The Vocabula Review

October 2006, Vol. 8, No. 10 Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Letters to the Editor
Web version

The Vocabula Review welcomes letters to the editor. Please include your name, email address, and professional affiliation. Send your letters to We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

Eight Years of Vocabula

Eight years! I hope the time has been as joyful for you as it has for me.

Bill Spensley

The Vocabula Community

I really feel like I'm now in a "Mister Rodger's Neighborhood" of language mavens. ... Praise to the Internet and those who use it wisely and well.

Margarent Levine

Masturbation Words

I enjoyed Mark Morton's piece on masturbation words. As he suggests, the first attested use of the word traces to the late 1700s. I've always wondered if Jonathan Swift and others knew about the word before then. The following passage from the beginning of Gulliver's Travels (1735) may or may not indicate as much:

MY FATHER had a small Estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the Third of five Sons. He sent me to ... Cambridge, at Fourteen Years old, where I resided three Years, and applyed my self close to my Studies: But the Charge of maintaining me (although I had a very scanty Allowance) being too great for a narrow Fortune; I was bound Apprentice to Mr. James Bates, an eminent Surgeon in London, with whom I continued four Years; and my Father now and then sending me small Sums of Money, I laid them out in learning Navigation, and other parts of the Mathematicks, useful to those who intend to travel, as I always believed it would be some time or other my Fortune to do. When I left Mr. Bates, I went down to my Father; where, by the Assistance of him and my Uncle John, and some other Relations, I got Forty Pounds, and a Promise of Thirty Pounds a Year to maintain me at Leyden: There I studied Physick two Years and seven Months, knowing it would be useful in long Voyages.

Soon after my Return from Leyden, I was recommended, by my good Master Mr. Bates, to be Surgeon to the Swallow, Captain Abraham Pannell Commander; with whom I continued three Years and a half, making a Voyage or two into the Levant, and some other Parts. When I came back, I resolved to settle in London, to which Mr. Bates, my Master, encouraged me, and by him I was recommended to several Patients. I took Part of a small House in the Old Jury; and being advised to alter my Condition, I married Mrs. Mary Burton, second Daughter to Mr. Edmund Burton, Hosier, in Newgate-street, with whom I received four Hundred Pounds for a Portion.

But, my good Master Bates dying in two Years after, and I having few Friends, my Business began to fail; for my Conscience would not suffer me to imitate the bad Practice of too many among my Brethren.

Jack Turner
Humboldt State University

The Vocabula Button

I LOVE IT. I'll wear it to the English classes I teach.

Susan Weisgrau

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