euphemisms are like a disease, like lesions, or running sores. take sex for example. when I first learnt the word it had only one clearly-defined meaning: sex is whether you are a boy or girl. everyone is one or the other or some variation upon the theme, so everyone has sex – all the time. foetuses, newborn babies, children adults, old people, all have femininity or masculinity or some mixture of the two continuously. it isn’t something that comes and goes.
Everyone has sex 24/7 from birth to death.
that wasn’t too difficult to understand.
then in the 60s they started to use the word sex to mean fucking. that meant you could no longer use sex to mean whether male or female or some variant, without invoking the too-rude idea of fucking. so, when sex contaminated itself in replacing the now too-rude fuck, it became now too rude for m/f/other, and in the latish seventies some people started calling it gender. 3rd wave feminists seemed responsible.
up until then, gender was a grammatical term, with only incidental reference to sex. close relations of the word gender include kind (meaning sort or type) and genus. nouns, adjectives and articles can be masculine, feminine, neuter, common etc. now it also refers to what shape wee wee you’ve got, so soon it will be so contaminated with evocations of rude thoughts that we’ll have to replace it. but what with? how about manner of personhood, or beasthood to include all animals, or beinghood to accommodate all species? we could abbreviate it to mop or mob. what mop are you, male or female? who do prefer to have gender with, same or opposite or both or neither? that way we’ve done away with both sex and fuck, or only very rude people would say them. but gender would soon be contaminated too. the only way to stop it is to recognise the fear of mentioning fucking as a cultural disease and relieve us of it. it pullulates through our language like ulcerations in flesh, like a bad case of linguistic clap. dab on the Dettol. sex isn’t dirty.
poor fuck – it is itself a contaminated old euphemism derived from a variant of medieval words like make, work, fake, the latin facere (pronounced fuckery) and of course, viking, mac(k), mucker, and wake, the last three all meaning worker. was it replacing another word too rude and direct to say? rut or root perhaps? or was rut without a name because no-one had thought to give it one?
my guess is that the word it replaces died of disgustingness imputed by people who were sick in their own reproductive fuckery, sickened perhaps by the waves of syphilis and gonorrhoea going through during the medieval period. not physically sick, mentally sick. some euphemisms are symptoms of mental illness, part of a cultural neurosis. we should get over it.