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Word Histories: In Defense of Rush

A Man of the Ages
Off the bat, I admit this defense is slow in coming. The controversy I hope to put to rest occurred over three years ago, but is there any statute of limitations on rectifying slurs against a man’s character?
You may remember 2012 when the question of contraception as a standard healthcare benefit was being hashed out in the public discourse. A law student from Georgetown University, Sandra Fluke, argued passionately that this must be universally covered.
Rush Limbaugh made a simple comment taken completely out of context. Commenting on Ms. Fluke, Rush said—and I quote, “What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?”
Oh, the flap that followed! So many were appalled at this “attack” on the character of the young woman.
But consider that Rush is a man of the ages. The term “slut” only took on the current sexual context in 1966. Yes, you read that right—1966! And Rush is so much older than that. He, I’m sure, is aware that the word has a wide and varied history that has nothing to do with this vulgar definition.
The word came into being in the 14th century as a description of a “dirty, slovenly, or untidy woman.” Chaucer referred to an untidy man as one. Basically, the word described a lazy slob, man or woman. If a kitchen maid kneaded her bread poorly, the little hard pieces in the loaf were called “slut pennies.” So, come on. It’s not what you were thinking.
In fact, Samuel Pepys, a pretty well-respected guy from the 1600s, wrote in his famous diary, “My wife called up the people to washing by four o’clock in the morning; and our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut, and pleases us mightily, doing more service than both the others, and deserves wages better.”
While some of you with wicked minds might find this strange, Pepys was merely being playful with the word, like calling his child a scamp or a rascal.
Which is no different than the misunderstood Rush Limbaugh. Surely, he was calling Sandra Fluke a “scamp” or “rascal” who pleased him mightily. After all, he’s just a big, cuddly grandfather figure.
Shut up, Rush.

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