Re: how many bastards are there, anyway?

Dave Wilton (
Mon, 16 Sep 1996 17:57:53 -0700

Jeffrey Nelson / STILL AGIN' wrote:
> > What is the derivation of "put the horns on him," in reference to
> > cuckolding someone? Is it from a play?
> I'm sure it was common usage mumble hundred years ago, widespread in
> plays. (See "The Rise of the Novel") Moliere's Tartuffe, for one, even
> though the orig. was in french, of course.

>From the OED (2nd Edition):

"The origin of this, which appears in so many European langs.,
and, seemingly, even in the late Gr[eek] in phrase mumblemumble
[sorry no Greek characters in Netscape--dw] is referred by Dunger
(Germania XXIX, 59) to the practice formerly prevalent of planting
or engrafting the spurs of a castrated cock on the root of the
excised comb, where they grew and became horns, sometimes of
several inches long. He shows that Ger[man] 'hahureh' or 'hahurei'
[meaning] 'cuckold,' originally meant 'capon.'"

The earliest English cite in the OED is from 1430-40.

"Giving someone horns" is to figuratively castrate them.

--Dave Wilton