Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
The New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew in its several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggers, Thieves, Cheats &c. (1699) has this odd little entry:
Match-makers, a better sort of Procuruers of Wives for Men, or Husbands for Women, Maiden-head-Jobbers, Virginity Sellers, Brokers, &c.
It wasn't until the nineteenth century that we got the weakened sense of somebody who tries to encourage to friends to get friendly. I suspect that the same shift is currently happening with the word pimp. People are always talking about pimping in the weak sense of trying to sell or to get employment, or at least they are round my way. Perhaps, in a hundred years time, recruitment agencies will simply call themselves pimps and only those with historically based dictionaries will know what the word once meant.
Incidentally, the town of Maidenhead in Buckinghamshire is the landing place of the maidens, and has nothing to do with virginity; but Omagh (as in the bombing) does, it means virgin plain. Which is all the excuse I need to post this: