Learn what subligaculum means and amaze your friends


According to my imagination, texting began in ancient Rome but never caught on. Much like today, everyone wanted a tablet, and once the price of chisels dropped, the Romans spent most of the day carving messages in stone.


Keeping in touch with a friend involved writing a message on a tablet and then lugging it over to your friend’s house to read. You can imagine how tiresome, cumbersome, bothersome, and boresome that was. If you had a lot of friends, you would be buffsome from carrying around all those tablets, but it involved talking face-to-face, which somehow seemed barbaric.


Not only was carving a tablet difficultsome and timesome, but it was also hard to write straight on stone. People began using chalk to make guidelines for the letters, and soon writing on a tablet began to be called writing “online.”


Since everyone could read these tablets, young people developed acronyms and “online names” so that the adults around them wouldn’t be able to figure out what they were saying.


Subligaculum were easy to get into a knot. This is where we get the modern expression, "Don't get your panties all in a knot." (Photo: courtesy of Wikipedia; History and phrase etymology: courtesy of yearstricken.)


Aurelius Aquila1 (online name: The Golden Eagle2), a young Roman teen, chiseled himself a place in history by his prolific writing in the Caesarean section of Rome. He was also famous for starting the fad of wearing toga belts suggestively low on the hips. When his enraged parents told him to pull the belt higher, he famously, flippantly and frivolously replied, “Don’t get your subligaculum all in a knot.” However, he missed the mark with his idea of carving generic messages on pavement around town and having his friends go to the text, rather than the text going to the friends.



Sadly, we have only one extant example of texting by The Golden Eagle, and I have not been able to decipher all of the message. I’m working on it and will not rest until I do or until night falls, whichever comes first.

Text by Aurelius Aquila. This is possibly the Rosetta Stone of early texting. POS = Parents over shoulder; OB = Oh, baby. My imagination and I believe the rest may be rather racy3. (Photo: courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4793133652/)




In the photo you see that I kindly underlined what I have been able to figure out so far. The caption gives the explanation.







1 Aquila means eagle, eagle means feathers, and feathers mean quills. Ergo, ipso facto, this is where we get the word “quill.”

The Golden Eagle was a prolific writer, eagle means feather, feathers mean quills, quills mean pens. Ergo, ipso facto, this is where we get the name of  The Golden Pen award.

3 In my research I have discovered two things: one, I cannot use a superscript in a photo caption, so the 3 looks weird after the word “racy,” which is irritating; and two, those nude statues the Romans were so fond of may have been, in fact, just an early form of sexting.

                                                                         Ω      Ω      Ω      Ω        Ω

I started out today writing a very short introduction to a list of texting acronyms for Boomers that my sister and brother-in-law sent me. But I write the same way I live. I need my glasses, I go into the bedroom, I notice the mirror is dirty, I clean it, I remember I need to clean the bathroom sink, I see that I haven’t combed my hair, then I remember I need to make a hair appointment, I look for my phone, I see that I have an email, I sit down to read it, and realize I need to find my glasses.


What follows is the equivalent of finding my glasses, and unlike my meandering introduction, it  is worth reading.  I did NOT create this list. I wish I did, but I didn’t. The email has been passed around to a lot of people and does not include the author’s name. If you know who it is, please let me know. I want to be his or her friend, and I would like to give credit to the author. Enjoy.


28 thoughts on “Learn what subligaculum means and amaze your friends

  1. I loved the acronyms and will probably think of one complimenting this post several hours from now (while everyone else is focused on football games, I’ll be distracted by a little voice in my head YSB????).

    My favorite part of this post was this line: “. . . .those nude statues the Romans were so fond of may have been, in fact, just an early form of sexting.”

  2. Well, gosh, now I don’t have to go to the trouble of calling it The Underwear of the Gods anymore! I am *so* grateful to have this excellent new word “subligaculum” that you can be assured I’ll be finding all sorts of excuses to use it. Perhaps the inventor was just following up on his classic design of the *merkin*, wanting to jazz it up a little for more public (ahem!) consumption. If you’re not familiar with merkins, (and it’s not *necessarily* something everyone who *is* familiar with them for any reason goes around touting), you can look up the definition in various online places, but the best I’ve seen thus far is the first, an ‘alternate’ meaning with a winking pun inserted into it, in the Urban Dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=merkin), which had me ROFLUIII (. . . Until Incontinence is Induced). An acronym, by the bye, that might be pronounced “Ruh-FLOOey!!!” and thereby cause the act to repeat itself, or at least get a “Gesundheit” in return. Text ya later, Baby!

    • It’s one of those words that needs to see the light of day, if you will allow me to use that expression when speaking of unmentionables. I learned about merkins just lately from RAB at http://youknewwhatimeant.wordpress.com/. I went to Wikipedia, which sports a pretty pink one for the visual learner. The world is full of such fascinating things.

      Like you, I always want to pronounce the acronyms. Thank you for teaching me how to pronounce ROFL.

  3. Thank you for explaining that texting began on stone tablets. Finally, the 140-character limit makes sense to me — it must have been a safety measure to prevent muscle strain from too much chiseling.

  4. Your humor remains fresh. Meaning: I never get tired of reading it, and it’s still providing the best medicine for whatever ails me (which lately might be almost anything).

    If Merkin shows up in Trending now, we’ll know why 🙂

  5. It is always good to know history… in the hopes of learning from our mistakes! – Clearly we won’t try that again!
    – Much gratitude for the light and laughter your words bring!!

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