Funny Etymology - Erotic Words and Phrases Origins
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The Language of the Affair
The first affair occurred when man discovered the wifely function was to raise a family and
administer the household, but for pure pleasure and excitement he had to look elsewhere.
The Old Testament sanctioned such activity with the concubine(from the Latin concubitus,
“lying together”), who was to serve as a man’s consort on a regular and exclusive basis.
Man later broke the monogamy with his mistress, inamorata, or paramour (14thC, originally
two words, par and amour, hence “being in love through or by sexual love”), though there
was a time when it described spiritual love, as in the medieval poem where Mary spoke of
Jesus as “myne own dere sonne and paramour.” On a less lofty plane, she became his
sparerib, side dish, tackle (17thC), and flame.
Verbally, she always did far better than the wife. The wife was relegated to a conveniency
(17th–19thC), an ordinary (17th–20thC), a comfortable (17th–20thC), and, at times, an
impudence (17th–20thC). It was conceded on occasion that she was a necessary, but that
term, along with a convenience, also referred to a water closet, putting her in somewhat less
than distinguished company. The mistress, though at times deemed peculiar (17th–19thC), has
always been his natural and his pure (both 17th–19thC) and — when counted among the
very best—his purest pure (17thC).
But it’s been downhill ever since. When man started playing for keeps, she became a kept
woman (18th–20thC) and he, her keeper, leaving us with images of a caged female held at
bay with chair and whip. Her glory faded further with the appellation, a wife in
watercolors (c. 1780–1840), “like their enjoyments, easily effaced or dissolved.” Her slide
continued as the brazen hussy, finally hitting rock bottom in the twentieth century as the
other woman and a little on the side.
Conjugal infidelity is not a subject you casually fool around with (mid 20thC). To be
caught cheating (20thC) is unspeakable and a topic of criminal conversation (19thC). Some
even dare call it treason (17thC), fleshly treason, or smock treason
Most adults prefer practicing adultery, but even with practice it’s still hardly adult
behavior—in fact, it’s not even adolescent. “Adult” and “adolescent” both derive from the
Latin ad and alere, “to nourish or raise toward maturity.” Adultery, on the other hand,
comes from ad and alterare, “to change into something else,” as to corrupt another, or
from ad and alterum, “to turn to another.”
Currently, adultery itself has been badly corrupted. It began when Mencken dubbed it
“democracy applied to love,” culminating in today’s swingers and what some call open
marriage (c. 1970s).
So too with the word adult. We label more and more of our contemporary activities adult,
though they have become increasing puerile. It’s enough to drive one to an adult-
entertainment zone for some adult reading matter.
Fuck is nature’s all-purpose word
Most people are familiar only with fuck’s violent side; few appreciate its complex character.
Fuck is nature’s all-purpose word, able to express every mood and capture the tenor of every
The only thing it isn’t is simple, as with this fuckin’ business.
Given the proper inflection, the word can express an entire range of sentiments:
Confusion: What the fuck?
Despair and dismay: Fucked again, or truly fucked.
Liberation: What the fuck!
Helplessness: Fucked by the fickle finger of fate.
Concern: Doesn’t anyone give a fuck?
Surprise, dismissal, or rejection: Oneself—Fuck me!
Futility: What the fuck? or Who gives a fuck anyway?
Absence of meaningful action: Fucking off.
Though it is anatomically imfuckingpossible, people constantly encourage others to go fuck
themselves. They criticize books such as this as unfuckingbelieveable, irrefuckingsponsible,
outfuckingrageous and unfuckingrespectable — though the author is just fucking with their
minds. Knowing not what else to do, they offer to end the confusion by simply getting the fuck
out of here.
When we summarily dismissed fuck from our working vocabulary, we added more than
1,500 expressions to take its place. Eric Partridge, the noted lexicographer, remarked as to how
the large number of phrases “bear witness to the fertility of the English language and to the
enthusiastic English participation in the universal fascination of the creative act.” Other critics
saw the dismissal as a form of cowardice and hypocrisy.
Many of the substitute terms are vivid and expressive, oft-times ingenious. But none has proved
more popular and inoffensive than doing it. For years everyone was doing it, doing it, doing it,
and everyone knew exactly what it meant. Occasionally there was a screw-up, and somebody
mistakenly took out the garbage, but for the most part, it came off as intended.
In 1934 the censors declared doing it “too suggestive” and banned it, doing, and doing it from
the airwaves. This low blow deprived Rudy Vallee of the right to sing his greatest stage and
radio hits, including “Let’s Do It,” “Do It Again,” and “You Do Something to Me.” Today,
America is again doing it, with gusto. Of all the expressions we have for the act, the inarticulate
favor doing it over all the others. Joan Rivers assured women everywhere that there’s really
nothing to it, “Just close your eyes, lie back, and pretend you’re having an operation.”
