From The Mail in the Jan. 18, 2010 New Yorker:
As a long-time Chaucer scholar, I was delighted by Joan Acocella’s appreciation of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” and her review of a new translation (Books, December 21st & 28th). However, the Miller’s Tale does not describe “an act of involuntary cunnilingus.” Acocella may read the event the way she does because Chaucer tells us that, upon kissing Alison, Absolon felt something like a beard. However, Chaucer is very specific about the placement of the kiss: he “kiste hir naked ers” (i.e. kissed her naked ass). He had other words to use for naming her sexual organ, including “queynte,” “bele chose,” “quoniam,” and “chambre of Venus” (all used by the Wife of Bath).
Professor Emeritus of English
The City College of New York
New York City
English Literature FTW!