[Ads-l] "flux" = "to bleed" and OED2 -- sense absent?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Dec 6 17:38:05 UTC 2014

Then there's flux, n. for 'menses, period', going back centuries (the but only exemplified in the OED under entry 2a ('A flowing out, issue, discharge (of humours, etc.)') by these two curious cites:

1650   J. Bulwer Anthropometamorphosis Pref.,   Here Females..do by Art that monethly Flux prevent.
1752   W. Smellie Treat. Midwifery I. 105   Several ingenious theories have been erected to account for the flux of the Menses.

(Presumably the "art" Bulwer has in mind doesn't entail either pregnancy or menopause.)

I thought the King James Version verses on the uncleanness of women in Leviticus referred to the monthly flux, which would have predated Bulwer, but I see "discharge" is used there, and "flux" only in the Victorian-era Darby version.  Maybe I'm thinking of 19th century novels.


On Dec 6, 2014, at 10:55 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> My impression is that "to flux" was used frequently, over several centuries, with the meaning "to bleed" (as in "bleed, v.", sense 9, "To draw or let blood from, esp. surgically.")  Is that sense absent, or at least too obscure, in "flux, v." in OED2?
> "flux, v." sense 1.a, trans., is defined as "To treat medically by subjecting to a flux; esp. to salivate. Also, of food or drink: To produce a flux in (a person); to purge. Obs."  If "salivate" is called out, why not "bleed", which I suspect was more common?
> There is a referral to "flux, n.", for which sense 1.a. does mention blood: "An abnormally copious flowing of blood, excrement, etc. from the bowels or other organs; a morbid or excessive discharge. spec. An early name for dysentery ..."  But is bleeding well-described as a "flowing ... from the bowels or other organs"?
> It's possible, however, that I've been misreading 17th and 18th century texts, and that the instances I've seen of "to flux" have instead the meaning "to purge" -- as in sense 2.a, "trans. To eliminate or expel (waste or harmful matter, etc.) from the body or an organ" -- that is, particularly feces or urine (saliva would be another "waste").
> Joel 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list