Scortum and moechus: not so neuter words
SH 191: I can’t say I consider harlots as human beings. Scortum and moechus are both neuter words, you know.
In one of his more callous statements in Stephen Hero, Stephen Daedalus mentions (in a conversation with Lynch that begins with his statement that they "must have women") that he cannot think of prostitutes as human beings, "scortum and moechus are both neuter words, you know" (SH 191). These not-very-common Latin words the young scholar may have found in a contemporary issue (1903) of the Trinity College publication Hermathena.
It is probable that the young Joyce may then have looked up the words in one of the dictionaries available at the National Library, but not very thoroughly. Moechus is masculine and does not mean "harlot", but "fornicator" or "adulterer" in the sense of a married man who makes use of prostitutes. In a letter about venereal disease dated 10 March 1904, in which he asks Joyce how his novel is progressing, Oliver Gogarty also tells him: "Write 'de moechis'". In the context, it seems evident that Gogarty means prostitutes, not those (like Joyce and himself) who made use of their services. But that mistake does not make the word neuter.
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