The Dirty Word in 43 Down

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Apr 7 14:04:24 UTC 2006

I did the puzzle on Monday and when I saw the word, my reaction was a bit
different. I thought, "ooh, they are going to get letters about this one,"
but the condom sense didn't even cross my mind. I know that "scumbag" is
literally a condom, but I've never encountered this sense "in the wild." My
thought that some would find it highly objectionable was due solely to the
despicable person sense and the fact that it was very out of place--the
puzzle never uses such words and, so, was surprising.

Maybe I'm just weird.

--Dave Wilton
  dave at

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Baker, John
Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2006 5:28 PM
Subject: The Dirty Word in 43 Down

        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 -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list