THE EROS CODE

Talmey list

The language of romantic love was once said to consist of ‘sweet nothings’ meant to be whispered softly into the ears of the beloved. But on the wilder shores of human sexuality is an extensive glossary of words and phrases generally considered rather too rude for polite society. An American sexologist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Bernard Simon Talmey, made an intensive study of sexual practices and wrote several books about his findings. To conform to the proprieties of the era, he used Latin to describe what was going on. Rather a lot, in fact.

But readers complained that they couldn’t understand these terms and so, in the subsequent editions of his Love: A Treatise on the Science of Sex-attraction (1919) he provided translations of the Latin. Few of these terms, or the situations they describe, would raise an eyebrow today. Some are completely banal, such as Pernoctare, to ‘spend the night’ and conjux meaning a ‘husband’. Others are suggestive of more adventurous behaviours, mainly referring to male and female genitalia and their excitation, such as cunnilingus and fellatio, defined as ‘sucking (obscene)’. Here’s a sample of Talmey’s code in action.

The girl, a domestic servant, was always moral before her illness. When she began suffering from hysterical attacks, amato liberos in fidem suam commissos exhibebat ad constuprandum et noctu pectators rerum turpium eos faciebat, while the whole household was asleep under the influence of narcotics. When she was discovered and driven out of the house, the formerly modest girl became shameless and finally meretricium fecit.

It basically means that the girl engaged in self-masturbation and ended up as a prostitute, a typically Victorian moral consequence.

However, the range and variety of human sexual activities covered in this book might occasionally challenge even modern readers.

Rosse reports the case of a young white, unmarried woman in Washington who was surprised in flagrante delicto with a large English mastiff, who in his efforts se solvere a puella caused an injury of such a nature that she died from hemorrhage within an hour.

If you’re game, you can read all about it here.

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