When we read about words like "gaydar," "threequel," and "bromance" being added to the dictionary, we can't help feeling like these days our vocabularies are created entirely by douchebags (that's also in the dictionary, by the way). Well, it turns out that this type of bullshit has been going on for a lot longer than you think.
There are common words that you've probably used thousands of times in your life whose origins lay not in an inspired bard trying to expand the way we communicate, but in some dickholes messing with other people or just plain being nasty. For example ...
#5. "Villain" Was a Derisive Term for the Poor
Think about the most despicable villains from history: Osama bin Laden. Adolf Hitler. Genghis Khan. Everyone who has ever worked on a farm. Wait, what?
"Villain" might be a loaded word today, but centuries ago, it meant nothing but "a household servant, one attached to the villa" ("villa" meaning "country house" in Spanish). It has the same root as the word "villager," and back then it was exactly as inoffensive. How it changed from that to "someone who cackles maniacally as he ties puppies to a railroad" was an act of villain-like dickishness in itself.
"My outfit is worth more than your entire estate. Therefore, I deem you evil."
Since "villains" came from the poorer parts of society, and since the word was mainly used by people on the opposite end, it soon came to refer to anyone who was "base or lowborn." In other words, criminals. Fair or not, it's much easier to blame crime on the servants or other commoners than on people who bathe regularly. Still, the fact that the word gained a negative connotation says more about the upper class people using it than the "villains" themselves.
At some point "villain" came to mean "mean country fellow," which apparently means that people in the 14th century had no word for a country fellow who wasn't mean, since they couldn't conceive of such a thing being possible. The word "villain" just simmered for hundreds of years in a stew of elitism and prejudice, and as a result, today we're using it to define the likes of the Joker, Voldemort, and Darth Vader.
And Chad Laptoprage.
But it all started with some innocent farmhands. So if your gardeners ever tie you to the tracks and cackle maniacally, you can have a good laugh at the irony. Considering that we've been using their office as an insult for centuries, who can blame them?
#4. "Fornication" Comes from Dick-Shaped Bread Made by Prostitutes
We imagine that only a small subsection of our readership would associate fornication with baking, but it turns out that that's exactly where the word comes from: bread. More specifically, bread shaped like dicks.
Like this one, called Mole-Infested Diseased Cockbread.
And who else could make that association but the Romans? In Roman times, Fornax was the goddess of baking and ovens, because those guys had to have a deity for freaking everything or they were completely lost. Experts think that Fornax was probably made up to justify some festival that the Romans were fond of at the time.
Fornax's name came directly from "fornacis," the Latin word for furnace, which in turn came from "fornix," the word for arch (because a stone oven is sort of like a little arch, you see). "But Cracked, what does all of this have to do with fucking?" you're definitely wondering, genitalia in hand. Well, the theory goes that back then, prostitutes would often operate out of bakeries and approach their clients in a not-so-subtle way by baking them ceremonial breads in the shape of genitalia. These dong muffins were known as coliphia.
The French did the same thing, and their severe penis deformities created the baguette.
The client and the prostitute would then eat the dick-bread and wait for the oven to cool down, probably making awkward conversation because that takes a long time, and when it was cool enough that they wouldn't risk scorching anything important, they would crawl inside to "heat the ovens back up again." Which is to say, they'd bang in an oven.
Another theory claims that "fornication" comes simply from the fact that Roman prostitutes hung around under arches (fornix), but we like this one better. In fact, one of the first novels ever, The Satyricon, talks about bakers tricking clients into coming for the bread and staying "thither for the base gratification of wantonness." The only question we have left is: What happened to that high level of customer service? We're looking at you, Panera Bread.
"I'll take two loaves of French and 15 minutes of anal."
#3. "Addict" Comes from Roman Creditors Enslaving Debtors
Doug Menuez/Valueline/Getty Images
We tend to throw the word "addict" around a lot these days -- it can mean being hooked on anything from cocaine to video games. And if you say to a person, "I'm addicted to you," it probably means you're trying to be romantic, and also a 14-year-old Justin Bieber fan. Back in the old-timey days, however, the exact same phrase had a very different, even more sinister meaning -- the one thing the two definitions have in common is that in both cases someone might end up putting you in bondage. Just not voluntarily.
You see, the word "addiction" (again) goes back to the Romans, and believe it or not, it had nothing to do with their love of alcohol or togas. The Latin "ad dicere" meant "to adjudge, [or] assign." Usually this was used in a legal sense and could refer to money, goods, titles ... or people. Yep, "getting addicted" meant you were now someone's slave. The most chilling part is realizing how easy it was to end up as someone's personal addictus back then.
Jona Lendering via Livius.org
"Come with me, addict. We've got laws about being stoned."
Say you forgot to pay your pee tax. According to Roman law, you only had 30 days before you were "addicted" to private bondage administered by your creditor. This meant the guy you owed money to had the right to keep you bound in shackles or whatever for another 60 days. He could also display you in public if he wanted to, like if he thought someone could come to pay your debt or he just wanted to let passersby make fun of your dong (you sold your toga to pay off your debts long ago).
If the 60 days went by and no one had paid your debt, your creditor could then sell you as a slave to another country. Kinda puts getting a bad credit rating in perspective, doesn't it? The word "addict" wasn't used exclusively in this way, though. In fact, since being appointed as a judge in those days was kind of like jury duty, in Rome even the judges were addicted ("addicere judicem").
"If it pleases the court? Oh, it most definitely pleases the court."
But back to slaves: This lovely practice died with Rome, but the word itself was revived in the 1500s to mean someone who is "bound or devoted" to something, and in the early 20th century, that something was narrowed down to nose powders and such.