‘Meddling’ Once Meant ‘Screwing’

“Russian meddling.” We hear the term a lot in stories about how Vladimir Putin and company interfered with the 2016 election that installed Donald Trump in the White House. But what is meddling?

Merriam-Webster defines it as “interest[ing] oneself in what is not one’s concern,” or, “to interfere without right or propriety,” but if we go back to the word’s first vernacular explosion, the early 1300s, it’s defined as “to mingle and blend,” from the 12th century Old French “mesler,” which itself evolved from the Latin word “miscere,” to mix. The present participle version we currently use, “action of blending,” didn’t arise until the 1520s.

But, fun fact — and, I think, fitting in this context — from the late 1300s until the 1700s, “meddling” was slang for “having sexual intercourse,” or, another way, “fucking.” As with the roots of “Trump,” this seems more appropriate for the Russia-related headlines, as in “Russia fucked with the election.”

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