Then was the Scold herself,
In a wheelbarrow brought,
Stripped naked to the smock,
As in that case she ought:
Neats tongues about her neck
Were hung in open show;
And thus unto the cucking stool
This famous scold did go.
“In the common law of crime in England and Wales, a common scold was a species of public nuisance—a troublesome and angry woman who broke the public peace by habitually arguing and quarreling with her neighbours.” The punishments for being a scold entertainingly included the cucking stool and the scold’s bridle. Though this law has long since died, the concept of a scold likely seems unexpectedly familiar even to men newly introduced to it. It is impossible for a man, and American men especially, to go through life without experiencing his fair share of inexplicably quarrelsome women.
The definition of the common scold can, with little semantic difference, be expanded to include those women who manifest a hyper-sensitivity towards remarks and opinions that, even if objectionable, can’t fully account for her reacting with an acute hysteria. Even seemingly minor transgressions (or non-transgressions) can trigger the scold to escalate from calm to irrationally enraged at a rate that defies the laws of relativity. The behavior of the scold in this state of mind can be described as nothing less than a temper tantrum you might expect from a young child.
Though it is possible to find women meeting the definition of scold in most cultures and times, experience suggests there is an epidemic of cases among the fairer sex on the North American continent. The problem finds its beginning in the lack of discipline these precious princesses experience in their early formative years. Many were raised by single mothers who aren’t able to provide the authority and structure that fathers provide. However, there are undoubtedly complete biological families who also failed to teach young girls to refrain from having tantrums. Why should a young princess restrict her attitude of entitlement if she is always indulged with everything she wants any time she screams and stamps her feet? Though there are many good reasons to abandon the short-term, high time preference rewards of tantrums that some in-depth self-reflection could provide, a striking number of ladies seem to lack sufficient cognitive aptitude for such abstraction.
Is there a reason that boys seem less afflicted by this particular perversion of personality? A young man who is spoiled at home can expect a very rude awakening as he enters the wider world. His peers won’t hesitate to identify and express dissatisfaction with any untoward behavior he displays, thus providing a mechanism to cure him of his poor temperament. Unfortunately for young, attractive women, they will never experience much push-back from their peers until much later in life after their sexual market value starts to decrease significantly and by then it is likely too late to do much good.
Indeed, a young woman’s peers are usually guilty of worse than mere indifference toward her antics. When upset by some trivial matter, the scold will often recruit a willing accomplice or accomplices to do anything risky. These ubiquitous white knights will harass and possibly try to fight the alleged offender without giving any real consideration to the validity of her offense. Some of the more egregious white knights don’t even require an active recruitment on her part. This extreme version of the female supplicator might just observe her hysteria and take it upon himself to come to the rescue despite not knowing her from Eve. That a woman is upset for any reason, no matter how trivial, is reason enough for him to take action. The mindless defense of excessive female sentiment invariably results in needless grief for many blameless men.
In one of many experiences I have had with this phenomenon, I was out with my friend and a group of people he knows including the heroine of this anecdote. The first point where I could see that this young scold was troublesome and prone to quarreling with her neighbors was when she brought up a contemporaneous debit card hacking thefts from Target and other stores in order to perform a vitriolic diatribe. Being keen to participate in the group discussion, I made the innocuous observation that while the hacker’s actions were wrong and deserving of punishment, the technical mastery he required to accomplish the crime was undoubtedly impressive. That a person engaged in criminal activity could demonstrate impressive skills was too much of an abstraction for her and thus provoked her to reveal her quarrelsome nature in the form of various insults towards me. Fortunately, another member of the group mollified her by explaining that a person may simultaneously have concepts with both positive and negative connotations associated with them without there being a contradiction. The emotional “reasoning” of many females seems to stumble when confronted with this fundamental, yet subtle, truth. However, though the third party adequately explained that being impressed by something doesn’t mean you condone the act, I am not convinced that it was anything more than a mere Pavlovian response to the attitude of multiple peers which doused her temper rather than a true comprehension of the nuance involved.
Later that same evening, we were all sitting around a table and out of blue our heroine pointedly asks me “What were the longest relationships you were in?” Seeing no immediate need for subtlety or outright dishonesty I responded frankly that “2 years was my longest relationship, but to be fair it wasn’t with an American woman.” Dear me, this was not a tactful thing to say to the common American scold as they will in their solipsism invariably interpret any comment or statement to be descriptive of their own person. Though there were signs she was getting ever so huffy, to my discredit I was hopelessly oblivious to the volcano preparing to erupt before me. Responding to her quite earnest desire for clarification, I elaborated on the fact that I find most American women difficult to get along with for anything longer than a fling given that so many are common scolds (though I did not use this terminology at the time). To this her barely contained rage erupted with a rabid desire for acrimonious verbal combat, yet her rage was too great to craft more than a small sum of suitable slurs and so she simply stomped off somewhere to succor her now sore psyche.
