Flapper is a slang word used for a prostitute in the US. And as it happens, flappers have been around for a while.
Flappers and prostitutes have been around for more than 50 years, according to the Washington DC chapter of the National Organization for Women. The group’s executive director, Wendy Wright, says: ‘Flappers originated as a slang term for female prostitutes in the US and have evolved into being something like a cross between “buddy” and “friend”.’
The word is defined by the dictionary as, ‘a woman who takes advantage of the male sexual market by taking a fling with him or him alone.’ The term is used in the UK also for the sex worker who takes a male client to another town or country.
This is not the first time the word has found its way back to Washington DC. One of the oldest flappers is an old flapper from Pennsylvania, now 85, who was a schoolteacher and is now remembered by her community as an important figure. Her daughter tells The Observer magazine: ‘Her husband, a teacher, always looked after her and she was a lovely mum.’
But she also remembers being ‘pissed off when the boys wanted to go to London when she was married.’ So she gave up her job. ‘And after the war,’ she says, ‘I worked for a small newspaper and I worked in the office, and then I left – and then I got in trouble with the boys for being out drinking with them. That’s an old phrase.’
She never returned, however, and by the 1990s she had given up drinking and was living as a transient. She has since married again. Now 82.
Today’s flappers are usually on their own with their own customers, who do not necessarily know what they are looking for. These days flapper’s are called flappers in the UK, while their US counterparts are called ‘flappies’. Either way, the slang word is very old and has been around the world for a while, says Dr Mark Dutton from the Centre for the History of the English Language at the University of Oxford, UK. And with their name it refers to their relationship to the human body, especially the female.
Flappers use the word to describe themselves, which they use to describe themselves. ‘The women they usually meet are women who have lived in poverty,’ says Dr Dutton. ‘The men they usually meet are generally from upper-
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