Gonorrhea and the Clap: The Slap Down Treatment

The things you learn in conversing with fellow professors… Why was gonorrhea called the clap? A strong possibility is because of a once-prescribed treatment: clapping the penis hard, for example, with a book against a table or a swift clap with the hands.

Here is KnowsWhy.Com:

There have been many theories on why gonorrhea is sometimes called clap.

For one, it is believed that clap refers to the old French term, ‘clapier’, which means brothel. Before, gonorrhea was easily spread through these places. However, there is also another theory, which referred to how the infection was treated. To treat gonorrhea, it involved slamming a heavy book or any object down the penis so that the discharge would come out. This might not sound like a good treatment since it involved smashing the penis.

Another probable reason why gonorrhea was referred to as clap is that it was a bastardized form of a word. During the World War days, gonorrhea was very common among the GIs. It was said that the personnel who treated the patients would refer to the GIs as having the collapse. As a bastardized form of the word collapse, it was called the clap.

The sex therapist Dr. Carol Clark in this video over at eHow – Why Is Gonorrhea Known as the Clap – demonstrates the clap between the hands. No, no, not actually. But she gamely takes us through the motions, really grimacing at the thought of this treatment.

I spent some time this morning trying to track down in the literature whether this story is actually true. It just sounds too good to be true! I wasn’t able to find a definitive answer. This e-book on gonorrheaprovides a lot of good information about the disease, from symptoms to history to treatment, but not a concrete answer. And I have one article coming on interlibrary loan, but I’m not sure if it will contain the needed information. So if you do know of some relevant literature, please leave a comment.

What I did find, and found fascinating and terrible at once, was this full-text 1918 article in the Journal of the National Medical Association by C.V. Roman entitled Syllabus of Lecture to Colored Soldiers at Camps Grant, Stewart, Hill, and Humphreys. Roman opens with his philosophy of life before getting into his views on sexually transmitted diseases.

Here is one section that caught my eye, where he goes from a view of the nervous system to Nature’s punishments for our behavior:

The brain and spinal marrow form one continuous body and all of our nervous energy is therefore stowed in one cavity, our eggs are all held in one basket. One bowel but three spickets. There are three ways by which we may use up our powers of life. We can use it up in thinking and thereby accomplish our aims and purposes in life. We may use it up in eating and become a glutton or a hog. We may join the donkey and guinea pig and spend our life’s energy in sexual dalliance.

Nature gives us the privilege of choosing our course but reserves the right to pay or punish according to our conduct. Nature has set her stand of disapproval on sexual promiscuity by fixing venereal diseases as a penalty for prostitution.

In another section, he focuses on gonorrhea, complete with his views on venereal diseases and the moral character of those who spread them:

Gonorrhea Clap, “running range,” is the most dangerous of the three [venereal diseases]; because the most easily spread, the most lightly considered (only a cold) and the most difficult to cure. It begins as a little smarting when urine is passed, finally pain, swelling and a discharge that is highly contagious – the smallest bit of it in the eye may destroy vision.

This is a frequent cause of sore eyes and blindness in babies – mother, usually a pure, good woman, has been, unknown to her, infected by her husband, and she in turn infected the baby while passing through the birth canal.

A man that would willfully put out the eyes of an innocent baby is the meanest of criminals. Yet that is what a man does who takes clap to the marriage bed. If there is any Hell, I think the hottest pace in it ought to be reserved for the man who willfully spreads venereal disease. A man with no respect for a pure woman is not fit to live.

Link to the pdf of Roman’s Syllabus of Lecture to Colored Soldiers at Camps Grant, Stewart, Hill, and Humphreys.

Link to Kindle version of Gonorrhea (Deadly Diseases & Epidemics)

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21 Responses to Gonorrhea and the Clap: The Slap Down Treatment

  1. Richmonde says:

    Hmmmm… sounds awfully made up to me. Think you should ask thestraightdope.com.

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  2. Peter R. Limburg says:

    Whoever thought that “clap” for “gonorrhea” dates back only to WW II did not do their research. The Oxford English Dictionary traces it back to 1587 and notes “now vulgar,” indicating that “clap” was once used in what passed for polite society.

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  3. daniel.lende says:

    I finally got an article through interlibrary loan, Michael R. Spence (1983). Gonorrhea. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 25(1): 111-124. Here’s what is says about the history of the term:

    In the 1300s John Ardene, surgeon to Richard II and Henry IV of England, first used the term clap. The origin of the word is unclear and may refer to the word clappoir, meaning “bubo”; to le clapier, a house for prostitutes; to “clappers,” noisemakers used to warn of the approach of lepers.

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  4. daniel.lende says:

    Gonorreha looks to be becoming a “superbug,” resistant to multiple types of antibiotics. Here’s the Live Science article: Is Sexually Transmitted Gonorrhea Becoming a ‘Superbug’?

    The sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea is increasingly developing resistance to all of the antibiotics we have to treat it in the United States, researchers warn.

