Early Example of "Make Love" Meaning "Have Sex"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Aug 20 17:18:01 UTC 2014

On Aug 20, 2014, at 7:24 AM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:

> Another probable early example of "make love" meaning "have sex" is from _Lady Chatterley’s Lover_:
>    ‘It seems to me you might leave the labels off sex. We’re free to talk to anybody; so why shouldn’t we be free to make love to any woman who inclines us that way?’
>    ‘There speaks the lascivious Celt,’ said Clifford.
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

and earlier in the same we have this exchange between the two writers Charlie May (Clifford Chatterley's "lascivious Celt" in the above exchange) and Hammond:

"The whole point about the sexual problem," said Hammond, who was a tall thin fellow with a wife and two children, but much more closely connected with a typewriter, "is that there is no point to it. Strictly there is no problem. We don't want to follow a man into the W.C., so why should we want to follow him into bed with a woman? And therein lies the problem. If we took no more notice of the one thing than the other, there'd be no problem. It's all utterly senseless and pointless; a matter of misplaced curiosity."

"Quite, Hammond, quite! But if someone starts making love to Julia, you begin to simmer; and if he goes on, you are soon at boiling point.". . .Julia was Hammond's wife.

"Why, exactly! So I should be if he began to urinate in a corner of my drawing-room. There's a place for all these things."

"You mean you wouldn't mind if he made love to Julia in some discreet alcove?" Charlie May was slightly satirical, for he had flirted a very little with Julia, and Hammond had cut up very roughly. 

"Of course I should mind. Sex is a private thing between me and Julia; and of course I should mind anyone else trying to mix in."

--I would guess that the first instance of "make love" ("But if someone starts making love to Julia, you begin to simmer") is the older one, akin to "flirt with", while probably the second one ("made love to Julia in some discreet alcove") and clearly the one Fred cites, several lines below it, represent the euphemistic one.  Immediately following Clifford's remark we have this between May and Hammond:

"Lascivious! well, why not--? I can't see I do a woman any more harm by sleeping with her than by dancing with her. . .or even talking to her about the weather. It's just an interchange of sensations instead of ideas, so why not?"

"Be as promiscuous as the rabbits!" said Hammond.

"Why not? What's wrong with rabbits? Are they any worse than a neurotic, revolutionary humanity, full of nervous hate?"
Those rabbits aren't just flirting.

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

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