when "intercourse" got funny

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Sep 27 17:27:05 UTC 2006

On Sep 27, 2006, at 9:48 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:

> ... One might contrast the career of "occupy," which eighteenth-
> cenury writers allegedly began avoiding in droves because it had
> become sexualized; there was no social counterbalance to keep the
> word innocent.  But eventually everybody forgot the sexual meaning,
> which seems remarkable in itself.

that has always seemed astonishing to me.  if the standard story is
to be believed, the word was desexualized, an event that is, i think,
quite rare in language history.  i can devise a story that would
allow this to happen, but it would require a competitor word that
came into fashion and swamped "occupy" in the sexual meaning, so
freeing the word up for non-sexual meanings.  unfortunately, i'm
deeply ignorant of word histories in the 18th and 19th centuries.


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