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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Trimming the Merkin

posted by on December 26 at 16:01 PM

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.

RSS icon Comments


Watch out Brendan, Brad uses knowledge in peculiar ways. His next post will probably include a picture of pubic hair, and he'll write the necessary comment- "This is trim"

Posted by who's the squirrel | December 26, 2006 6:07 PM

Wow, when I started reading this, I figured he wanted to know the x-mas meaning of the word, as in "trim the tree" along with "deck the halls"...

Posted by i love ipa | December 26, 2006 7:09 PM

1882? Dude, just check any porn from 1982.

Posted by Paulus | December 26, 2006 7:44 PM

I believe it's a figurative (and crass) use of the following meaning of trim:

"material used for decoration or embellishment; decorative trimming

where the woman's vj is the decorative embellishment and the man's johnson is the item being decorated.

Posted by Sean | December 26, 2006 8:19 PM

sailing --- trim the jib

triming pubic hair should be a felony

triming armpits get a stern warning

I like hariy parts, male or female

Brittany would have had TWICE the press with a great bush pix --- bare and boring

Posted by sam | December 27, 2006 4:16 AM

The stranger has a Christmas party? Isn't that kind of offensive?

Posted by Jude Fawley | December 27, 2006 9:38 AM

now you have to find the origin of pun-tang.

Posted by Mike in MO | December 27, 2006 9:57 AM

Mike in MO: Poon-tang is easier—it probably comes from New Orleans French and/or Creole putain (prostitute). It's mainly used in America.

From Look Homeward, Angel, 1929: "A fellow's got to have a little Poon Tang."

Posted by Brendan Kiley | December 27, 2006 11:42 AM

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