The Dirty Word in 43 Down

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 8 01:06:55 UTC 2006

WRT the "correct" meaning of "scumbag," I'm with John, but only because I
read it somewhere some uncertain number of years ago. I've never come across
this term in the wild, whether among whites, blacks, Asians, or chicanos.
I've never heard "scuzzbag" or any of the other TV pswaydo-euphemisms,


On 4/6/06, Baker, John <JMB at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject:      The Dirty Word in 43 Down
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>         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
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