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In Medieval Pleasures: What Was Sex Really Like In The Middle Ages?, Leeds Trinity professor Dr. Kate Lister shows how the records of medieval British street names reveal secrets regarding illicit activities. She sites "Grape Lane", "Whore's Mount", "Sit Down Ho", etc.

It is the latter, "Sit Down Ho", that I am most interested in.

  • Was "ho" or "hoe" every used for "whore" prior to the 20th century?

I tried but failed to find Dr Lister's references (I am behind a science only paywall).

This question relates to the questions

If "ho" or "hoe" were used for "whore" prior to the 20th century, both these questions have simple answers.

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    One early variant form is "hoor"—which appears in Walter Scott's Rob Roy (1817): "'The servants,' he stated 'with the tenantry and others, had been all regularly enrolled and mustered, and they wanted me to take arms also. But I'll ride in nae siccan troop—they little kenn'd Andrew that asked him. I'll fight when I like mysell, but it sall neither be for the hoor of Babylon, nor ony hoor in England.'"
    – Sven Yargs
    Jul 3, 2022 at 5:49

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OED (possibly paywalled) indicates that this use of ho does not predate the twentieth century, and does not list this meaning for hoe at all.

Forms: 1900s– ho, 1900s– 'ho, 1900s– ho', 1900s– hoah, 1900s– hoe, 1900s– who', 1900s– whoe.

Etymology: Variant of whore n., reflecting a pronunciation frequent in African-American usage.

The earliest citation is from 1964. However, ho/hoe is similar enough to whore that it could have been used with that meaning, but wouldn't necessarily have been written down. But if a placename like "Sit Down Ho" actually exists and actually has that etymology I think I would have expected OED to include it.

For what it's worth, it seems to me that Joyce's usages of ho in the passages you cite are so obscure as to not be double-entendres, and I agree with your other answer.

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  • Thanks. I upvoted, because your OED argument is strong (and has always ben my expected null hypothesis to this question generally). I still hope someone can dig a bit on Lister's evidence. I am trying. Ho puns appear so routinely in Finnegans Wake that I am forced to dig.
    – fundagain
    Jul 2, 2022 at 9:57
  • I have read Kate Listers book, and there is no mention. So am accepting.
    – fundagain
    Aug 10, 2022 at 18:42

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