victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 12 16:34:13 UTC 2010

The "creep" part sounds about right to me. There seems to be some
differentiation going on between "creep" and "creeper". "Creep" is
something one would expect to hear on NYPD Blue of Law & Order--a
generally negative description of a man (more often than not--but need
not be), someone unpleasant, particularly a suspect in a crime (in the
TV show context), or in a generic sense, e.g., "some creep". "Creeper"
is closer to "pervert" than "creep".

There are 151 definitions in UD for "creeper", with the many
suggesting "older guy stalking/ogling young women". "Creep" only has
49 definitions, including several for the verb and some that overlap
with "creeper" in the sense "pervert". But the majority seem to be
closer to "loser', "unpleasant", "jerk".

Top UD entry for "creep" is "1950's word used by women to decribe an
undesirable man." The "1950's" bit is a touch gratuitous, but
generally represents a number of other entries in UD. And I have
little doubt that some people substitute one for the other--I suppose,
the real question is whether these coexist generally or if there are
people who exclude one in favor of the other (more specifically, if
they exclude "creep" in favor of "creeper"). Google is useless for
such a task, but here are a couple of news/blog items:

--Stanley Tucci, definitely a creeper in The Lovely Bones.
--While working on a campaign to keep college women safe from assault
on campus, my partners referred to the would-be rapist by calling him
a "creeper.
--By now, most kids know the old creeper kidnapper trick: Attacker
pretends he is lost and needs a clueless child to help him find his
--Awesome, right? I haven't needed to use it yet, but I'm thinking I
will go ahead and spray any creeper that comes too close and risk
going to jail.

But, there are other uses for "creeper"--a "creeper burglar", "creeper
vine" and "creeper" as in "creepy or scary movie".


On Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 10:01 AM, Gordon, Matthew J.
<GordonMJ at> wrote:
> I don't believe I use 'creeper' but my sense is that it's not synonymous with 'creep' for its users. My definition of 'creep' is much broader than the one you provided. A 'creep' is more of a general pejorative, not a term just for someone who's creepy. It's much closer to 'jerk' for me, but then I don't think I've used 'creep' in years. If my sense of 'creep' is widespread, then the development of 'creeper' might be seen as motivated by the semantic gap left to describe a creepy person, especially a sexual predator.
> -Matt Gordon
> On 3/12/10 7:43 AM, "Amy West" <medievalist at W-STS.COM> wrote:
> I've been noticing a term that my kids here in Worcester and their
> cohorts (13 and 10 years old respectively) have been using and also
> spotted in one of my student's (18-year-old freshman) papers:
> They use "creeper" to mean what I would call a "creep," as in a
> creepy, scary, or shady person. "He's a creeper."
> I have not done my due diligence to see how widespread this is. It's
> just a productive use of the -er ending to form a noun from a verb.
> For them a "creeper" is someone who "creeps" around, skulking around.
> There's a sense of menace in their use of "creeper" (and frankly in
> my own use of "creep") that isn't captured by MW C11's definition of
> "creep" (n) as "an unpleasant or obnoxious person."
> [The context where I first learned the use: I was pointing out
> someone at an SF con who I wanted them to avoid because he has
> sexually harassed young women. "Oh, he's a creeper" was their
> response, meaning if I had just said "Avoid that guy: he's a creeper"
> I could have been more direct.]
> ---Amy West

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list