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KINK: A Brief Etymology

Dutch sailors. An American President. 20th Century British Slang. What do these things have in common? Kinky Sex. Although the word has multiple associations for this post were focusing only on the sexual connotations of the word. For a more encompassing view of the word we can suggest this post as an excellent read.

Just as The Hollies sang, “the road is long, with many a winding turn”, across centuries and continents. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Kinky is an adjective defined as “unusual, strange, and possibly exciting, especially in ways involving unusual sexual acts”. But this modern meaning has much older roots. The word kink is of Dutch origin, which dates back to 1670. Kink is a nautical term, that means “a twist in a rope”. The word exists in both Swedish and French, with a similar definition.

Sailing over to the new world, kink took an another meaning, “an odd notion, mental twist”. The earliest recording in American English, occurred in the writing of noted American Statesman and the third president of the United States – Thomas Jefferson in 1812. In this letter to John Adams, Jefferson made a reference to a English traveler name Adair, who he regarded to have some unusual ideas about the origins of Native Americans.

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Kink took on a sexualized connotation on the pages of Absolute Beginners, a novel by English author Colin MacInnes. Published in 1959, it is a coming of age tale told in the first person perspective of an aspiring photographer. The story takes place in a fictional neighborhood in West London, called Napoli. Courtesy of MacInnes’ wordplay Kink┬átransitioned from its use as a noun to an adjective.

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In the modern era the word’s meaning has looped back on itself – like a knot. “A twist in a rope” is used in kinky activities, like rope bondage. “An odd notion, metal twist” is an essential part of mind fucking, another form of kinky activity. A Kink is another name for a specific pronounced sexual desire or fixation.

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