dildo
Posted: 15 September 2013 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]
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This is what OED has to say:

A word of obscure origin, used in the refrains of ballads. Also, a name of the penis or phallus, or a figure thereof; spec. an artificial penis used for female gratification; the lingam of Hindu worship; formerly, also, a contemptuous or reviling appellation of a man or lad; and app. applied to a cylindrical or ‘sausage’ curl.

1598 J. Florio Worlde of Wordes, Pastinaca muranese, a dildoe of glasse.

1598 J. Florio Worlde of Wordes, Pinco, a prick, a pillicock, a pintle, a dildoe.

Is the word used much in the States? And is there any more on its etymology?

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Posted: 15 September 2013 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes, both the word and the object are much used in the States.

As for etymology, I don’t know anything more. Grose’s 1796 edition of his A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue says the following of it. I wouldn’t take it as authoritative:

DILDO. (From the Italian diletto, q. d. a woman’s delight; or from our word dally, q. d. a thing to play withal). Penis Succedaneus, called in Lombardy Passo Tempo. Baily.

In his first edition of 1785, Grose gives a more detailed description, but no etymology:

DILDO, an implement resembling the virile member, for which it is said to be substituted, by nuns, boarding school misses, and others obliged to celibacy, or fearful of pregnancy. Dildos are made of wax, horn, leather, and diverse other substances, and if fame does not lie more than usually, are to be had at many of our great toy shops and nick nackatories.

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Posted: 15 September 2013 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, it’s widely used in the US [ed. pipped by Dave] though considered vulgar.  A more formal term would be “vibrator” or “personal massager” (the latter, like “bathroom tissue”, is so formal that it’s only used in labeling the items for sale; I don’t think people actually call them that in normal conversation).  Of course, these terms would not be applied to dildoes that don’t vibrate.

In general, I don’t consider myself a prudish person (who does?), but I am somewhat shocked by the proliferation of explicitly shaped dildoes offered for sale in the general household goods catalogs we get (e.g. Carole Wright and Harriet Carter).  In my youth, catalogs offering such things would have been sent in plain brown wrappers, if they could have been sent through the mail at all.

[ Edited: 15 September 2013 01:16 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 15 September 2013 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The Google Ngram for dildo is rather interesting. [Insert boilerplate caveat about accuracy of Google metadata here.]

It seems to be slightly more common in American sources than in British ones, but other than that the usage pattern is remarkably similar: relatively rare until the 1960s, steady growth in use of the word through the 60s and 70s, a leveling off in frequency in the 80s, then explosive growth in the 90s, leveling off again before the turn of the turn of the century.

I would say the word is considered less vulgar than in the past. While it would raise eyebrows in many contexts, in discussions of sex I haven’t heard many attempts to euphemize it. (But my baseline is Dan Savage, so my perspective is probably skewed.) Vibrator is not really synonymous, as generally dildos aren’t electrical. As Dr. T says, personal massager is a pretty much exclusively a marketing term, and again not really synonymous for the same reason. Sex toy might be used as a euphemism, but that’s much more general. Marital aid is hopelessly old fashioned.

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Posted: 16 September 2013 10:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, both the word and the object are much used in the States.

A statement with lamentable implications, considering that a dildo is a sort of standing monument to the sexual inadequacy of the average human male.

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Posted: 17 September 2013 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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On the other hand, some people have fun playing with toys and no one feels anything but happy.

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Posted: 17 September 2013 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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A statement with lamentable implications, considering that a dildo is a sort of standing monument to the sexual inadequacy of the average human male.

Not that this has anything to do with language, but you appear to be implying that a woman desiring sexual satisfaction should run out and canvass the neighborhood until she finds a male who desires to have sexual relations with her, which seems to me a lamentable idea in itself.

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Posted: 17 September 2013 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It also implies their only use is as a “substitute for.” Such toys can be, and often are, used as “complements to.”

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Posted: 17 September 2013 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Not that this has anything to do with language, but you appear to be implying that a woman desiring sexual satisfaction should run out and canvass the neighborhood until she finds a male who desires to have sexual relations with her, which seems to me a lamentable idea in itself.

That’s not what I said, nor is it implicit in what I said, except perhaps to you. I can’t answer for your thought processes. Kindly don’t put words into my mouth.

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Posted: 18 September 2013 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Sorry to have misinterpreted you.

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Posted: 18 September 2013 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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ça ne fait rien

(bows)

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Posted: 18 September 2013 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I remember seeing personal massagers marketed with a photo in the back of respectable British magazines in the ‘70s as “Non Doctors” (see Michael Bywater’s book Lost Worlds). Maybe a few old ladies did buy them to massage their aching necks and joints. We were still very prudish despite the Lady Chatterley trial in the early ‘60s which freed up words only and only where readers might expect to find them.

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