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Five terms for sex that are older than you think

As long as people have been having sex and using English they’ve been inventing colourful euphemisms to describe the act. Sometimes literally colourful. One the earliest euphemisms for sex recorded by Green’s Dictionary of Slang is ‘give someone a green gown’ – meaning to have sex out of doors. The first recorded mention of the terms goes all the way back to 1351.

Which got us thinking that some expressions to describe sex could be older than people might think. Turns out we were right. Here are five examples of current euphemisms with long histories.

Shag

Sorry to break it to you, Austin Powers, but people had been using this one way before the swinging ’60s. Though it did pop up in the ’70s – the 1770s, that is. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States of America, used it in his personal books of memorandums in 1770.

Screw

No, not the things that hold furniture together. (Even if it’s often performed on furniture.) A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue recorded the word as meaning “to copulate with a Woman” way back in 1796.

Hump

A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue has this one as well, recording it as “a fashionable word for copulation”. Something to keep in mind when you travel back in time to seventeenth-century London and want to act hip and sexy.

Roger

Though this one might sound a touch old-fashioned you might not know it’s 316 years old fashioned. That’s when the Oxford English Dictionary first records a mention of the word used in a sexual sense. Though it doesn’t owe the use to an actual guy named Roger, the word does have its roots in the Old High German Hrotger which means ‘famous with the spear’. Which seems pretty appropriate.

‘It’

You know, it. The quickest way to say sex without actually saying ‘sex’ is super old, dated back to the middle of the fifteenth century – just at the point when Middle English started to resemble the Modern English we speak today. It’s also been used by pretty fancy types: the Oxford English Dictionary notes it being used in this sense by writers James Joyce and Thomas Wolfe.