The Dirty Word in 43 Down

Fri Apr 7 00:27:50 UTC 2006

        There's an interesting article in Slate today, by our own Jesse
Sheidlower, on the use of "scumbag" as an answer in a recent New York
Times crossword,  There apparently
were dozens of complaints; it seems that the crossword puzzle is
expected to maintain a standard of clean language surpassing even the
comic page (in newspapers that have comics pages, of course).
Predictably, many puzzlers had no idea what the fuss was about.

        I was under the impression that scumbag means literally a used
condom; Jesse mentions only the broader sense of a condom.  In any case,
I will concede that I almost never hear the word used to mean a condom
of any kind.  It's almost invariably a term of vituperation.

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list