It is often said that Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow, which is not really even true. The false claim is sometimes used to demonstrate how limited the English language is when it comes to bringing new words for things. Such claims are a little unfair considering how many synonyms exist for breasts in English at this time. Out of many numbers of terms to describe female breasts, no other term is as non-controversial or omnipresent as the word “boobs.” So, the big question, where did this word come from?
There is an old joke that says the word “boobs” came because it offers a visual representation of what a pair of breasts look like from three key viewing angles, i.e., above (B), the front (OO), and the side (b) respectively. Unsurprisingly, this is just a happy accident rather than a legit story about its origin. Let’s check out some facts and try to dig into this topic to get to a better answer today!
History of the word boobs
As per the Oxford Dictionary of English, the earliest written example of the word “boob” can be seen in the Tropic of Cancer, a 1934 novel: ‘She was lying on the divan with her boobies in her hand’. The author of that novel, Henry Miller, is often credited for the first recorded use of the word “boobs”. However, after a much more comprehensive research and digging than just consulting the Oxford English Dictionary, we found an even earlier example of the word “boob” used in a similar way in the 1932 novel, Young Lonigan. The novel was written by James T. Farrell.
Now, let us tell you that the word “boob” can also be used to describe a foolish, stupid, or clumsy person. This definition is thought to have been derived from the Spanish word “bobo” which means “dunce”. This Spanish word, furthermore, comes from the Latin word “balbus” which means “stammering”. Whatever the case, the word “booby” first came in the sense of “fool” or “dummy” around the late 16th century. You must be wondering if the definition of “stupid” gave rise to “boob” being used to describe breasts. Etymologists, however, don’t think that this is the case; the word “boobs” meaning “breasts” has an entirely separate and more innocent etymology.
Moving with the question – why does the word “boobs” seem to be the most popular synonym for breasts? It has been speculated that it may have something to do with the fact that most people don’t seem to find the word offensive, unlike other synonyms used for boobs like titis, fun bags, or God’s jugs of milk. In 2013, an American clothing brand, Bonds, did a survey and found that more than 74% of Australian women typically used the word “boobs” to refer to their own breasts, which is obviously not the case with other words used to represent female breasts.
To conclude, there is no such reason that people refer to female breasts as boobs due to its shape from different angles. The word “boobs” is used by people to address breasts because most of the other synonyms used to represent it feel offensive.