Marry gup! This is fishy indeed.

What, sir, what is fishy? What say you, ha?

This… hodge-podge of hucksters and mountebanks, this hippo-crate of hypocrites, this convention of worms and weeds and watersnakes, this whited seppuku, this monstrous erection of eructations and vice versa, this pond of piranhas, this immoral morass of morays… Gup! ’Tis an ill thing indeed.

But “gup,” sir? Is this like “welp,” sir? or “gulp”? Or is it of a guppy?

Like “welp”? Or a little fish named in 1866 after one R.J. Lechmere Guppy and not to be gulped by bumptious youths? Mary and gup, you whelp! “Gup” is a word one says to express surprise, dismay, derision – or to chide a recalcitrant horse. It comes from “go up”; it has on occasion arrived by some oblique process to be said or written “quep”; it is frequently prefaced with “marry,” which is to say “Mary,” which is to say an invocation of the mother of Our Lord.

Ah, I see. So “gup” is more readily pronounced than if the g were replaced with w, the u with t, and the with f? And otherwise is used to much the same effect?

Indeed, just as “marry” is better said than “Mary,” which is better said than the name of her Son.

And people still say this, do they? Today, in our times?

I’ faith they do, so long as ’tis understood that “our times” are mainly before the year 1700, when many a fine author (such as Messrs. Heywood, Middleton, and Fletcher) had recourse to it. Later than that… not so much. But I find that what goeth around cometh around. And a brief but not censorable exclamation is often needed in many a time.


3 responses to “gup

  1. Beautiful display of linguistic fireworks. What be whitened seppuku? (You needn’t explain if the answer is Gup!)

    • There’s a quote from the Bible where Jesus calls some guys “whited sepulchres,” meaning that they’re tombs painted to look nice. Seppuku is Japanese ritual suicide (also known as hara-kiri or, inaccurately, hari-kari), and seppuku and sepulchre sound quite similar, so I made the wordplay to suggest that it’s suicide painted over (and very white at that). It does require some overlapping bits of cultural knowledge!

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