Monday, August 16, 2010

A definitional matter

Recently, I got a link to something written by Tom Toles, a great cartoonist and writer. But he wrote something about cucking stools, saying that “cucking stools” were not “ducking stools.” Believe it or not, I put some research into this issue before I started the blog, and I found several references explaining that they were different names for the same thing. Here’s one of the best:


Cucking stools were also called the “stool of repentance” or an “engine of correction.” They were the punishment of choice for a “common scold,” or in Latin, the communis rixatrix.

They were primarily intended for the humiliation of the dunkee, but could be deadly in the hands of the wrong operator. You can tell from the Latin — well, maybe you can — that only women could be “common scolds.” Bakers or butchers who gave short weight were also sometimes subjected to a dunking. We try to observe some gender equality in selecting our objects for ridicule here at the Stool, as the banner suggests.

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