Trimming the Merkin
posted by December 26 at 16:01 PMon
And now, per your request Mr. Steinbacher, the etymology of trim—you issued the challenge last week, after several glasses of whiskey, at The Stranger’s Christmas party: “Hey Kiley, find out where ‘trim’ comes from.”
Here is my answer:
Trim, in the vulgar sense, is a gross word that nobody should use—it sounds like something Axl Rose would say: “hey Slash, get out of the green room; I got some trim on the way.” But nobody seems to know where it comes from. (Trim, as in “fit and strong,” is from Old English trymman—”strengthen, make ready”—which is probably related to drumah, the Sanskrit word for tree.) I have three guesses:
1. It could be a corruption of quim which, according to a guess from the 1796 Dictionary of Vulgar Tongue, comes from the Spanish quemar (to burn).
2. It could have something to do with sailors—ships are always women, and when they’re well-appointed, they’re “in trim.”
3. Or it could have something to do with the trimming of pubic hair, once a method of preventing crabs. Bonus etymology: Hair-free privates was not always the fashion (from 1882: “My imagination fills the empty galligaskins with cosy bottoms and hirsute quims”). Hence the merkin, a pubic wig for the trimmed pubis. (Merkin’s etymology is clearer: it comes from malkin, a 15th-century word for mop.)
Trim is also:
A town in Ireland, home to the Trim Haymaking Festival and the annual Trim Show.
An anti-tax wing of the John Birch society. (From the site: “TRIM does not involve itself in partisan politics” and “in several cases, the rejected congressman actually blamed TRIM for his defeat”).
And the name of the first (ahem) cat to circumnavigate Australia:
Trim was born in 1797, aboard HMS Reliance on a voyage from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. The kitten fell overboard, but managed to swim back to the vessel and climb aboard by scaling a rope; taking note of his strong survival instinct and intelligence, [Captain] Flinders and the crew made him their favourite.
Captain Flinders named the cat after Trim, the butler in Tristram Shandy whose name, in turn, is a double entendre. (In the book, Trim is the manservant and constant companion of Uncle Toby, whose whole life is one long metaphor for male sexual frustration.)
And the circle is complete.
There you go, Brad. You owe me a drink.