Nude not lewd

Posted by Word Camel on February 25, 2002

In Reply to: Nude/naked posted by ESC on February 24, 2002

: : : : : I'm writing something and need to know the origin/reason for the term "skinny-dipping" as a reference to nude swimming.

: : : : : Thanks.

: : : : I looked in several references and only found the term in one. Which was surprising since it's a common phrase. Maybe someone else will have more information.

: : : : SKINNY DIPPING - " 'Let's go to the beach' with its image of a sun-drenched, sandy shore, is a typically American expression -- in England the 16th-century word 'beach' had originally meant a gravelly shore. In early colonial days, 'beach' referred specifically to the Hudson River's east bank and the sandy offshore New Jersey islands. Here one might go 'sea bathing' or 'dipping' (the word is still found in our expression 'skinny dipping,' swimming 'in the skin,' or naked), terms then used by refined people and by doctors, who prescribed sea bathing for ailments." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).

: : : I first heard the phrase in the 1960s in California, if that's any help.

: : As an American teenager I learned that "skinny-dipping" does not mean nude swimming. It means quasi-illict swimming with peers while naked. Most skinny-dipping occurs at night, with members of the opposite sex, though not exclusively, after all the participants have removed thier clothes and usually in the dark, and often at a place where getting caught may be possible, and often involves alot of giggling. Realize the nuance that while a nudist colony may call thier swimming activity "skinny-dipping," it is not. "Nude" being the state of having no clothes on, while "naked" is the state of having removed one's clothes. A small difference, but of importance to understanding what skinny-dipping is: fore play, even if really precocious fore play.

: Somewhere I read about the difference between "naked" and "nude." In a culture where people do not wear clothes (think really hot climate), an individual could be naked but not nude. Naked is innocent and natural. Nude is, well, lewd. OK, lewd is a value judgment. But a nude normally wears clothes. Now he/she wears them. Now he/she doesn't.

I'd have thought it was the opposite. Nude is down right high-brow these days. At least from the artist's point of view. We draw nudes, not naked people. Just try calling the nudes 'naked' at a gallery sometime. Adam and Eve were certainly nude, but it was only after the apple incident that they were naked. Of course, as everyone knows, artists are untrustworthy hypocrites, who want nothing more than to invite people up to see our etchings.

It's an interesting distinction though. Thanks for bringing it up.