Sexual Intercourse - Why don’t we
do it in the road?
The Straight Up-and-Up
Tired of the daily grind (19th–20thC), bored with doing the hori- zontalize (c. 1845)? Not
to worry. We’ve got more ways of doing it than Heinz has pickles; more flavors than
Baskin-Robbins. Why settle for just vanilla sex (1990s)?
You can try it nestled together spoon fashion (19thC), or, if you’re really game, attempt a
perpendicular (mid 19thC), also known as an upright grand (c. 1925). It’s nothing more
than the old three-penny bit (late 18th–20thC)—what the girls on the cor- ner once featured
as their standing bargain.
Though a somewhat shaky proposition, your standard knee- tembler (c. 1860), otherwise
known as a quickie (20thC), was the perfect answer to the man on the run. Ever a favorite of
the pros, it has failed to catch on at home. According to Kinsey, only four per- cent of
married woman say that they would stand for it.
Impatient to get on with it? You might try having a dog’s mar- riage (19thC) or making a
dog’s match of it (19th–20thC)— doing it by the wayside, down and dirty. It, however,
just might take longer than you think. Dogs have been known to be linked together for
hours on end after the sexual act. The penis swells, and the muscles of the female contract,
locking the penis within; thus insuring that not till death will they part.
It’s a tough act to follow, but you could possibly try doing a dog’s rig (mid 18th–19thC),
defined by Grose as “sexual inter- course to exhaustion followed by back-to-back
Another dirty word – the ASS…
The ass is a dependable part that holds up its end of things. As the seat (19thC), it certainly
knows its place.
It would be wrong, however, to think it just rests there. This is a hard-working part that
quietly goes about its business at the ori- fice, functioning as the shithole (19thC), the
brown bucket (20thC), the dirt road (early 20thC), and the poop-chute (20thC). However,
there’s little recognition paid its work, and no more insulting a remark than being called “a
fucking asshole.” Nothing personal, it’s just one person’s opinion, and as Dirty Harry Calla
han (Clint Eastwood) reminded us in The Dead Pool (1988), “Opinions are like assholes;
everybody has one.”
Getting Off One’s Ass
The entire experience proved so puzzling, some could no longer locate what they were
looking for. They looked to the backside (16thC), the posterior (c. 1614), the rear end
(c. 1920s) or the behind (described in the OED as something “in the rear of any- thing
moving” or “the rear part of a person or garment”).
Not knowing where else to turn, they came up with the lower back (late 19thC). Things
were now desperate. In 1912, British papers recorded news from South Africa of a certain
Lord Methuen who had been wounded in the fleshy part of the thigh. Most thought this
all very ass backward (or bass ackward, both 20thC), a somewhat strange expression used
to describe something that’s askew or out of sync. So too with the expression itself, ass-
forward being a much more accurate description of the condition.
SLUT: Down and Dirty Word
Language describing woman has also traditionally joined dirtiness with sex. Words describing
her as slovenly and untidy made her immoral as well, inferring that sloppy women were as
derelict in their morals as they were in appearance. Man meanwhile got off clean.
A case in point is the evolution of the slut (14thC) or slattern (17thC). She started life innocently
enough as a slovenly woman, speaking more to her messiness than her morals. But she soon
developed a playful side. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary: “Our little girl Susan is a most
advanced slut and pleases us mightily.” It was then but a short jump to impudence and then to
you know what. As Henry Fielding noted, “I never knew any of these forward sluts to come to
good.” Indeed. A hundred years later Dickens told us exactly what she had become, “a slut, a
A Class by Herself
Her reputation was further suspect as a woman of a certain class (19thC).5 Bunters (18th–19thC)
picked up the rags from the streets, scrubbers (early 20thC) cleaned and washed, and doxies
(16th–18thC, from the Dutch docke, a “doll or dolly, a mistress or prostitute”) accompanied
those who begged for a living. The trollop (17th–19thC) was a coarse and vulgar street person.
Everyone knew the tramp and her friends for what they were. Class distinctions always made it
easy to identify them, though the hoity-toity wench (late 17th–early 19thC) didn’t know her
Not only was it traditional to treat lower-class women like dirt, but to further characterize them
as lewd. Lewd once referred to anyone not belonging to the holy orders, hence unlearned and
The language claimed many an innocent victim in this fashion.
No more Slut Bullying.
Use other words.
Deep-seated dread of the female
It’s not unusual to insult people by identifying them with their body parts. Calling someone a
prick is a commonplace insult, but we reserve use of the expression for males of a particular
character, and not for men in general. Cunt, on the other hand, is not only a term filled with
contempt and disdain, but it is applied indiscriminately, regardless of the person’s character,
insulting not only the person toward whom the remark is aimed, but all women everywhere.
