The Dirty Word in 43 Down

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Fri Apr 7 17:41:59 UTC 2006

When NYPD Blue first came on, there was much notice of its use of this
word.  I knew it then as "despicable person", but was surprised when the
used condom sense was brought out -- I'd never heard it in that sense
(or even to mean "condom").  Since that time, 1993, I've been paying
attention and have never once heard it used as a synonym for "used
condom" or "condom" unless, as Jesse notes, that someone was asserting
that it had that meaning.

> 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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