Daybook

The Meaning of Feminine Freshness

The word “fresh” crops up a lot in relation to women. It’s a particularly favored term in advertisements for personal care products, where it used to signify the presence of an odor-free state, particularly, those odors that come from down below. It’s also a favorite term of women’s magazine editors, who for years have used “fresh” as an adjective to describe the sort of ideas they assign.

So I got to thinking about fresh.  Like what does it mean, really? I consulted my Oxford English Dictionary. The word “fresh” itself is a very old one, prior to the 14th century it always meant the opposite of salt. (This continues today, when applied to water – freshwater, for instance, is what you want to drink.) It has a sense of being consumable. It also means “recent” and “new”, which is precisely the opposite of the qualities that we as a society seem to dislike intensely in a woman – old and outdated.

The OED says that the ultimate etymology of the Old Teutonic origins of the world is obscure, but it apparently corresponds to the Finnish and Lithuanian words for “unleavened”. Which can also mean unready, rushed, not very delicious.

Although I’m sure none of the advertising people or their sisters at women’s magazines see it that way.

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