Joan's as good as my lady in the dark



From or alongside the use of Joan as a sexually available member of the lower classes found in related expressions such as He is our Ladies Chaplaine, but serves Ione[1] and Joan's as good as this French lady.[2] Ultimately a calque of Latin and Ancient Greek expressions such as πᾶσα γυνὲ τοῦ λύχνου ἀρθέντος αὐτή ἐστι (pâsa gunè toû lúkhnou arthéntos hē autḗ esti) and sublata enim lucerna quaevis mulier cuiusvis est similis (all women are the same when the lamp is removed), which Plutarch considered only accurate as an excuse to escape lecherous and adulterous men[3] but which Erasmus considered a description of how all women would indulge themselves so long as witnesses and punishment could be avoided.[4]


Joan's as good as my lady in the dark

  1. (potentially vulgar and offensive, archaic) Synonym of all cats are grey in the dark: Sex is enjoyable regardless of the status, physical attractiveness, or social station of one's partner.
    • 1611, John Davies, "Vpon Englishe Prouerbs", Scourge of Folly, §386:
      Ioan in the darke is as good as my lady:’
      Nay, perhapps better, such ladies there may bee.
    • 1620, [Miguel de Cervantes]; Thomas Shelton, transl., chapter XXXIII, in The Second Part of the History of the Valorous and Witty Knight-errant, Don Quixote of the Mancha. [], London: [] [Eliot’s Court Press] for Edward Blount, →OCLC:
      Here is as good bread made as in France; and in the night Joan is as good as my lady; and unhappy is that man that is to break his fast at two of the clock in the afternoon and there’s no heart a handful bigger than another; and the stomach is filled with the coarsest victuals; and the little fowls in the air have God for their provider and cater; and four yards of coarse Cuenca cloth keep a man as warm as four of fine Lemster wool of Segovia; and when we once leave this world, and are put into the earth, the prince goes in as narrow a path as the journeyman; and the pope’s body takes up no more room than a sexton’s, though the one be higher than the other; for when we come to the pit all are even, or made so in spite of their teeth and—and good night.
    • 1623, James Mabbe, The Rogue, page 262: the darke, all Cats are blacke, and Jone is as faire as my Lady...
    • 1648, Robert Herrick, “No Difference i'th'Dark.”, in Hesperides: Or, The Works both Humane & Divine [], London: [] John Williams, and Francis Eglesfield, and are to be sold by Tho[mas] Hunt, [], →OCLC; republished as Henry G. Clarke, editor, Hesperides, or Works both Human and Divine, volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: H. G. Clarke and Co., [], 1844, →OCLC, page 329:
      Night makes no difference 'twixt the Priest and Clark; / Jone as my Lady is as good i'th'dark.
    • 1671 March (first performance), [William] Wycherley, Love in a Wood, or, St James’s Park. A Comedy, [], London: [] J[ohn] M[acock] for H[enry] Herringman, [], published 1672, →OCLC, Act II, page 22:
      Sir Sim[on Addlepot]. Faith and troth I do not railly, I deal freely. / Flip [Lady Flippant]. This is the time and place for freedom, Sir. / Sir Sim. Are you handſom? / Flip. Jone’s as good as my Lady in the dark certainly; but men that deal freely, never ask queſtions certainly.
    • 1931, Arthur Melville Clark, Thomas Heywood, p. 12:
      ...when Henslowe notes Heywood's next play he has a little more respect for him; for, although the total was again but five pounds, three pounds on February 10, 1598/9 and the rest two days later, the dramatist on both occasions is Mr. Heywood. The only surviving fragment of the piece, ‘Jonne as good as my ladey’, may be a song in Γυναικεῖον with the burden 'What care I how faire she bee...
    • 1995, Anthony Fletcher, Gender, Sex, and Subordination in England 1500–1800, page 18:
      The current proverb ‘In the dark Joan is as good as my lady’ carried no moral overtones; it merely reflected upon male anxieties that social superiority might bring some kind of special benefits in terms of the quality of sexual pleasure. A countryman, so the story went, who had given a large sum to have sex with a lady was overheard on his way home from behind a hedge moaning about his wasted money with the line that his Joan at home was as good as the lady had turned out.
    • 2014, Antonia Senior, Treason’s Daughter, page 169:
      A wife. But what wife and when? Pretty, yes, but godly and modest. He remembers something Taffy said once: ‘A homely Joan is as good as a lady when the lights are out.’ Aye, Taf, he thinks, but best to marry one whose face you can worship. An image of Lucy Tompkins pops unbidden into his mind.


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