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Pepys' Diary.

From Samuel Pepys' diary.
Monday 28 January 1666/67
Here I hear from Mr. Hayes that Prince Rupert is very bad still, and so bad, that he do now yield to be trepanned. It seems, as Dr. Clerke also tells me, it is a clap of the pox which he got about twelve years ago, and hath eaten to his head and come through his scull,

A clap of the pox?

I am now curious. Did the term "clap" (which because a term for pox all on its own) arise because it hit like a clap? Or something? To describe something as "a clap of..." implies something that hits rather suddenly and painfully. Or at does to me, now.

Is that what a relapse of syphillis is like?


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 29th, 2010 05:10 am (UTC)
Online Etymology Dictionary:

clap (n.)
"gonorrhea," 1587, of unknown origin, perhaps from M.E. claper, from O.Fr. clapoire, originally "rabbit burrow" but given a slang extension to "brothel." Originally also a v., "to infect with clap."

But then, Dictionary.com has...

—— noun
15. a sudden stroke, blow, or act.
17. Obsolete. a sudden mishap.

I think the latter meaning more likely, that ‘clap’ in this instance refers to a sudden and strong onset of symptoms... what would these days be called ‘acute’.

But that's just a guess.
Jan. 29th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
So really, a sudden outbreak of syphillis symptoms. Ouch.

Of course, now I wonder why gonorrhea became known as clap. Presumably it comes on quite fast...
Jan. 29th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
If, and if, and if, and if, then maybe...
Historically, small furry animals have given their names to the female pudenda, in English at least.

What now is the ‘pussy’, was once the ‘coney’ (or ‘bunny’). (I don't know what the association is between ‘coney’ and ‘queint’ > ‘c*nt’... a word used liberally in Chaucer; it may be nothing more than happy assibilance.) As such, the use of a word for a rabbit burrow (a ‘claper’) for a place where you can get lots of ‘coney’ is a natural extension. And once that association is made, it makes sense that the consequence would be the ‘claperes sickenesse’, and shortening that to the ‘clap’ is a normal sort of thing in highly informal speech.
Jan. 29th, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)
I'm guessing "a clap of" like "a clap on the shoulder", so "an attack of" or "a sudden onset".

And yes, syphilis can do this. It does some astonishingly horrible things.
Jan. 29th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
It does seem likely.

A fascinating disease, although I can't say I'd like to experience it too close up.
Jan. 29th, 2010 11:27 am (UTC)
I'm imagining onomatopoeia - perhaps at the point in time at which the infection was transferred.
Jan. 29th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
The sex is on fire...?
Jan. 29th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
As catsidhe pointed out, "the clap" actually refers to gonorrhea, which does apparently produce fairly graphic symptoms very quickly. I remember hearing an interview with a doctor from one of Sydney's busiest STD clinics in which he said that gonorrhea was his favorite STD because its symptoms are so graphic and nowadays it is so easily cured and the patients always treated him like he'd performed a miracle afterwards.

What Pepys is describing is definitely tertiary syphilis.

I'm not that knowledgeable on the subject, but as I understand it, primary syph is confined to the genitals, but it is a degenerative condition unless treated and it becomes secondary when it spreads to other parts of the body, where it eventually manifests in the form of necrotic sores. Tertiary is when it reaches the brain and the signs of the resulting mental deterioration may seem sudden to the onlooker, but that is because the sufferer will be able to mostly hide the initial stages.

Trepanning would have done poor Prince Rupert no real good.

Well you did ask.
Jan. 30th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
I felt inspired to look up poor Prince Rupert on Wikipedia. It appears he lived for another 15 years, so whatever he had wasn't fatal. (And neither was the trepanning, if they actually did it. Ouch!)
Feb. 1st, 2010 08:29 am (UTC)
Prince Rupert was cool. Anyone that rode into battle carrying a lapdog that the enemy thought was the devil gets points for originality with me. I think Rupe survived well after this, and became the Admiral of Great Britain, do trepanning obviously helped his naval skills.
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