Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Nov 18 16:38:45 UTC 2005

>In a message dated 11/18/05 7:37:42 AM, douglas at NB.NET writes:
>>  >Ca.1963, IIRC, the late, great Raven McDavid reviewed a slang dictionary
>>  for
>>  >Language. He noted that the compiler claimed that the word, "horny," in the
>>  >sexual sense was "of unknown origin." McDavid then stated that anyone
>>  >familiar with common farm animals knows the origin of the sexual sense of
>>  >"horny." Further deponent sayeth not.
>>  >
>>  >Does anyone know what in hell he was talking about?
>>  I don't know for sure. Maybe I haven't been familiar enough with the
>>  animals.
>>  Me, I'd naively assume "horny" < "horn" = "erection" as shown in HDAS.
>>  Perhaps it's just that many animals (in season) have more conspicuous and
>>  unconcealed sexual excitement than typical humans do?
>>  -- Doug Wilson
>>  This would be my guess. I have a vague memory of discussing this word with
>Raven, and while I am not sure that his in-person explanation was much less
>opaque than the written one, Doug's conjecture strikes me as the right one.
>Whether or not Raven was also conjecturing I cannot say for sure,
>but it sounds like
>his etymology owes a lot to "stands to reason."

It would be interesting to track the earliest uses of "horny" as a
sex-neutral term, since presumably the "horn" < 'erection' derivation
would have had to undergo some loss of transparency before the
adjective could be felicitously applied to female referents.

L. Horn

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