The Dirty Word in 43 Down

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 7 02:42:29 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,

This was the sense that I was first taught, probably in summer camp
in the 50's, but I agree there's been a semantic shift since then.


>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 -

The American Dialect Society -

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