Of course this would not prove to be the end of this anecdote. Our resident white knight decides to step up to defend our heroine’s fragile ego since she found herself lacking the skill to patch this bit of cognitive dissonance. Sir lancelot starts by trying to lecture me about what kind of opinions I am allowed to have and what I am allowed to say. Not being a pussy and possessing an acute loathing of white knights, I was quick to assert that he had no authority to lecture me or to define the acceptable range of opinions I was allowed to possess. Our heroine’s knight in shining armor was so prepared to defend her “honor” that he had the audacity to threaten me physically if I couldn’t be otherwise cowed. Though, or perhaps because, I made it clear I was prepared to accept his challenge to fisticuffs, the tense moment eventually passed without coming to blows and the night continued without further incident. To escalate this absurdity to even greater heights, Sir Lancelot did all this despite his Guinevere being foreign born.
Probably all men, or at least all American men, have experienced this sort of situation as a result of the unruly and irrational emotions of the common American scold. The question is, when the institution of patriarchy is restored because of necessity, what can the new order do to reduce the number and severity of the disturbances to the public peace caused by such women and their valiant saviors? I think that English common law, as detailed in the introductory poem and links, sets a fine precedent of how such socially disruptive backbiters can be disabled. When a queen of histrionics and her knights of the unstable are identified, the punishment used to correct the bad behavior should be focused on public shaming and minor physical discomfort. Such chastisement is an appropriate response to the indignities caused by common scolds because the guilty would likely be easily reformed for the public good with only a few treatments. This is especially true of the most egregious version of the common scold currently in existence, which are of course the feminists who acrimoniously agitate for social norms that destabilize and eventually destroy civilisation. A few public dunks on a cucking stool for the most heinous of these harpies would humanely cure them of their hysteria and thoroughly deter any other would-be agitators.
‘There stands, my friend, in yonder pool,
An engine call’d a ducking stool:
By legal pow’r commanded down,
The joy and terror of the town,
If jarring females kindle strife,
Give language foul, or lug the coif;
If noisy dames should once begin
To drive the house with horrid din,
Away, you cry, you’ll grace the stool,
We’ll teach you how your tongue to rule.
The fair offender fills the seat,
In sullen pomp, profoundly great.
Down in the deep the stool descends,
But here, at first, we miss our ends;
She mounts again, and rages more
Than ever vixen did before.
So, throwing water on the fire
Will make it but burn up the higher.
If so, my friend, pray let her take
A second turn into the lake,
And rather than your patience lose,
Thrice and again repeat the dose.
No brawling wives, no furious wenches,
No fire so hot but water quenches
In Prior’s skilful lines we see
For these another recipe:
A certain lady we are told,
(A lady, too, and yet a scold)
Was very much reliev’d, you’ll say,
By water, yet a different way;
A mouthful of the same she’d take,
Sure not to scold, if not to speak.
Benjamin West – 1780
EDIT: I found some more common scold poems and jokes:
JOYS OF SCOLDING.
Some women take delight in dress,
And some in cards take pleasure,
While others place their happiness
In heaping hoards of treasure.
In private some delight to kiss,
Their hidden charms unfolding,
But they mistake their sovereign bliss,
There’s no such joy as scolding.
Each morning as I ope my eyes,
I soon disperse all silence,
Before my neighbours can arise,
They hear my clack a mile hence.
When at the board I take my seat,
There’s one continued riot;
I eat, I scold, I scold, I eat,
My clack is never quiet.
Each night whene’er I go to bed,
I always fall a weeping,
For silence is the thing I dread,
I cannot scold when sleeping.
But then my pains to mitigate,
And drive away all sorrow,
Although to-night may be too late,
I’LL PAY THEM OFF TO-MORROW.
APOLOGY FOR SCOLDING.
Observe, fair Celia, all in all,
Mild, beautiful and young;
‘Tis true; but then her mouth’s so small,
It cannot hold her tongue!
“Yes, my son.”
“In olden times a woman who was a common scold was punished, wasn’t she?”
“Yes, my son. So was the man she married.” — Yonkers Statesman.
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Kesouse! the stool went down again,
Into the slush-ice splashing;
But still the bag, with never a gag,
Kept up her vile tongue-lashing!
Kesouse! a third time for the charm,
Down to the very bottom;
But worse and worse the drab to curse
Begain with a “Dod rot ‘em!”
Kesouse! Now let the stool stay down,
And save us futher trouble!
But still her tongue assailed the throng
In every rising bubble!
Until the ice of Februer,
Closed firm and fast above her;
And her corse, cut out perforce,
None can but death discover!
When, hark! upon the cooling-board,
The corse begain to cough;
And then her jaw, the first to thaw,
Went on where she’d left off!
The ducking-stool at once condemned,
Was into kindling cut;
And the mouth of the scold of the days of old,
Has never since been shut.
Except beneath the ice of death,
To be opened sometime later;
When the corse on the board again is heard
In her begotten daughter!
But who was the scold? Ah, helpless wight,
No longer worry and bother;
But go to your home and meet your doom –
She was your dear wife’s mother!