Sunday, 29 September 2013

Bosoms - They Boobs, But They Yo Mama's

Heaving bosoms, Breasts, Cleavage, Bodice-ripper
Mullets a-flowing and bosoms a-heaving


Noun & adjective.
[Old English bōsm = Old Frisian bōsm, Old Saxon bōsom (Dutch boezem), Old High German buosam (German Busen),
from West Germanic, perhaps ultimately from base of BOUGH.]

A(1) noun. The breast of a human being, especially of a woman;
poetical the breast of a bird etc. Also (colloquial, chiefly US) in plural, a woman's breasts. OE

A(2) noun. figurative. The surface of the sea, a river, the ground, etc. OE

A(3) noun. The part of the dress that covers the breast;
the space between the dress and the breast,
especially considered as a receptacle for money, letters, etc. OE

A(3b) noun. A shirt-front. US. M19

A(4) noun. A concavity, a recess, a hollow interior. OE

A(5) noun. The enclosure formed by the breast and the arms. ME

A(6) noun. The breast considered as the seat of emotions, desires, secret thoughts, etc. ME

A(7) noun. figurative. The interior, the midst; the enfolding relationship of one's family, the Church, etc. LME

A(8) obsolete. transferred. A person. Compare with hand, head, etc. L16-M18

A(9) = bosom friend below. Colloquial. E20

B attributive or as adjective. Intimate, confidential. Chiefly in bosom friend. L16

Abraham's bosom [Luke 16:23], heaven, the place of rest for the souls of the blessed. OE
take to one's bosom archaic marry
the bird in the bosom archaic one's own secret or pledge, one's conscience

bosom friend [compare with German Busenfreund] a specially intimate or dear friend.
bosomy adjective (a) full of sheltered hollows; (b) (of a woman) with a prominent bosom. E17

The word bosom, or specifically bosoms, has a rather cherished place in my vocabulary. Not only was it one of the few words that allowed me to snigger during religious classes, it was also my Mum's term of choice when referring to breasts. Thus, the word bosoms has acquired a very definite nostalgia for me, conjuring thoughts of safety and comfort, softness and security, a refuge to where one can retreat, where a warm embrace awaits to shield and protect you from all that is threatening and uncertain in the world. Having had a houseful of teenage boys with rampant hormones, it was perhaps important for Mum to desexualise as many topics as possible that would otherwise have set our pulses aflutter (while Mum was very unorthodox generally, she was quite conservative when it came to matters of sex). For that purpose, bosoms did nicely, perhaps epitomised by buxom but otherwise maternal figures like Hattie Jacques and Dawn French. At a time when other, less wholesome bosomy figures like Sam Fox were vying for our adolescent attention, this was perhaps an understandable strategy.

Bosom, Buxom,
Hattie Jaques and Norman Wisdom in A Square Peg

For times when sexual reference was unavoidable, Mum was partial to the phrase "heaving bosoms", of the type regularly seen bursting forth from the covers of trashy bodice-rippers. Heaving bosoms carries a comical, not-to-be-taken-seriously connotation, to be greeted with a roll of the eyes rather than a licking of the lips. It failed, of course, as any attempt to desexualise a teenage boy is bound to. Dawn French - funny, confident and head-turningly beautiful Dawn French - is almost irresistibly attractive, as was Hattie Jacques (when I was really young, one of my secret pleasures was watching her scene in A Square Peg where she is giving Norman Wisdom singing lessons and he accidentally pours champagne down her heaving bosoms). Actually, now that I think about it, my Mum, who was herself a somewhat large lady, looked rather like Hattie Jacques. Oh my word! She really did look like Hattie Jacques. There. Desexualisation achieved. Well played, Mum; well played indeed.

Do the words bosom, bosoms or heaving bosoms have any particular connotation for you?

Do you have a bosom buddy?

Do you too have a secret crush on Dawn French?

Do please leave your most uplifting comments below.


  1. Oh for the love of........

    I suppose I'd better apologize to everyone in advance for a conceited, testosterone-fuelled rant.


  2. I was just skyping with my mother and guess which book she just finished reading and really liked:
    Funny coincidence!

    1. That looks like a really interesting book. Honestly. I say that in all seriousness. And not just for the pictures. I mean ... oh I'll just be quiet.

  3. Weird how bosom - boezem - isn't really used by my generation anymore. I've most certainly never heard anyone my age refer to their or someone else's breasts as "bosom". My grandma sometimes uses it. It's quite charming when she does.

    1. How about bosom-friends, as in close?


    2. I've never used the word; only ever read it in children's books... Maybe I just don't have any bosom friends?

    3. It's very old fashioned here too, or used in a jocular way. People still say 'bosom buddies' though, and it doesn't sound out of place.

    4. I only have one bit of wisdom to contribute to this post:

      Peter Scolari is the Andrew Ridgeley of sitcoms.

    5. OK. I've read the Wikipedia posts; I've pondered this.

      I still don't get it.

      Can you help me, Nick?

  4. I think confucius leaned forward worriedly at the beginning of that comment, and then leaned back with a relieved sigh at the end.

    1. I don't think Confucius in all his wisdom ever came up with something quite so profound as "everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, everybody needs a bosom..."