Man has not only spoken ill of the cunt but has also described it in glowingly romantic terms.
According to Karen Horney, the noted psychiatrist, this makes very good sense. Both approaches
reflect man’s deep-seated dread of the female genitalia; each in a different way helps allay this
fear. By making little of the cunt, he convinces himself that there is nothing to fear from so mean
an object. Through its idealization he insures the unlikelihood of harm from so divine a being.
And we have no shortage of superlatives to describe it. We have everything from the dearest
bodily part (Shakespeare) to the best part (Earl of Dorset), the best in Christendom
(Rochester), and la belle chose (Chaucer). For some, it’s been just plain out of this world — as
in heaven (18thC).
Yet that nagging fear is always there beneath the surface. It’s also been sheer hell (18thC)
and a devilish thing (18thC); so much so that many would dispense with the entire matter
by put- ting the Devil into hell (18thC).
Some reserved judgment, as did John Donne with the best- worst part. Others extolled it as
a masterpiece and featured it prominently as the star (16thC), depicted ofttimes as pretty-
pretty (17thC) and indescribably quaint, as in Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tale”: “Full prively he
caught her by the queinte.”
At its lowest, this cloven stamp of female distinction (18thC) has been reduced to a suck-
and-swallow, a man (or fool) trap, a butter boat, an oystercracker, and sperm-sucker
(19thC). At the same time, it’s been elevated to a position of power as the control- ling part
(19thC) and the regulator (late 18thC–19thC).
It’s almost as though they forgot its more mundane functions as the water box (19thC), or
streamstown (c. 1820–90), the gener- ating or brat-getting place (19thC), the nursery, and
the bath of birth (early 20thC).
Make a clean breast of it
In and around the locker room there’s little talk of breasts, but lots of conversation about tits.
A woman has bosoms, a bust, or a breast,
Those lily-white swellings that bulge ’neath her vest
They are towers of ivory, sheaves of new wheat,
In a moment of passion, ripe apples to eat.
You may speak of her nipples as small rings of fire
But by Rabelais’ beard, she’ll throw fifteen fits
If you speak of them roundly as good honest tits.
—“Ode to Those Four-Letter Words”
The “C” word you don’t say
M’lady’s privates consist of a number of parts. Those which are featured most prominently are
the vulva1 (c. 1548, Latin for “wrapper”), and the vagina2 (c. 1682, Latin for “sheath”).
However, the whole world knows them better collectively as the cunt.
Cunt is a grand old word, not underground, not slang. You’ll find variations of it in Old
and Middle English, Middle Low and Low German, Old Norse, and Dutch. For years, it
was believed that cunt derived from cunnus, the Latin word for the female genitals, but no
one could explain how the t got into cunt. It was left for Eric Partridge to discover the word
as related to the Old English cwithe, “womb,” finding the root of the matter in cwe, (or cu),
which signifies “quintessential physical femininity”—a root that appears in a host of words
from “cradle” and “cow” to “queen” and “cunning.”
Cunt has been taboo in writing and in speech since the fifteenth century. Between 1700
and 1959 it was considered obscene, and it was a legal offense to print it in full.
No ordinary four-letter word, cunt’s always been rather special. It’s a “sexual energizing
word,” one which, according to Partridge, conveys “the sexual pleasure produced by a woman
in a man and indeed all that woman-as-sex signifies to a man both physically and
Gone With the Wind
The fart’s fine lineage not withstanding, other reference works have been more
standoffish. The esteemed Oxford English Dictio- nary unequivocally declared fart “not fit for
proper use.” Nobody knows why the OED chose to close down this innocuous form of
personal expression or how the decision was made. One can only imagine a group of eminent
scholars gathered in their ivory tower, deliberating upon the fate of words, having a beer or
two, and shooting the breeze.
“Personally, I favor letting off some rectal steam.” “No, no! I much prefer an anal escape of
“Really gentlemen, it’s hard to top voiding wind from the bowels.” “All in favor of the fart…”
And so the fart fell from grace—expelled from polite society and relegated to second-class
status. Farting around (c. 1900) came to signify purposelessness; anything overly pretentious
was arty- farty.” Farting off (c.1968) made you inattentive and neglectful, leading to one
blunder after another, causing you to fart away (c.1928) or squander your opportunities.
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defined a fart as “an irritating or
foolish person.” One in his dotage was written off as an old fart. Worthless items and
activities were not worth a fart in a windstorm (both 20thC). And when your mind went
blank and you did something incredibly dumb, or experi- enced an inexplicable aberration in
your software program, you had a brainfart (c. 1983). “I normally remember my social
secu- rity number, but I had a brainfart.”
Presented by Dr. Celestial Bawdy, DFA, PHC, BO, LSMFT,
is an esteemed scientist of human behavior