The vulgar and the Vulgate
I find myself avoiding the word ‘sex’.
It is an ugly word. Not because it is boorish, but because it is too refined. ‘Sex’ is clinical: sterile, precise, institutional. It comes from the Norman French, originally Latin—what philologists Reneé and Henry Kahane called ‘the status symbol of the rich, the powerful, the refined, and the snobbish’. It is the word of aristocratic victors, looking down upon Anglo-Saxon oiks.
Even today, ‘sex’ belongs in the official lexicon of government, business and academia. Adults use it in treatises and memoranda, often without sniggers or twitches. It is acceptable— that is to say, safe.