Re: how many bastards are there, anyway?

N.R. Mitchum (
Thu, 05 Sep 1996 20:40:52 -0700 wrote:
> What is the derivation of "put the horns on him," in reference to
> cuckolding someone? Is it from a play?

The OED entry is fascinating -- as much for what it says as for what
it implies.

That dictionary tells us the origin of the phrase is lost in the mist of
time; even the Greeks had a version of it, though the OED doesn't
credit them as the source.

It also gives us a rather eye-popping description of a medieval
practice: when a rooster was castrated, its spurs could be grafted
to the base of its comb, where they would grow like a pair of horns.
The OED accepts that "cuckold" comes from an old Germanic word
for "capon." A wide field for speculation opens here.

When posing with friends for a photo, have you ever stuck two finger
up behind the head of the person beside you? I wonder if this might
not go all the way back, somehow, to this phrase.

Men, stop pinching your knees together!

Nathan Mitchum [post&email]