More euphemisms: "pervasive language"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 18 06:08:02 UTC 2012

Back in the '60's a popular dance among black Americans was the
"sophisticated sissy." As constant readers know, in BE, _punk_ is,
perhaps, *the* derogatory term for a male homosexual, since it has no
other meaning. Needless to say, it's not the only term. There is also,
for instance, _sissy_, which, in addition to having the usual, sE
semantics, is used as a derogatory term for a male homosexual. The
movement of the body and the steps used in doing the sophisticated
sissy evolved from an interpretation by some unknown amateur
choreographer of the "walk" of someone like the character, "Emory,"
played by the late-great Cliff Gorman, in the play/movie, The Boys in
the Band.

The dance originated in response to an instrumental by The Meters -
later, The Neville Brothers - called "_Cissy_ Strut," followed up by
another instrumental, "Sophisticated Cissy," presumably inspired, in
its turn, by the dance inspired by the original recording.

Now, why _Cissy_ and not _Sissy_?

Well, _sissy_ is like, you know, a bad word, obscene, even. What if
your gay cousin is going through your sides and finds that you own
records with the word, "sissy" in their titles? Not cool, y'all!

Naturally, Cuz won't be faked out by this "misspelling." But, it shows
respect, as when the Wayanses used _posse_ on In Living Color in
places where _pussy_ was clearly meant. The network and FCC censors
weren't fooled by that. But, they let it pass.

There were songs written to accompany the rhythm, but none contained
even _cissy_ in their titles, let alone [sIsI] in their lyrics.

OTOH, WRT another popular dance of that era, the "nigger walk,"
possibly inspired by what's called the "pimp walk" or the "swag(ger),
nowadays - in my youth, it was the "cut walk"; not even a WAG as to
the origin of that - no music having any mention of the name of the
dance existed, as you'd expect to have been the case, fifty years

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Fri, Mar 16, 2012 at 7:28 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: More euphemisms: Â "pervasive language"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ...or my favorite euphemistic narrowing, "substance-free" (dorms, residence halls, floors), which doesn't denote living in a vacuum. Â But really no different from "suggestive", inter alia.
> LH
> On Mar 16, 2012, at 6:58 PM, Neal Whitman wrote:
>> Although this phrase is new to me, I take it to be the same semantic narrowing of "language" to mean "offensive or obscene language" as you get in movies that are rated PG for "mild language":
>> Neal
>> On Mar 16, 2012, at 5:59 PM, "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
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>>> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Poster: Â  Â  Â  "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>>> Subject: Â  Â  Â More euphemisms: Â "pervasive language"
>>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> From the capsule attached to a review of the movie "21 Jump Street"
>>> by Wesley Morris in today's Boston Globe:
>>> Rated: R (crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug
>>> material, teen drinking, and some violence)"
>>> About 1,520,000 Ghits, the first few asking (and alleging) what it
>>> means but many referring to other concepts. Â And apparently standard
>>> -- part of the code?; other newspapers use the same phrase about the
>>> same movie (GNews). Â The phrase seems to go back to about 1994 in
>>> this context (GNews), but is hard to trace for this sense in GBooks.
>>> So Morris did not mean "perverse". Â Perhaps he meant "persuasive" --
>>> influencing someone into underage sex. Â In a movie about the Catholic
>>> Church, "pervasive language" would be repeated exchanges of "Bless
>>> you, Father;" "Bless you, my son".
>>> I also wonder what is R about "drug material". Â Surely more than just
>>> seeing it.
>>> Joel
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society -
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>> The American Dialect Society -
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> The American Dialect Society -

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