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25 Really Weird Euphemisms For STDs People In The Past Actually Used

Updated January 2, 2018 1.5k votes 351 voters 27.4k views25 items

List RulesVote up the most infectious oldschool STD euphemisms.

Slang is forever evolving. For example, if you look at what was popular in the 1930s compared to the 1950s, you'll see a marked difference. And old timey words for sex diseases are no different.

While lots of old slang words for STDs are still in use today, many have fallen out of favor and for good reason; they weren't exactly what anyone would call PC. For instance, names for syphilis through the centuries reflected ethnic, religious, and political rivalries. Other terms were less bigoted, but still packed enough description to elicit a cringe. Even so, there were STD euphemisms that sounded benign. In fact, if someone wasn't aware of the context, they might believe that the speakers were talking about a common cold... they weren't.

Above all, slang for STDs paints an interesting history. It reveals society's attitudes towards sexual health and shows how far treatment has come. So why not brush up on some of the great euphemisms of yore?

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    The Clap

    Gonorrhea. The origin of "the clap" is debatable, but some believe it comes from the word "clapier," which means "brothel" in Middle French. Other theories include "clappan" (the old English word for throb) and the "clapping" of the member that was used as a treatment. Ouch! 

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    The Gift That Keeps On Giving

    Herpes. It was given this nickname because the disease is chronic and cannot be cured. 

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    Crotch Crickets

    Crabs. It's said that under a microscope, public lice look like little crabs. But crickets are a close second. 

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    The Drip

    Gonorrhea comes from the Greek word gonos (sperm) and rhea (flow). Considering that one of the symptoms is a discharge, "the drip" is an accurate (and icky) description. 

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    Seven Year Itch

    Scabies' epidemic cycle would rise and fall in roughly seven years. Plus it itches like nobody's business. 

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    Communicable Diseases

    STDs. Because it takes a village to raise infectious disease. 

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    Social Disease

    A term for venereal disease. Hard to catch one if you're not social. 

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    French Malady

    This was the Italian nickname for syphilis. 

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    Social Hygiene

    Social hygiene referred to the control of venereal disease. The movement started in the late 19th century and became the basis for health education in schools. 

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    The Great Pox

    A common name for syphilis was the pox, which could be easily confused with smallpox. The great pox served as a way to clear up any ambiguity. 

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    Spanish Pox

    Syphilis. Sailors under Columbus brought this back to Spain. 

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    The Great Imitator

    Syphilis. Its symptoms "imitate" other venereal diseases, so it was often misdiagnosed. 

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    Preventable Diseases

    A general term for STDs. Privates don't get roughed up if you wrap them up.  

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    Neapolitan Disease

    Syphilis. French soldiers brought syphilis back home after they besieged Naples in the 15th century. 

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    Christian Disease

    The Turks used this as a slang term for syphilis. 

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    Bad Blood

    This was the name of the disease that subjects of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment were treated for.

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    Special Ulcer

    Named after the chancre sores that are a symptom of syphilis. 

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    Castilian Disease

    The Portuguese named syphilis after their rivals in Spain. 

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    Barnwell Ague

    A 17th-century name for gonorrhea. "Barnwell" stood for brothel district, and "ague" meant fever. 

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    The Great Mimic

    Lesions of syphilis were often mistaken for scabies, leprosy, and skin cancer. Hence, it was called the great mimic

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    German Disease

    A derogatory term for syphilis once used by the Polish. 

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    British Disease

    Syphilis. Tahitians believed that the disease came from England. 

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    Specific Stomach

    Doctors once used this in place of saying syphilis. 

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    Portuguese Disease

    The name the Japanese gave to syphilis. 

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    Polish Disease

    The Russian off-color nickname for syphilis.