[Ads-l] Venus Callipyga (and a colleague)

James Eric Lawson jel at NVENTURE.COM
Fri Apr 23 21:51:03 UTC 2021

Mencken's invention, 'ecdysiast' (or 'ecdysist'), gives short shift
(okay, perhaps shrift) to the esthetic of erotic dance, which like any
art must aim to produce a static rather than a kinetic emotion in the
viewer. In the 1948 Supplement II of _The American Language_, Mencken
observes, somewhat regretfully it seems, that 'ecdysiast' was "denounced
as snobbish by Gypsy Rose Lee, the queen of the profession, but made its
way in both the United States and England". He suggests that a 1944
variant, 'ecdysiste', "apparently suggested by *artiste*", refined the term.

My feeling is that, as long as or even if we're not resorting to
entomology for an etymological source, the term 'eclosion', "emergence
from concealment", from French *éclore*, produces the happier and more
satisfying 'eclosiste' (or if the type of 'enthusiasm' is followed, as
Mencken originally did, 'eclosiast').

An anecdote printed in the _Daily News_, New York, 08 Apr 1940 (p 307,
col 2) fleshes out the motivation behind Mencken's 'ecdysiast':

    Georgia Sothern has been pleading with highbrow
word-wrestlers--philologists and semanticists, she calls 'em--to think
of a new term for strip-teasing. Having read a book she is quite
literate and no doubt was able to cope with the letter she got Saturday
from H. L. Mencken, author of "The American Language." Wrote Mr. M.:
    "I need not tell you I sympathize with you in your affliction and
wish that I could help you. Unfortunately no really persuasive new name
suggests itself. It might be a good idea to relate strip-teasing in some
way or other to the associated zoological phenomenon of molting. Thus
the word moltician comes to mind, but it must be rejected because of its
likeness to mortician.
    "A resort to the scientific name for molting, which is *ecdysis*,
produces both *ecdysist* and *ecdysiast*. Then there are suggestions in
the names of some of the creatures which practice molting. The
scientific name for the common crab is *callinectes hastatus*, which
produces *callinectian* [which in this ADS-L context harkens back to
'callipygian' in the beauty part, if not the buttock part]. Again there
is a family of lizards called the *geckonidae* and their name produces
*gecko*. Perhaps your advisers may be able to find other suggestions in
the same general direction."

On 4/22/21 5:01 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> In the same day’s paper (at least calculating from the printed 
> version dropped off on our doorstep this morning), we have the 
> semantically not unrelated “ecdysiastical” from an obit for Tempest 
> Storm (not her real name, but apparently a happily chosen one):
> "Routinely named in the same ardent breath as the great 20th-century
>  ecdysiasts Lili St. Cyr, Blaze Starr and Gypsy Rose Lee, Ms. Storm 
> was every inch as ecdysiastical as they, and for far longer.” 
> https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/arts/tempest-storm-dead.html
> Sticking to the adjective and adverb (without stripping down to the 
> nominal “ecdysiast”), a search of the Times archives turns up (at 
> least) two instances of “ecdysiastic” and one of “ecdysiastically” 
> but none of “ecdysiastical”. This may be a “Times first”: 
> https://www.reddit.com/r/NYTFirsts/comments/mvkxnc/ecdysiastical/.
> OED has no entry for “ecdysiastical”, but helpful suggests I must 
> have meant “ecclesiastical”.  Close enough for…well, you decide what
>  sort of work. The OED does confirm (correctly?) that the nominal 
> “ecdysiast” tracks back to a 1940 coinage by Mencken:
> "It might be a good idea to relate strip-teasing in some way..to the
>  associated zoölogical phenomenon of molting... A resort to the 
> scientific name for molting, which is _ecdysis_, produces both 
> _ecdysist_ and _ecdysiast_.”
> LH

James Eric Lawson

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

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