• ecdysiast •
ek-di-zee-æst • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: An exotic dancer, strip-tease artist or simply a stripper, a person who sheds his or her clothes while dancing.
Notes: There is an adjective, ecdysial, associated with ecdysis "molting" (see Word History) that might be stretched to the sense of today's word. I would prefer an entirely new family: ecdysiastic, ecdysiastically, and ecdysiasm, all perfectly grammatically formed though currently unendorsed by any respectable dictionary.
In Play: One of the earliest known ecdysiasts was Salomé, who supposedly received the head of John the Baptist in return for a rendition of her seductively ecdysiastic Dance of the Seven Veils. Ecdysiasm has survived the succeeding two millennia: "After flunking out of the ballet academy, Leah Tardes went to work as an ecdysiast and made more money in a year than a ballerina makes over a lifetime."
Word History: H. L. Mencken has been accorded the honor of creating this word for Miss Georgia Sothern, who asked him for a more dignified name for her profession around 1940. In doing so, Mencken modified a scientific term, ecdysis "molting, casting off", as snakes and crabs molt their old skins or shells as they grow. Ecdysis was merely taken from the Greek ekdysis "stripping off", the noun from ekduein "to take off". This verb comprises ek "out of, off" + duein "to put on, dress". The root that produced duein also turns up in Sanskrit upa-du- "put on", but apparently it was not widely developed outside these languages.
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