February 9th, 2004


Word for the Wise - International Flirting Week

weather: sunny
outside: 6°C
mood: chipper
Merriam-Webster: Word for the Wise for today:

Not only is today the first day of International Flirting Week, but today is also the 90th birth anniversary of Rose Louise Hovick. Miss Hovick went on to become an internationally renowned flirt of a specific type: she grew up to be Gypsy Rose Lee, ecdysiast extraordinaire.

We've talked before about the origin of the word ecdysiast, a 1940-synonym of "stripteaser." Ecdysiast was the creation of H.L. Mencken, who was asked (by another stripper, not Gypsy Rose) to come up with a classier sounding job title for her. Mencken based his term on the scientific term for "molting."

But today we talk not about molting or stripping, but about the various ways one can flirt. Back in the mid-1500s, when the noun flirt first appeared in English, one of its senses named "a smart stroke of wit; a joke; a gibe," much like the remark with which Gypsy Rose Lee greeted Mencken's coinage: "What does he know about stripping? We don't wear feathers and molt them off."

That "gibe" sense of flirt fell from use by the early 1700s, but in its place was another sort of flirt, one that might apply to less than skillful practitioners of the striptease. This flirt names "a quick, sudden, or darting movement." That sense survives, as does the more familiar (and one of the earliest senses) of flirt: coquette, or a person who behaves amorously without serious intent.

*raise eyebrow* That's fascinating. =)

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