28 June 2013


A euphemism is a generally innocuous word or expression that is used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant.

A "sex worker" might be considered one euphemism for a "whore."  The "oldest profession" has attracted a number of terms: "Prostitute", "whore", "strumpet", "harlot." A "streetwalker" solicits customers on the streets or in public places, while a "call girl" makes appointments by phone.

Use of the word prostitute without specifying a sex is commonly assumed to refer to a female, so terms like "male prostitute" or "male escort" are therefore often used to identify males. Those offering services to female customers are commonly known as "gigolos" and those offering services to male customers are "hustlers" or "rent boys."

Another term for a prostitute is hooker. One popular origin story connects "hooker" with Joseph Hooker, a Union general in the American Civil War. His personal reputation was as a hard-drinking ladies' man, and his headquarters was known for parties and gambling, and his name is often associated with the slang term for prostitute, But the the word "hooker" has been documented to appear with that meaning in print well before he became a public figure.

The more likely etymology of the term is from the concentration of prostitutes around the shipyards and ferry terminal of the Corlear's Hook area of Manhattan in the 1820s. These prostitutes came to be referred to as "hookers".

If you want to make a field trip, the original location of Corlears Hook is now obscured by shoreline landfill. It was near the east end of the present pedestrian bridge over the FDR Drive near Cherry Street. But you could make a trip to Corlear's Hook Park at the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets along the East River Drive.

To class up this post a bit, here is Femmes de Maison
by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1893–1895

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