"Making love"

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Wed Apr 10 18:32:22 UTC 2002

I can think of one attestation of the continued use of the "innocent"
meaning coexisting with the 1950 cite of the sexual one.  There was a
popular song by Jo Stafford that I remember from sometime in the 1950s,
which started with the line, "Hold me in your arms and never let me go,"
and ended with the line, "Make love to me!"  (I'm sure there will be others
who will remember the title of the song and precisely when the record was

I suppose there is only circumstantial evidence to indicate that this use
did not carry the sexual meaning: this was the 1950s, before the sexual
revolution.  Popular songs were much more chaste than now, and I don't
think an overt sexual reference would have been allowed (by the publisher)
in one.  I guess I can't prove this use was not a euphemistic one, snuck
past a clueless censor--but even there, the very fact that any censor could
have been clueless about this expression would itself be further
circumstantial evidence of the coexistence of the two meanings.

Peter Mc.

--On Wednesday, April 10, 2002 1:48 PM -0400 Laurence Horn
<laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:

> You can check the OED glosses to see the shift in "make love", but
> they will leave you with a gap between a clearly "innocent" use in
> 1860 ("How often..do we make love to the charms of cousins and
> avuncular expectations") to a just as clearly euphemistic one in 1950
> ("One of the Carvers made love to her and she had a baby").  The
> shift obviously occurred somewhere in between, but it would be nice
> to pin it down a bit more narrowly.  At the same time, we'd expect to
> find a period of overlap, where the euphemistic and "innocent" senses
> could both have been used before taboo avoidance (a.k.a. Gresham's
> Law) kicked in and rendered the innocent use impossible

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at linfield.edu

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