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Slut or slattern is a pejorative term meaning an individual who is sexually promiscuous. The term is generally applied to women and used as an insult or offensive term of disparagement, meaning "dirty or slovenly."[1] It may also be used as an expression of pride in oneself or envy at the sexual successes of others.

Contents

Etymology

Although the ultimate origin of slut is unknown, it first appeared in Middle English in 1402 as slutte (AHD), with the meaning "a dirty, untidy, or slovenly woman."[2] Even earlier, Geoffrey Chaucer used the word sluttish (c.1386) to describe a slovenly man; however, later uses appear almost exclusively associated with women.[2] The modern sense of "a sexually promiscuous woman" dates to at least 1450.[2]

Another early meaning was "kitchen maid or drudge" (c. 1450), a meaning retained as late as the 18th century, when hard knots of dough found in bread were referred to as "slut's pennies."[2] A notable example of this use is Samuel Pepys's diary description of his servant girl as "an admirable slut" who "pleases us mightily, doing more service than both the others and deserves wages better" (February 1664). In the 19th century, the word was used as a euphemism in place of bitch in the sense of "a female dog."[2][3]

Similar words appear in Dutch, German and Swedish dialects meaning "a dirty woman," indicating a common ancestor in Germanic languages. The word entered the colloquial Yiddish as "akhsluttishkha" meaning "a hag". It exists in Ukrainian too as slutyj as a loan word from Yiddish or via the mediaeval Scandinavian Varangian colonists in Kievan Rus'. A popular theory connects slut to earlier Germanic forms meaning "slush" or "mud puddle," but this derivation remains in question.

Common usages

The accepted denotative meaning is a sexually promiscuous woman[4] or "a woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade."[5] These definitions identify a slut as a person of low character — a person who lacks the ability or chooses not to exercise a power of discernment to order their affairs, such as a cad, rake, or womanizer. The adjective "slutty" carries a similar connotation but can be applied both to people and to clothing and accessories, such as Halloween costumes.[6]

The term slut is therefore frequently used as an insult. The derogatory power of the term derives both from its denotative meaning of a promiscuous woman, but also from its historical and regional connotations or alternate meanings that identify a slut as a dirty or unkempt person. These additional meanings and connotations are negative and identify a slut as being a slovenly and ugly person, for example as in these quotations from OED2:

Hearne, 1715: "Nor was she a Woman of any Beauty, but was a nasty Slut."
Shenstone, 1765: "She's ugly, she's old,... And a slut, and a scold."

The attack on the character of the person is perhaps best brought together by the highly suggestive and related compound word, slut's-hole, meaning a place or receptacle for rubbish;[7] the associated quote provides a sense of this original meaning:

Saturday Review (London), 1862: "There are a good many slut-holes in London to rake out."

The British journalist Katharine Whitehorn attempted to re-claim this latter meaning in a famous 1963 article in The Observer:[8] "Have you ever taken anything out of the dirty-clothes basket because it had become, relatively, the cleaner thing? Changed stockings in a taxi? Could you try on clothes in any shop, any time, without worrying about your underclothes? How many things are in the wrong room—cups in the study, boots in the kitchen? ... [this makes] you one of us: the miserable, optimistic, misunderstood race of sluts." This article prompted a flurry of correspondence, with many women writing in to describe their own acts of sluttishness.

Alternate usages

Recent times have seen alternate slang usages of the word slut. It is often used against gay males and bisexuals, comparing them without merit as people who are promiscuous in that they have, or are reputed to have, many sexual partners, or whose sexuality is voracious, indiscriminate, and shameful.

Slut is also used as a slang term in the BDSM, polyamorous, and gay and bisexual communities.[9] With BDSM, polyamorous, and non-monogamous people, in usage taken from the book The Ethical Slut, the term has been used as an expression of choice to openly have multiple partners, and revel in that choice: "a slut is a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you."[10] A slut is a person who has taken control of their sexuality and has sex with whomever they choose, regardless of religious or social pressures or conventions to conform to a straight-laced monogamous lifestyle committed to one partner for life. The term has been "taken back" to express the rejection of the concept that government, society, or religion may judge or control one's personal liberties, and the right to control one's own sexuality.

A few porn stars have embraced the term as a badge of pride for a sex-positive person.

The term is also used (principally by women) to describe a woman dressed provocatively or a woman being overtly flirtatious.

British author Helen Fielding used the word in her Bridget Jones series to refer to slovenly or dirty habits. The series is written in the First Person, and it is not determined whether this apparent malapropism is an in character error of Bridget Jones, or part of Fielding's own idiolect:

"Check plates and cutlery for tell-tale signs of sluttish washing up[...]"[11]

See also

References

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50228191?query_type=word&queryword=slut&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type=alpha&result_place=1&search_id=l18q-tSj8uX-5088&hilite=50228191
  2. ^ a b c d e Harper, Douglas. "slut". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=slut.  
  3. ^ A Dictionary of English Synonymes and Synonymous Or Parallel Expressions By Richard Soule - 1891
  4. ^ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (abridged)entry for 'slut'
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (unabridged), Second Edition entry for 'slut'
  6. ^ GW Hatchet, "What's the Deal with Slutty Halloween Costumes?"
  7. ^ http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50228191/50228191se4 Dictionary.oed.com
  8. ^ How to Succeed as a Slut - TIME
  9. ^ Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt. 1997. The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities.Greenery Press. ISBN 1-890159-01-8
  10. ^ Easton, Dossie; Catherine A. Liszt (1997). The Ethical Slut. San Francisco: Greenery Press. p. 4. ISBN 1-890159-01-8. "emphasis in original"  
  11. ^ Fielding, Helen. "Bridget Jones's Diary". http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/bridget-joness-diary-1317699.html. Retrieved 2009-08-03.  

External links


Simple English

Slut is a broad word used to describe women who often have casual sex, without depending on their age, race, or ethnic background. The word is considered to be offensive.[1] It probably comes from the German Schlutt "slovenly woman".[2] It could also come from Swedish slata "idle woman, slut".[2] It may have come from Dutch slodder "slut".[2] However, it is not known where it came from for sure.[2] Chaucer uses the word sluttish (late 14c.) to describe a dirty man. However, it is most often used today to describe women, not men.[2] Also, hard pieces in bread because it was not well kneaded was called "slut's pennies".[2]

References









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