June 10, 2015

Dirty Etymology: Slut


I am flat-out fascinated by the history of dirty words. (I'm also equally fascinated by the concept of dirty words. Why a word is dirty. Why we have to bleep, black-out, and censor words for sensitive souls.) I'm not precious. For years I've been aware that some people will try to make me feel uncomfortable or shamed by calling my work smut rather than erotica. But I just don't care. I write stories. In my stories, characters often have sex. Porn, smut, erotica—sure. Really? It's fiction. That's the true label.

But back to sluts. Most definitions of the word include something like: "woman who enjoys sex in a degree that is shamelessly excessive" (dating to 1966). So I feel I have something in common with the word. You could call a woman who enjoys excessive sex a lot of things. How about happy? Satisfied. Adventurous. Fulfilled. Like the people (often former friends, I'm sad to say) who have felt obliged to put down my writing, there is a faction of the population who has the same need to put down sexually powerful women.

Circa 14th century, the term meant "a dirty, slovenly, or untidy woman."

Fifteenth century usage of "slut" referred to a "woman of loose character, bold hussy."

Pause here. Because I fucking love the word "hussy." We need to bring this back.

Up through the eighteenth century, the word was equated more with sloppiness than what we now consider sluttiness. It was the playful complement to scamp for boys. But over the years, slut took on the current meaning (while we seem to have completely lost 'scamp').

Sometimes when I dig around for one of these etymologies, I come up short. I can't find what I'm looking for. Today, I'm overwhelmed. There are sluts everywhere I turn. You'll be charmed to know that many of the "slut" references I uncovered were French-kissing the term "slattern." The two seem to go hand in hand, or mouth to mouth, or cunt to... well. Those are words for other days.

I found 981 files featuring the word "slut" on my computer. So I guess that it's one of my go-to words. Here is the realization I had while putting this post together. Smut is the slut of literature. Which makes me something of a smut-slut, I suppose.

Here are some of my previous forays into dirty words:

• douchebag
• dick
tramp
snatch

XXX,
Alison

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