The Dirty Word in 43 Down

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Apr 7 15:05:01 UTC 2006

Clearly the condom sense is the root cause of the objectionability, but I'm
not sure that people automatically think of a condom when they hear the
word. "Scumbag" is a nastier epithet than "slimeball," not because of the
etymology but because of the contexts in which they are used.

"Scuzzbag", at least to me, is a minced form of "scumbag," and therefore
more acceptable.

--Dave Wilton
  dave at

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Jesse Sheidlower
Sent: Friday, April 07, 2006 7:16 AM
Subject: Re: The Dirty Word in 43 Down

On Fri, Apr 07, 2006 at 07:04:24AM -0700, Dave Wilton wrote:
> 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."
> 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.

Yes, yet another thing I didn't address was how objectionable the
word would be _without_ the 'condom' sense--would "slimeball" or
"scuzzbag" be OK? But since no one seemed to object to the word
for any reason _other_ than the 'condom' implication, I didn't
think it was worth getting into.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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