Monday, August 15, 2011

A Fun Fact About Leo Kanner

I just started reading Roy Richard Grinker's book Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism, and in a chapter on the early history of autism (covering Kanner and Asperger, plus Eugen Bleuler's and Sigmund Freud's use of the term "autistic" to describe aspects of other conditions, and also stories of feral children, whom Grinker believes were probably autistic), I came across this anecdote:

In 1943, a New York psychoanalyst named Abram Blau wrote a paper in which he argued that whereas there were numerous words, proper and slang, for the penis, there were few words, and virtually no slang words, for the analogous organ in women, the clitoris. Based on this assumption, Blau made grand arguments about the universal symbolic importance of the penis to humanity. Kanner, as evidence-based as anyone in psychiatry at that time, was furious about Blau's assumption, based on no data collection at all, and quickly wrote a paper with the dry title "A Philological Note on Sex Organ Nomenclature," which he published in a psychoanalytic journal. In it, Kanner listed dozens of words for the clitoris, from languages all over the world, and all of them, he claimed, from memory. He destroyed Blau's argument.

Grinker included it to illustrate Kanner's prodigious memory, which Grinker believes was one of the "subclinical," autistic-like traits Kanner possessed that may have given him insight into the inner lives of the children he studied.

I'm posting it here because I think it's funny. Male psychoanalysts and their penis fixations never cease to amuse me.

(Unfortunately, the only copy of the article I can find online is here, with the full text only accessible to subscribers to that website. So I can't find any of the words Kanner listed, which is annoying.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Lindsay,

I can get you a pdf of the Kanner piece because I have access to the web resource. Is there a way to upload the pdf as an attachment to a comment or something?


Lindsay said...

I have no idea! Sorry!

The only thing I know for sure you can do in comments is link to things, so if the PDF were uploaded to another site, you could link to it. Other than that, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Okie dokie, I copied and pasted it in several parts (given character limit). Have fun :-) In the spirit of, "Knowledge should be free!" J

Kanner, L. (1945). A Philological Note on Sex Organ Nomenclature. Psychoanal Q., 14:228-233.
(1945). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 14:228-233
A Philological Note on Sex Organ Nomenclature
Leo Kanner, M.D.
Dr. Blau (1), in a recent article published in the PSYCHOANALYTIC QUARTERLY, expressed surprise 'that, except for scientific terminology, there seems to be no vernacular, slang or obscene word in the English or American language' to designate the clitoris. He reported, as a result of inquiries, a similar linguistic deficiency in French, German, Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Armenian, Turkish, Hebrew, Italian and Arabic.

On the whole, it is possible to agree with Dr. Blau. The search in large dictionaries and personal inquiries even among sexologists prove to be singularly fruitless with regard to popular, nonscientific terms for the clitoris. Nevertheless, a more exhaustive philological study brings forth evidences of the existence of many designations not usually recorded in the more easily accessible sources of information. Even at that, I believe that Dr. Blau's premise is still valid, in the sense that popular names of the organ do not seem to be current among many people who can easily produce slang names for other sex organs, both male and female.

The following items are therefore contributed not for the sake of argument but mainly with the purpose of supplementing the data contained in Dr. Blau's article. Since the question of the nomenclature of the clitoris has been raised, it seems worth-while to have a more complate compilation. I have, therefore, given my attention to both 'scientific' and lay designations and was surprised at the relative multitude of such terms.

The word clitoris itself is of Greek origin. Its etymologic derivation is uncertain. klIitoris is said to stem from klIiIin, to shut. It has been registered, together with the verb κλIιτοριaζω (touch the clitoris), by Pollux Archaologus (second century) (2), Hesychius Lexicographus of Alexandria (fifth century?) (3), and Suidas (tenth century?) (4). Both Pollux and Suidas have been made responsible by later writers for inventing the term. If either did, then the credit must naturally go to Pollux as the much earlier author. But it is hardly to be expected that lexicographers go about making up the words which they enter in their lists. It is much more probable that the noun as well as the verb was part of the common Greek vocabulary in the days of and before Pollux.

The Greeks, in fact, not only 'had a word for it', but also had a number of synonyms: νuμφη, μuρτον, and upodoris (for uποδIρμiσ). They were all reported by Pollux. Nuμφη is the term employed by Galen. It has been adopted by a number of Latin writers. Thus, Plazzonus (5) said in 1664: 'Ab aliquibus nympha vocatur'. Schurig (6) stated: 'Veteris anatomicis nymphae nomine cognita'. According to Ellis (7), Galen and Soranus called it (the clitoris) νuμφη 'because it is covered as a bride is veiled'. The etymology may be correct, but it is obvious that Galen and Soranus did not 'call it' so; they found the term in usage and adopted it. The same is true of μuρτον (the myrtleberry), which has hardly been 'invented' one day by a scientific writer's imagination.

