The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire


Words really can be fun. If you haven't dug into the history of the word "putrid," you are in for a treat. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (because why would you look for absurdly entertaining word histories anywhere else?), the first written occurrence of the word dates to 1425 (CE). In that year, a French surgeon named Guy de Chauliac wrote the following:

I say þe signez ar greuousnes & heuynez of þe sidez biside þe false costez & putride.

If that strikes you as a bit impenetrable, here are a few other early uses of the word.

First, from John Marston's Scourge of Villanie, 1598:

Quake guzzell dogs, that liue on putred slime, Skud from the lashes of my yerking rime.

(You have to admit, the rhyme really works.)

And finally, our particular favorite, from Charles O'Conor's Dissertation on the History of Scotland, published in 1766:

 Quoting and ridiculing also, Some putrid Lines which he ascribes to Irish Bards.

That one makes us laugh, since we all know that Irish bards never pen putrid lines. Irish bards only ever write witty, lovely lines. O'Conor knew this. Born in 1710 in Sligo, Ireland as Cathal Ó Conchubhair Donn, O'Conor was the most eloquent and effective advocate of Irish Gaelic culture in the 18th century.

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