Where Does the Term “Blow Job” Come From?

The term “blow job” as slang for oral sex performed on a man, or fellatio, pretty much rules the roost. There are plenty of other terms for the act, but “blow job” is by far the most common. It’s such a strange bit of slang: there’s no blowing involved, and though it can be a bit of work it’s an act of love, not labor. So what’s the deal?

Here are a couple of analyses that purport to explain the origin of the term — I’ll try to quote the less graphic parts. Click the links at your own risk, but the etymology is quite interesting.

The inestimable (and late) Christopher Hitchens wrote that “blowjob” is Victorian in origin.

The crucial word “blowjob” doesn’t come into the American idiom until the 1940s, when it was (a) part of the gay underworld and (b) possibly derived from the jazz scene and its oral instrumentation. But it has never lost its supposed Victorian origin, which was “below-job” (cognate, if you like, with the now archaic “going down”).

However, Chelsea G. Summers writes that no-one ever connected “blow job” with “below-job” until Hitchens wrote it. She digs deeper into the seventeenth century to inspect terminology used to describe oral sex. She decides that “to blow” has a long history as a euphemism for orgasm (i.e., to explode), and that “job” descends from many other labor terms used as sexual slang.

And it’s not just Americans: the English-speaking world at large has enjoyed a long, filthy history with “blow.” An explosion, a hard hit, or the act of producing a sound from a horn instrument, “blow” is already a versatile word, and slang takes full […] advantage of its flexibility. “Blow” meaning “fellate” dates to 1930, but the word has been doing sexy duty for centuries. “Blow” meaning to achieve orgasm came about in 1700; “blow” meaning to bring to orgasm showed as early as 1650; and “blow” meaning [sex] appeared in a 1644 edition of Mercurious Fumigosus, a weird, smutty zine-style newsletter produced by John Crouch, a Royalist journalist imprisoned during the British Interregnum. While other terms have lost their erotic luster with time, “blow” has held firm. Dudes have blown their loads only since 1993, but we’ve got more than three hundred years of people achieving orgasm with “blow.”

Sex slang through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was deep into play. People engaging in sexual intercourse would “dance on a rope,” “play at mumble-de-peg,” or “frisk,” while “larking” was the earliest slang term for oral sex. True, “job” as slang for [having sex with] dates to the early sixteenth century, and both “business” and “work” to the early seventeenth, but the sheer number of play terms vastly outweigh labor terms until the early twentieth century. Then, “job” proliferates—hand, mouth, brown, finger, rim, and non-specific “sex job” grow like mushrooms in the shade of “blow job.” In modern times, sex slang is all work and decreasing play, and “blow job” leads the way towards labor.

So there you go: two options for the history of “blow job”. “Fellatio” descends directly from Latin for “to suck”, but unless you really must discuss oral sex in polite company it seems unlikely that “blow job” is going anywhere anytime soon.

What do you and your spouse call it?

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