Anonymous said...

Part 2...

Hesychius (3) defined klIitois as ton gunaikoiou e upodoris. Earlier, Pollux (2) had mentioned eπiδIρρισ as a synonym for κλIιτορiσ. Schurig (8), in 1729, recorded not less than fifteen different Latin names for the clitoris:
1. Columella, the little pillar
2. Virga, the twig
3. Virga muliebris
4. Oestrum Veneris (oestrum = frenzy, furor, libido)
5. Contemptum virorum
6. Mania
7. Dulcedo amoris
8. Sedes delectationis
9. Tentigo (from tendo, 'from its power of entering into erection')
10. Libidinis sedes ac irritamentum
11. Mentula (= penis)
12. Uvula
13. Cauda
14. Symptoma turpetudinis
15. Nympha

It is clear that nympha was taken over from the Greek. It is equally clear that most of the other terms do not represent popular expressions but are special names coined for the organ by 'scientists' who cannot be possibly suspected of having any truck with the kind of people who would discuss sex anatomy outside a medical lecture hall. In fact, Realdus Columbus of Cremona (9), who in 1559 (Havelock Ellis, mistakenly, says 1593) ascribed to himself the honor of discovering the clitoris for the first time, took it upon himself to suggest a name for the structure which he believed had not been observed by anyone before him. Proudly he wrote: 'Hos igitur processus, atque eorundem usum cum nemo hactenus animadvertit, si nomina rebus a me inventis imponere licet, amor
Veneris, vel dulcedo [see Schurig No. 7] appelletur.'

Dr. Blau gives the impression that popular slang has no names for the clitoris, that all terms encountered in classical literature have been coined especially by physicians or lexicographers, and that therefore particular significance should be attached to the paucity of popular designations. The assumption that 'vulgar' terms might have existed but been inaccessible to the learned anatomists, can not be proved. 'Kitzler' seems to be the only such word that has found entry into respectable dictionaries, except for its Germanic equivalents, such as Dutch kittelaar, Swedish kittlaren, and Danish kildrer. Most dictionaries and glossaries of American and English slang and dialects steer prudishly clear of any reference to voluptuous jargon.

There is, however, one important source which definitely refutes the assumption that folk diction has neglected the clitoris. This source is Anthropophyteia, edited by F. L. Krauss of Vienna and published in Leipzig. This combination of a journal and collection of monographs pertaining to sexology contains a number of 'Idiotica' (records of idiomatic expressions) from various parts of Europe.

In these Idiotica, the clitoris is by no means omitted. One finds there a variety of designations which have nothing to do with 'scientific' terminology and have their origin
undoubtedly in folk coinage.

Anonymous said...

Part 3...

From Italy, Corso (10) records the term allegria (gladness, gaiety) as part of the Camorra jargon, brimborion, ribrenzuolo, and
purèt. Allegria is certainly reminiscent of the learned physicians' terms dulcedo and sedes delectationis. Ribrenzuolo is very probably derived from ribrezzare and means 'the seat of shivers'.

From Czechoslovakia, Kostial (11) reports postivacek (the little thriller). Modern dictionaries of the Bohemian language (12) explain postêvacek as 1. clitoris; 2. instigator, inciter, stirrer up, abetter.

From Central Prussia, Berliner (13) cites Schniepe as used by peasants. (Grimm's Dictionary defines Schniepe as a narrow

Der Jud seems to be a common name for the clitoris in different parts of the German-speaking sections of Central Europe.

Kostial (14) heard it used in Styria. Reiskel (15), (16) found it in Berlin, where he also met the expression Jude Kohn, and in Vienna, where Am Jud'n spiel'n and Den Jud'n stemma was used to mean 'fellare vel irrumare clitorem'.

In Westphalia, Schnaber (17) overheard the name Kujon (bad fellow).

According to Krauss (18), folk humor of the Dalmatian Slavs applies the name sjekilj, or tickler (equivalent of Kitzler) to several mountains in allusion to the hardship of climbing: 'You go up the tickler and down the tickler; these are real mountains of hard

In Alsace, according to 'W. G.' (19), a girl who has a large clitoris is referred to as Kapuner (capon).

