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So the questions:
Is O'Brian nodding to period authenticity in these substitutes? If so, are the substitutes standing-in always for the same obscenity, or different ones? Which obscenities were more offensive than the F-word in the days of Aubrey & Maturin?
Is O'Brian playing around with the reader, presuming each individual can imagine a more offensive term than he could choose, and that's the effect he's after? So, in fact, there is not a specific obscenity in mind, in these instances.
Is O'Brian willing to spell out certain words but not others (though that last example seems to bely that, since the F-word surely would be a prime offender)? Which are these, and are they idiosyncratic to him?
I'm assuming the first, am curious what others think.
I suspect that in the 1800's a "blasphemy unto the Lord"
would be much more a heinous sin than a simple "fuck".
I'd also guess it's O'Brian playing with the reader. After all, we probably don't really know for certain which words Georgian sailors used in moments of extreme stress, and even if we did know, those words might have gained or lost in power to shock in the intervening time.
Alternatively, it could simply be that O'Brian's early-70s publishers felt it was OK (for instance) to use "F-words" but not "C-words" in print. It's the sort of thing that people often do have absurd house rules about.
And yes, I missed a trick! It is wonderful how my language changes when reading O'Brian. I try to corral it, as it's not to everyone's liking. But I surely missed a capital opportunity here!
That seems curious, if not unlikely, given what is published in any given book, compared to what's not. That is, it's not a question of what appears in one book compared with another book, but what appears and what does not appear in a specific work.
My example in Post Captain is a case in point: the second book in the series, published early 1970s, the F-word appears and yet other expletives are left implied. Apart from very queer house rules, the F-word would be high on most censorship lists at that time, no? But maybe things were more different than I realise in the 1970s ...
I don't suppose there could be any doubt in the reader's mind which shocking word an uninhibited upper-class Englishwoman would use when addressing a female horse ("C**t ... a nasty name for a nasty thing", as Francis Grose put it). So O'Brian might be using the em-dash to heighten the shock value (to imply that Jack is suppressing the word in his own mind), or it might simply be a bit of petty censorship. With St Vincent, I suppose O'Brian wants to make sure that we understand how annoyed he is by making him actually rude rather than just irascible.
I like your speculations about O'Brian's intent to characterize St Vincent, in addition to any other factors such as censorship at time of publication, censorship of the day & class, and so on.
So apparently both the F-word and the C-word are unsuppressed, leaving blasphemy (at least the stronger variants) the most likely candidate. Unless: O'Brian and his editors were not being consistent, and the suppression was contextual with some instances of a given obscenity and others allowed; or, alternatively, that it really is O'Brian playing the card for literary effect and/or characterization.
Hmmn. Not sure what I think, now, but it's been an interesting question.
ETA gibbon in place of baboon, clearly I don't know my primates as does Maturin.
In that case, it sounds to me as though it was either editorial carelessness (unlikely, given O'Brian's care for language) or deliberate effect.
Something else that struck me when I was glancing though the text was how often O'Brian uses dashes to represent gaps and discontinuities in speeches. That makes it hard to be completely sure whether he's omitting an expletive or the character is, expect for special cases like the Diana one where the narrator comments on it directly.
I obviously hadn't ever picked up the different treatment of obscenities within books. There are so many layers to O'Brian stories. They are not overly complex or clever, just understated. It is often only after reading a book in the series several times that you pick up on many undercurrents.
By the way just rereading the part in The Hundred Days where Lord Keith, having retired from the service and settled with Lady Keith into a house near port, is daily harrassed by 'those damned apes', which presumably are indeed baboons.
But you wouldn't say such words in front of a woman, hence the censorship, but in an all-male gathering, such as on board ship, you could swear with impunity. Perhaps the difference is simply the context.
Good to see your post, mschuyler: I still use your Butcher's Bill as a key review of the text as I write my reviews. An indispensable companion, I say again, and am happy to credit it when used.
Hmmn! I'd assumed that the version I saw would appear exactly as-is in all editions, that it was O'Brian's choice and not a replacement / substitute edit by the publisher. I would not be surprised to learn O'Brian was nudged by his original publisher one way or another, but once published (and in the absence of any corrections provided by O'Brian), every other edition would leave the expletive or deletion, only correcting obvious misspellings.
But I haven't compared any text between editions. Has anyone confirmed or refuted my assumption?
I can look up the specifics if anyone's curious, but here O'Brian has a sailor say "F ---" with a lady present (I forget if it was Wogan or Villiers), and a bit further on, Jack and a fisherman exchange pleasant "fuck you's", completely spelled out.
ETA specifics (from the Folio Society edition)
-- Expletive suppressed on pages 12 & 58: ladies present
-- "fuck" spelled out on page 231 (twice): pleasant exchange between Jack & a fisherman
-- All cases support mschuyler's idea it is context, and who present, which determines whether the offending term is written out or left implicit.
In The Surgeon's Mate, another set of examples (again from the Folio Society edition):
-- "fucking" spelt out for an exchange between sailors on page 77
-- Expletive suppressed (I mentally inserted "bastards") when spoken by Jack's pre-adolescent daughter, though she is speaking to sailors at Ashford Cottage and unknowingly is overheard by Jack, on page 88
Were you reading it another way?
Years later, but I've just completed The Nutmeg of Consolation and recognised the scene with the two girls (christened Emily & Sarah). Stephen & Martin comment on their quick study of language, including that adaptation to the quarterdeck as compared to the main deck.
I didn't note any em-dashes or elided expletives, but did log several spelled-out instances. I list them here as my personal log.
-- "All on that fucking reef, pardon me, sir" (uttered by the gunner to Jack) page 31
-- "Fuck you, William Grimshaw" (this by Killick, good-naturedly) page 108
-- "Break in your goddam hand" (Jack to Stephen in admiration of Surprise's sound timbers and blade breaking on them)
-- "'Not on your fucking life,' said the Aboriginal (to Stephen, who was referring to him in the third person) page 285
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