Camping's a real drag
Society seems to have a fetish for acronyms, to the extent that any short word with even a vaguely sexual connotation is accused of being one. Michael Raynor, who probably had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, asked about two of these: drag and fuck. I'll add a third suspect: camp. Here's Michael in full (almost):
"The tale I've heard is that drag is an acronym for DRessed As a Girl and harkens back to the Elizabethan stage when only males acted, thus requiring boys and occasionally men to fill what are now women's roles. DRAG would show in the marginalia to indicate this. Is this even remotely correct?
"I've been told that fuck is similarly an acronym for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and is an upshot of Victorian England's need to use euphemisms... when prostitutes were arrested... the good constables, in the interests of expediency, simply began scribbling F.U.C.K. in the police blotters. Again, is there an element of truth in it all?"
No to the first, No to the second, and No, camp does not come from the New York cops' habit of abbreviating Known As Male Prostitute to KAMP when they arrested one of the lads.
Drag is theatrical for transvestism, all right, but is early 20th century theatre slang deriving from men's long dresses dragging on the ground as they walked around the stage.
Fuck has been recorded as early as the 12th century, and probably comes from the German ficken, to strike. Obviously, therefore, it's not an acronym for Fornication Under Command of the King either.
Camp is also theatrical, from early this century, and probably comes from the French camper, to pose.
There! That's those definitively out of the way. Anyone who wishes to insist on the acronymic derivations should form a queue on the left, firmly clutching the evidence (Elizabethan scripts, police blotters, royal edicts) in their right hands.
Return to the Word for Word articles