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Posted by Pdianek on October 23, 2003

In Reply to: Fixed posted by R. Berg on October 22, 2003

: I wasn't there when people started using "fix" that way, but I suppose it began as a euphemism. In generations past, people avoided revealing any facts about sex when children were present. Depending on local culture and so forth, "children" could include anyone under age 21 who wasn't married.

In past times, it wasn't just the under-21s who were fed euphemisms. Females who had never married (e.g., the proverbial "maiden aunt" who figures so largely in Victorian novels) were often protected from knowledge about sexuality (they had no need to know, you see), usually their entire lives.

And too often the talk between mother and daughter the night before the daughter's marriage (when all was supposed to be revealed, finally) never took place, due to mother's embarrassment. (Ina May Gaskin, the American childbirth guru, includes a funny, sad, first-hand story about the predictable results of this maternal shortfall in her newest book, "Guide to Childbirth".)

This is why up until the mid-1960s fiction writers often made such a distinction between girls and women. The classic phrase to describe people at a ball or dance was "men and girls". Why? Because the females described were still unmarried, and therefore presumed to be virgins. It was only after the wedding night's sexual intercourse (or proof otherwise, like unwed pregnancy) that "girls" became "women".

Why isn't there a similar word (to "maidens") to describe virgins who are male? Probably because there was no risk of getting with child -- so who could tell?