Ecdysiast

Sometimes words don’t fit.

I was entertaining myself a little with Words on Words by John Bremner. I ran across a new synonym for “stripper” that I hadn’t heard before:

Ecdysiast

What the fuck? My first thought was that it had something to do with ecstasy, but I was wrong. The coinage of the term was by Mencken, and the etymology is funny enough:

He thought it was a good idea to relate stripteasing to “the associated zoological phenomenon of molting” and he flirted with moltician before rejecting it because of its likeness to mortician. He then came up with ecdysiast, from the Greek ekdysis, the stripping of an outer layer of skin.

The spell check in Microsoft Word recognizes it, but I didn’t. I have yet to see a stripper remove their skin, but I’m sure they could get top dollar among those who enjoy a good public humiliation. I suppose it depends on which part of the activity you prefer, the strip or the tease. I suppose that Gypsy Rose Lee was right:

“Ecdysiast he calls me! Why, the man is an intellectual snob. He has been reading books. Dictionaries. We don’t wear feathers and molt them off . . . . What does he know about stripping?”

Sorry Mencken, but I think it’s more about the tease.