    In 2009, nearly a quarter of strains tested in a nationwide surveillance project of gonorrhea were resistant to penicillin, tetracycline, fluoroquinolones, or a combination of these antibiotics that are typically used to treat the STD. And early data from 2010 indicate resistance to another type of antibiotic, cephalosporin, is emerging. That’s concerning because cephalosporins are the only class of antibiotic left that doctors recommend to treat the disease.

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  5. Reynolds says:

    They should revert back to the way they used to get rid the clap. They would insert a hot metal rod into the center of the penis. Might teach the guy to make certain he is with clean women.

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    • Rational Gal says:

      Hmmm… so only women give it to guys? That’s an archaic theory. Do women deserve to get raped for dressing ‘too sexy’ too?

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  6. bob john says:

    i hate the clap it hurts my penis

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  7. Joyce says:

    ” It is called clap because you tend to CLAP (your hands) when you pee because it hurts when you do it. Sounds interesting, right?”

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  8. Pingback: New strain of Drug Resistant Gonorrhoea has spread across the World | Breaking American News, Global Affairs

  9. Rosali says:

    Gonorrhea is a infectious, sexually transmitted disease (STD) in humans that affects the mucous membranes of the urinary and the genital tracts. It is caused by Neisseria Gonococci bacteria. It causes symptoms of urethral pain and mucopurulent discharge in males and vaginal discharge and low back pain in females.

    Allopathic treatment for Gonorrhea include penicillin, tetracycline and sulpa drugs. However certain strains of bacteria become resistant to these antibiotics.

    Traditional and herbal treatments gives good results. The homoeopathic nosodes are used in accordance with traditional homoepathic principles to coax an immune response. The remedies contains natural alkalizing and cooling herbs traditionally used in ayurveda. The homoeopathic remedies like War 1M and OM28 immune system are used to build the immune system by administering Sarcodes (bioenergetic imprints) of certain specific healthy body tissues. Ayurvedic remedies like Alclearize (Sarivadi tablets) and Alklearant contains herbs which have the ability to purify the blood and tissues and also balance the five elements in the body.

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  10. ScienceWatch says:

    Rosali’s comment.

    Just a bunch of claptrap.

    Learn science folks, don’t use homeopathic remedies. At best, you’re just throwing your money away, and at worst they could hurt you.

    If you don’t want the “clap” first try to avoid it. Second, if you get it go to the doctor instead of taking eye of newt tea and shoving tree branches up your ass or whatever the homeopaths say to do.

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  11. Charly says:

    Pls,is it only through sex can a guy contract this gonorrhea.does the treatment too expensive?can the phamacist treat the disease perfectly?

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  12. momoh says:

    I think I am infected with Neisseria gonorrhea,pls help me with a prescription.

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  13. Rosali says:

    @Science watch

    Have you ever tried any herbal remedies before making a comment on it? New research says that bacteria have developed resistance to western medicines. What would you do in such cases? What is wrong in trying herbal remedies? Combination of ayurvedic herbs and resonance homeopathic remedies give excellent results. Please use them before stating anything. These remedies build your immunity against the disease-causing organism thus giving you a lasting relief.

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  14. Lane Andreassen says:

    It is impossible to even scratch the surface of this venerable medical tradition in a brief article like this, but Ayur_Herbs it is within our reach to offer a respectful nod to the enormous pharmacopeia of Ayurvedic herbs, and to explore a few of the more well-known ones that are finding their way into American medicine cabinets.:,`,

    Take care
    <http://www.healthmedicinejournal.com

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  15. So Swiss says:

    By the medieval period, ayurvedic practitioners developed a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for the treatment of various ailments. Current practices derived (or reportedly derived) from ayurvedic medicine are regarded as part of complementary and alternative medicine.*:,,

    All the best to you
    <http://homelifestylecentral.com

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  16. dazmo says:

    Nope. It was called “the clap” because its diagnosis signified the end of a mans sex life. There was literrally even an “applause”, that being the sound of every woman in a 100 mile radius slapping their legs together. Thus, you got “the clap.”

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  17. Doreen Stieb says:

    Herbal medicine (or “herbalism”) is the study and use of medicinal properties of plants. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts. Pharmacognosy is the study of all medicines that are derived from natural sources.””,

    Most up to date piece of writing produced by our own web blog http://www.healthmedicinebook.comuc

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  18. Jitsu says:

    This article makes me cringe. That is all.

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  19. Kevin says:

    Will Amoxicillin or Dicloxacill get rid of the clap what should i take for it.

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    • daniel.lende says:

      This is not a medical site, but the Wikipedia entry for gonorrhea has some information on treatment:

      Treatment is commonly with ceftriaxone (Rocephin) as antibiotic resistance has developed to many previously used medications. This is typically given in combination with either azithromycin or doxycycline, as gonorrhea infections may occur along with chlamydia, an infection which ceftriaxone does not cover. Some strains of gonorrhea have begun showing resistance to this treatment,[2] which will make infection more difficult to treat.

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