Gendered insults, obsolete edition

The Oxford Etymologist recently did a fascinating post on some of the gendered insults of a few centuries ago. You may be familiar with some of them—for example, readers of Dickens and Shakespeare may recognize drab as a ye olden times worde for “slut”—but others—like traipse and girl—may surprise you.

In olden days women were supposed to be sweet, docile, and, if possible, incorporeal. On the other hand, men, subject to the universal law of contrasts, threw their weight about, and, once they “arrived,” demonstrated corpulence. They invented countless offensive words referring to women’s way of walking. One of them is trot “old hag,” known from the middle of the 14th century.

It’s really well worth a read, even if you think you don’t care about such relatively obscure language issues. I should warn you, however, that I am such a renowned word nerd that I have received as gifts two hardcover copies of Strunk and White, and, for my most recent birthday, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which I love inordinately. So my endorsement may be a bit more enthusiastic than most peoples’.

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One Response

  1. “Even less clear is the derivation of trot “toddler” and trot “young animal,” first recorded in 1854 and 1895 respectively”

    Some of the Oz books from the early twentieth century have a young girl protagonist named Trot.

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