A Compilation of Linguistic Fig Leaves and Verbal Flourishes for Artful Users of the English Language
caught or caught out. To be made pregnant. ”The pride of giving life to an immortal soul is very fine…perfectly furious as I was to be caught.” (Queen Victoria, letter, 6/15/1858).
facetiae. A euphemism among learned bookmen for pornography. ”Facetiae” once were just witty, refined, or facetious sayings, considered collectively. Thus, from a 1657 book on rhetoric: ”The merry and pleasant sayings incident hereunto are called Facetiae.” The word seems to have taken its turn for the worse during the nineteenth century. ”He puts to the end of his catalogue…two pages that he calls ‘Facetiae’…indecent books, indeed.” (Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, 1851).
Jesse. Hell; a popular nineteenth century euphemism, frequently used as a threat when about to scold or thrash a person, in such phrases as “If you don’t watch out, you are going to catch Jesse,” or “I’m going to give you most particular Jesse.” The origin of the term is obscure. Since earlier examples exist, it definitely does not come, as some have thought, from the name of the wife of Gen. John C. Fremont, whose campaign for president in 1856 featured the slogan, “Give them Jessie!” The allusion may be to the biblical “rod out of the stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1). ”Give him Jesse” may or may not be entirely extinct; it has been a few years since it was last reported officially: ”In February, 1946, I heard the expression used in a game of bridge by a player from Sidney, Nebraska, when her partner was ruffing an opponent’s suit” (American Speech, 4/46).
night soil. Human excrement. Nowadays, night soil usually is collected from cesspools and other depositories in the mornings, but back in the eighteenth century, when the euphemism appears to have originated, the job actually was performed under cover of night, as awkward as that might seem. As a result the poor fellow who was saddled with the task was sometimes called the night man. Other titles for this functionary included gold finder, honey-dipper, jakes farmer, lavender man, and, a modern equivalent, environmental hygiene worker.
tender loving care. Do not resuscitate. ”‘Tender loving care,’ when used by British doctors, means the withdrawal of active medical care from terminally ill patients’ (Dublin Irish Times, 9/29/90).