Early East India Company merchants and a rare word for sex

Samuli Kaislaniemi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


The records of the British East India Company are an uncharted source for historical linguistics and lexicography. In particular, letters between Company employees stationed in the East Indies contain a large amount of colloquial language use. Among the more or less standardized reporting on business matters, there are discussions of all aspects of private life, such as food, drink and, occasionally, sex. This paper investigates a hapax legomenon in the correspondence of early East India Company merchants in Japan (1613–1623): the use of lapidable to mean ‘mature for sexual intercourse.’ The word is traced in Early and Late Modern English dictionaries and primary texts, and the paper ends with a discussion of East India Company merchants and creative language use.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWords in Dictionaries and History : Essays in honour of R.W. McConchie
EditorsOlga Timofeeva, Tanja Säily
Number of pages24
PublisherJohn Benjamins
Publication date2011
ISBN (Print) 978 90 272 2338 8
ISBN (Electronic) 978 90 272 8690 1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameTerminology and Lexicography Research and Practice
PublisherJohn Benjamins
ISSN (Print)1388-8455

Fields of Science

  • 612 Languages and Literature
  • branded words
  • history of language
  • east india company
  • dictionaries
  • merchant language
  • satirical literature
  • sexual vocabulary
  • historical lexicography
  • Early Modern English

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