy in De Roo's Wolves: "'I feel real groovy tonight,' she whispered. 'Downright horny.'" (1959).
Until you stalk and overcome, you can't devour anyone - Hobbes.

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