Monday, February 15, 2010

Yay words, yay Mencken.

Savage Love was great this week, and next to it in the Mercury was an ad I hadn't noticed before, for "Ecdysiast: A Pole Dancing Studio." I was like, "ecdysiast?" So googled it. Wiktionary defines it as "An erotic dancer who removes their clothes as a form of entertainment; a stripper." The etymology is the fascinating part: "Coined by H. L. Mencken from ecdysis." Ecdysis: "The shedding of an outer layer of skin in snakes, crustaceans and insects; moulting."

Here are the citations provided by the OED:

1940 MENCKEN Let. 5 Apr. in Amer. Lang. Suppl. I. (1945) VI. vi. 585 It might be a good idea to relate strip-teasing in some way..to the associated zo├Âlogical phenomenon of molting... A resort to the scientific name for molting, which is ecdysis, produces both ecdysist and ecdysiast. 1947 I. BROWN Say the Word 50 And there we can leave the problems and pride of ecdysiasm. 1957 Times Lit. Suppl. 11 Oct. 611/2 As happily sustained a piece of autobiographical ecdysiasm as we remember. 1958 Time 7 July 44/1 Is it possible for a nightclub to lose money with famed Ecdysiast Sherry Britton stripping to bugle beads and pearls?

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