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Five Words You Didn't Realize Had "Dirty" Origins

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.



Five Words You Didn't Realize Had "Dirty" Origins
There are many words in common use today that had rather unsavory affiliations years back. Here are just five examples of words you didn't know were actually dirty:

1. Occupy: Well, the Occupy Movement would definitely have had different connotations if we went by historical context. From between the 15th to 17th centuries, this word meant sexual penetration.

2. Nunnery: The well-known line from Hamlet ("Get thee to a nunnery!") has a dual meaning which people in Shakespeare's time knew well. A nunnery could be the religious place we know it as now but it was also a common term for a brothel.

3. Token: We use this phrase today to suggest a small representation of goodwill ("token of my affection") but in the early 1800s, a "token" was a venereal disease.

4. Scumbag: Not exactly an innocent word but still quite G-rated, no? Actually, no. While the term today would be used to describe an unreliable character without resorting to profanity, it had a decidedly different meaning in the 1940s when it referred to a used condom.

5. Feet: If we go back to the Bible, we find numerous examples of a big fuss being made about people covering or uncovering their feet. This is because covering one's feet meant the individual was attending to the call of nature. Since almost everyone wore long tunics back then, their feet would be covered if they squatted down to, well, you know.