I’ll Not Say Which…

With Bill out of town, I am enacting and inhabiting my feminormativity by watching period drama, and so I wonder, as surely you all have: how did the codpiece* come by its name?

And the Websters Int’l is endearingly ambiguous on the matter!

We start here of course:


Well, yes, mostly duh. But: “cod, a bag.” Let’s see about that, mmm?


Oh I see. So we get a little anatomical here…and oceanographical, and ichthyological (below the fish, extensive detail), and morphological, and agronomical, and mechanical, …–icals enough to tickle us all.

But, back to the bag and the piece. It’s adorable to me that in 1934 they demurred as to the -ical-ish context in which “cod” should be understood, that is to say, the referent of “bag” here, given that the definition and the etymology offer us both “the [ornamented] bag” and “the bag behind the bag” as options.

Modernity in it’s googl-ical glory does offer an answer…or, we could just sing the Woody Guthrie song, enacted and inhabited by Billy Bragg on Mermaid Avenue, called “Walt Whitman’s Niece” (100% worth a listen), to which we’ll thrown in somewhere “…I won’t say which ba-aa-ag…”

Last night or the night before that,

I won´t say which night
A seaman friend of mine,
I´ll not say which seaman,
Walked up to a big old building,
I won´t say which building,
And would not have walked up the stairs,
not to say which stairs,
If there had not been two girls,
leaving out the names of those two girls.

I recall a door, a big long room,
I´ll not tell which room,
I remember a big blue rug,
but I can´t say which rug,
A girl took down a book of poems,
not to say which book of poems
And as she read I laid my head,
and I can´t tell which head,
Down in her lap, and I can mention which lap

My seaman buddy and girl moved off
after a couple of pages and there I was,
All night long, laying and listening
and forgetting the poems.
And as well as I could recall,
or my seaman could recollect,
My girl had told us that she was a niece
of Walt Whitman, but not which niece,
And it takes a night and a girl
and a book of this kind
A long long time to find its way back

Tolerance for ambiguity: apparently very adaptive!
*My memory is that a wedding guest requested this post, but I couldn’t bear to have it be the first one after. I can’t remember who it was, but I hope you read this!


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