Ah Valentine’s Day! The time for a lad and a lass, for love and lust.
Ever notice how many such words, particularly the lusty ones, begin with the letter l? (Lusty lads leer lewdly at loose lasses. Not to mention lesbian and Lysistrata!) I wonder why. This week, in honor of the fleshy aspects of Valentine’s Day, we’ll enjoy l-words of that sort.
We start with one which also fits last week’s theme, in that it has the same pronunciation as a more familiar word.
lickerish – 1. lecherous, lustful, wanton 2. greedy; desirous
Licorice is from Greek for "sweet root" (glykys 'sweet' [as in 'glucose'] + rhiza ‘root’). Some pronounce the last syllable as -iss; some say -ish. ‘Lickerish’ matches the latter, -ish pronunciation of licorice.
I contrived to spend most of whatever free time I had with him, transfixed by his lavish, sometimes lickerish, often riotous account of a life in the theater …
– James Lipton, Inside Inside
Listen, Lisa. At least let's list lust last lest lust's luster be lost.
Today’s word emphasizes lack of moral restraint. The amorality is usually in a sexual context, but, as the first quote shows, it need not be.
licentious – 1. without the restraint of moral discipline (esp. in sex) 2. having no regard for accepted standards
– Journal of African History, Jan. 1, 2007
It was the third daughter, Aysha, whom Jack liked most. … Although she was the youngest, she seemed the least innocent of the three: something in the way she looked at Jack, as she leaned over him to place a dish of spicy prawns on the table, unmistakably revealed a licentious streak. She caught his eye … and Jack giggled.
– Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth
Today’s word is related to lubricate. Our quote conveys its sense of sly evil, of snaky sexuality.
lubricious – 1. lewd; wanton; salacious 2. slippery smooth, with oil or grease; also, shifty or tricky
– Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
libertine – a man who acts without moral restraint, especially sexually (also used as an adjective)
This word was not originally negative or sexual, but it has degraded over time. Akin to liberty, it originally meant a freed slave, then a free-thinker in religious matters, and then a free-thinker generally, “one who follows his own inclinations” (OED). (Shakespeare uses it this way sense, and you’ll still see it occasionally.) But at about the same time it came to mean "a dissolute or licentious person,” with the emphasis on sexual dissolution. The earliest quote in this sense gives the flavor: “The whole brood of venereous Libertines, that knowe no reason but appetite, no Lawe but Luste.” (1593)
Our quote, by a contrast, emphasizes the moral dimensions of the word.
– Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
New member alert!!! ...LOL
I'm the first to admit my knowledge of the english language is limited, but I do find the use and misuse of words quite fascinating. How could someone not respect something that has stood the test of time?! Anyway, getting to the point of my post ...
Is libertine gender bound as the definition suggests?
Also, any idea's on what has contributed to this word degrading over time?
walrusThis message has been edited. Last edited by: walrus,
Not according to my COED which, in one of its definitions actually writes, "a person who follows his or her (my italics) inclinations".
And welcome to the board, Walrus. I hope you like it here.
Where are you based (in a physical sense) might I ask?
Hi, walrus (where's the carpenter?): welcome to the madhouse.
I do find the use and misuse of words quite fascinating. How could someone not respect something that has stood the test of time.
If you're referring to how a word's meaning changes over time, some see it as the natural advance or progression of language; others see it as linguistic devolution or degradation. You'll find both camps well-represented here.
Is libertine gender bound as the definition suggests?
Well, it was an adjective originally, and in that sense, I don't find anything that would stop it from modifying any noun, regardless of the gender of the person being referred to. In its original 17th and 18 century setting, one immediately thinks of fictional characters like Fanny Hill and Juliette who would have been described as libertines, as well as real folks such as the Earl of Rochester and the Marquis de Sade.
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
Richard English: Thank you for the welcome and humoring my sense of curiosity! I'm metaphysically & physically based in Canada.
zmjezd: Well, arent you funny? Where is the carpenter, indeed?! Sent the blighter out about a week ago for a pack of oysters and haven't heard hide nor hair from him! What is a walrus to do? Off to the beach I guess I must go ...
I appreciate you & Richard clearing up the question of gender. I did wonder.
Good to know both camps are well-represented here. One day I'm sure I'LL run my metaphoric undies up the camp flag pole
"The time has come," the Walrus said, to talk of many things."
My wife and I will be in Canada (British Columbia) next April. Our son and daughter-in-law now live there.
Welcome, Walrus! Check your PMs.
