The Dirty Word in 43 Down

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Fri Apr 7 01:58:25 UTC 2006

On Thu, Apr 06, 2006 at 08:27:50PM -0400, Baker, John wrote:
>         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.

This is an issue that I couldn't really address. Indeed, it's
often said that the literal meaning of _scumbag_ is
specifically a _used_ condom. I don't really see the evidence
for this; the contextual cites I've seen are generally for 'a
condom', period, and the only place it's clear that it's a
used one is in the act of asserting this. But the 'despicable
person' sense is overwhelmingly more common.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society -

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