Anthropophyteia has only few references to places outside of Europe. However, Bieber (20) registers ginter ('the tickler') as a common Abyssinian name for the clitoris.

According to Ellis (21), the Arabs not only seem to have been very familiar with the clitoris but also had various names for it, which indicate that they 'clearly understood the important part it play in generating voluptuous emotion'.

There are no references to the organ in the Bible and the Talmud (22). Modern Hebrew has a few expressions which are not popular but have been coined for the purpose of anatomical description and teaching. Dagd'gan is a direct translation of tickler;
'Hamdan means pleasure or gem; 'Hebyonit means place of secrecy (23).
PEP Web - A Philological Note on Sex Organ Nomenclature

It is of particular interest that in De Fluviis by 'Pseudo-Plutarch' (24) the word clitoris is employed in the literal meaning of 'gem'.

I hardly believe that this compilation is fully exhaustive. But it does show two things:

1. Popular names for the clitoris do exist, though not in abundance, still presenting a considerable variety of terms. These terms would seem to lend themselves to interesting studies from the points of view of etymology, philology, sexology, and psychoanalytic consideration.

2. Nevertheless, Dr. Blau is right in his main thesis that inquiries among the more commonly available sources do not yield the impression that slang terms for the clitoris are as frequent or as well known as those for other sex organs.

Anonymous said...

Final part...

BLAU, A. A Philological Note on a Defect in Sex Organ Nomenclature Psychoanal. Q. XII 1943 pp. 481-485
POLLUX ARCHAEOLOGUS Onomasticon Leipzig: Dindorf, 1824 Vol. I p. 118
HESYCHIUS ALEXANDRINUS Lexicon Jena: Mauk, 1860 Vol. II p. 491
SUIDAS Lexicon Oxford: Typographium Academicum, 1834 Vol. II p. 2119
PLAZZONUS, F. De partibus generations Lugduni Batavorum: Lopez de Haro, 1664 p. 110
SCHURIG, M. Gynoecologia historico-medica Dresden and Leipzig: Hekel, 1730 pp. 2-4
ELLIS, H. Studies in Psychology of Sex New York: Random House, 1913 Vol. III pp. 129-130
SCHURIG, M. Muliebria historico-medica Dresden and Leipzig: Hekel, 1729 p. 77
COLUMBUS, REALDUS CREMONENSIS Dere anatomica Venice: Beuilacqua, 1559 p. 243
CORSO, R. Das Geschlechtsleben in Sitte, Brauch, Glauben and Gewohneheitrecht des italienischen Volkes. Beiwerke zum Studium
der Anthropophyteia Nicotera: Selbstverlag, 1914 pp. 210; 213; 228; 229
KOSTIAL, J. Czechisch-slovakisches erotisch-skatologisches Idiotikon Anthropophyteia, Vol. VI p. 27
JUNG, V. A. A Dictionary of the English and Bohemian Languages Prague: Otto. No Year, p. 193
BERLINER, F. W. Idiotikon der neumarkischen Bauernmundart Anthropophyteia, Vol. VII p. 32
KOSTIAL, J. Steirisches erotisch-skatologisches Idiotikon Anthropophyteia, Vol. VII p. 22
REISKEL, K. Idioticon Viennense eroticum Anthropophyteia Vol. II p. 9
REISKEL, K. Eine Auslese von erotischen Wortern und Kraftausdrucken der Berliner Mundart AnthropophyteiaVol. II p. 21
SCHNABER, F. E. Westfalisches erotisches Idiotikon Dresden and Leipzig: Hekel, Vol. VII p. 10
KRAUSS, F. S. Sudslavische Volksuberlieferungen AnthropophyteiaVol. I p. 38
'W. G.' Elsassische Erotik AnthropophyteiaVol. II p. 256
BIEBER, F. J. Beitrag zu einem erotischen Lexikon der Abessinier Anthropophyteia Vol. V p. 19
ELLIS, H. Studies in Psychology of Sex New York: Random House, 1913 Vol. III p. 130
PREUSS, J. Biblisch-talmudische Medizin Berlin: Karger, 1911
MASIE, A. M. Latin-English-Hebrew Dictionary of Medicine and Allied Sciences Jerusalem,1934 p. 167
PSEUDO-PLUTARCH De fluviis In:Plutarchi Fragmenta et Spuria Ed. Dubner. Paris: Didot, 1855 p. 100 ['Nascitur in eo (Indo
flumine) lapis Clitoris dictus; qui omnino niger est, et ornatus gratia ab indigenis gestari solet in auriculis.']

Lindsay said...

Thank you so much!