Yesterday I pointed out that libertine was originally not a negative word, but has degraded over the centuries. It’s not an uncommon change. Here are four more words within our theme which have similarly degraded: they were not orignially negative and sexual.
leer – to look (at) with a sly, immodest, or evil expression (noun: the look itself)
lewd – crude and offensive in a sexual way
lust – intense or unrestrained sexual craving (also as verb)
lascivious – lewd, lustful
Here’s a word you might not have expected in this theme! But it fits, doesn't it?
lambada – a fast, rhythmical, erotic dance, from Brazil, with close physical contact (also, the music used)
You’ll understand better by seeing the dance. So here’s a video clip.
– Financial Times, Sept. 15, 1988 (thanks to OED for the quote)
lechery – excessive and offensive indulgence in sexual activity
– New York Post, Sept. 9, 2007
Some (Merriam Webster; Compact Oxford) speak of excessive sexual desire, but to me the word implies not just excessive wanting, but excessive doing.¹ (Action rather than mere contemplation, if you will.) And I also think it requires that the excess be offensive and pathetic, with a sense of preying upon others. (Even if you feel that a married couple is spending ‘excessive’ bedroom time together, you wouldn’t say they were being ‘lecherous’.)
What do you think?
¹ and pooh to those wiseacres who argue that "excessive sex" is a contradiction in terms.This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
Have to disagree about the addition of 'doing' to lecherous. Generally, there is an implicit connection between lechery and age (compare usage of 'lecherous old man' with a 'lecherous teenager'). I'd suggest that lechery represents unfulfilled desire that, while informed by experience, is not followed thru, and if it were, it cross the line from lechery to something else. Part of it is how we factor in age to judge sexual desire, and the strong prototype I have for a lecher (which can be shortened to letch(sp?) would not be a younger man, but an older man.
I have never seen a definition that speaks of "unfulfillment" as part of lechery. There are many people around whose sexual desires remain unfulfilled for many reasons - but that does not make them lechers.
It probably makes them frustrated, though!
I am with you on that. Lecher and lechery refer to sexual inclination, but also extend to related alcohol excess (Sussex exempted) and general ill manners and debauchery. The OED gives us:
A man immoderately given to sexual indulgence; a lewd or grossly unchaste man, a debauchee. (my itals)
Most citations curiously refer to men, but ladies will be pleased to know they are not wholly excluded by OED quotations, e.g. :
c1511 1st Eng. Bk. Amer. (Arb.) Introd. 27 The wymen be very hoote & dyposed to lecherdnes.
1972 Daily Tel. 12 May 12/8 Amorous delusions concerning..a lecherously attentive neighbour and her kindly but pre-occupied husband.
I like this quotation, one of many about lechery from The Bard.
“I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause? Adultery?
Thou shalt not die: die for adultery! No:
The wren goes to 't, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got 'tween the lawful sheets.”
Shakespeare : King Lear Act 4 scene 6.
I agree totally with Joe on this one; if anything the lecher is likely to be unfulfilled (if that's the right word). For example, Eric Idle, the Man in the Monty Python Nudge Nudge sketch, is a prime example of a lecher; he, it turns out, wants to be told "what it's like".
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
Good news for Hugh Hefner.
Interesting stuff. I think that lecher has the connotations it does because of the way sexual desire and ability map onto the human life span. Even though dictionary definitions may not discuss the actual nuts and bolts of what a prototypical lecher does, we assume that a younger person has little experience, a lot of desire, but also has a certain quality of innocence that is the opposite of lechery. Thus, it is difficult to imagine a 6 year old lecher.
Neveu's point about Hugh Hefner is good, but I would suggest that a person who thinks of Hefner as a lecher is also suggesting that he may not be able to perform. Certainly, lecher is not a positive attribute, and it would make sense to attribute other shortcomings and weaknesses. And, because it comes from OF lechier, or to lick, the original meaning probably was more doing than thinking, (In Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, John Prescott is accused of the crime of lechery, so involves an action rather than a thought), but it seems that it is now more thought than action.
One can also note that lechery is an active quality, while its counterpart, debauchery, is passive, so we speak of someone being debauched, but not of someone being leched. So there is a concept of action there, but I believe today, we tend to think of some who is a lecher as someone like Eric Idle's character, who is all talk and no action.
I should have included this link link, it's pretty interesting, talking about the assumptions made about older women (and one older women in particular) and notes that
"The reader was left in no doubt that Leeming stood accused of the heinous crime of lechery at an age where they'd rather see her advertising Stannah stairlifts."