"Nautch house"/"notch house"

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sat Feb 7 12:05:57 UTC 2004

Not to mention those who have prostituted the English language by
conflating the vowels in question.


I see both "nautch" and "notch" in HDAS meaning "whore" (including "nautch
house", "notch girl", etc.). No etymology is given for "nautch" but a "cf."
directs one to "notch" where it is stated that "notch" = "prostitute"
originates in the old (non-US) "notch" = "vagina".

This etymology does not seem right to me.

"Notch" and "nautch" seem to be the same word here. "Notch" is a common
standard English word; "nautch" is not. Unless there is strong evidence to
the contrary, one would have to take "notch" to be a respelling of "nautch"
rather than the other way around.

Standard English "nautch" of course is pretty clearly derived from Hindi
(or related language) and it refers to dancing girls, in which sense it
appears many times in US newspapers on-line far back into the 19th century,
often with remarks about the indecency/immorality of the 'Oriental' dance

I am sure the stereotype (how well justified I don't know) of "nautch
dancer" would have resembled "[near-]prostitute".

Most likely this (and not "notch" = "vagina") is the origin of the
"nautch"/"notch" expressions in question IMHO.

-- Doug Wilson

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