Thursday 3 February 2011

Quicunque Vult and Athanasian Wenches

Some bits of slang are astonishing in their intricacy. For example, an Athanasian wench was an early nineteenth century term for a strumpet or messalinist. Why? Well there was a fourth century chap called Athanasius who was terribly holy and became a saint. He also wrote a creed called the Athanasian Creed. This creed opens:

Quicunque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem...

Which translates roughly as:

Whoever wants to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.

The creed is often known by its first two words: Quicunque vult, Whoever wants to.

And thus from the Athanasian Creed to an Athanasian wench or whoever-wants-to girl. The phrase was mentioned in Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue back in 1811 where such a creature is gently described as:

A forward girl, ready to oblige every man that shall ask her.

It seems to me to be a term ripe for resurrection, as it manages to obscure its rather unkind meaning in a distant ecclesiastical reference. Why use a nasty term, when you can just say that a girl is Athanasian?

Try not to think about the cannon


  1. Last night whilst on business in the murky West Midland town of Walsall an Athanasian 'Lady' was knocking back some wife beater 'Stella Artois for those unaware', whilst trying to get into the trousers of a Glaswegian. He looked decidedly like a married man and whilst I ate my dodgy Chilli Con Carne I tried to avert my eyes by rereading the Independent.Every now and again I caught the eye of this Athanasian Lady and thought " I'm a Married Spud , I'm a Married Spud"....

  2. This is a delightful entry, and suddenly the libel of certain people becomes a lot more obscure as very few will be able to deduct that 'you are such an Athenasian lady' is in fact, a great insult.