Caught on tv, in the NCIS episode “Dead and Unburied” (#4.5) (2006). The team is examining a murder scene, studying the carpet intently:

Dr. Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard [the medical examiner]: Looks like sisal. It’s a naturally stiff fiber woven from the leaf of the cactus plant. It doesn’t matt, trap dust, build static, makes it ideal for carpeting. Personally, I prefer a good shag. [Gibbs and McGee just look at him while Palmer grins like a loon]

Ducky uses the noun shag referring to a type of rug, but everyone else hears the nominalization of the verb shag ‘fuck’. Merriment ensues.

We’ve been on this scene before, in my posting “Deshagged” of 5/31/11. From that posting:

Sexual shag was for some time primarily a British usage, though the success of the Austin Powers movies — in particular, the 1999 Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me — seems to have spread it. (The movie title was controversial in the U.K., occasioning rewording, asterisking out, and other strategies to avoid shag. It also presented puzzles for translators. See the “title censorship” section of the Wikipedia entry on the film.)

“Deshagged” goes on to trace the rug noun shag from Old English (‘rough, matted hair’) to the modern usage and notes that

Quite separately, there are various verbs shag. … The development of sexual shag (v.3) is something of a mystery.

The first attestations for sexual shag ‘to copulate (with)’:

1770   T. Jefferson Memorandum Bks. 27 Dec. (1997) I. 200   He had shagged his mother and begotten himself on her body. [Yes, the American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States]

1788   F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue (ed. 2)   Shag, to copulate.

The OED also notes the use of this verb “profanely in imprecations and exclamations”, essentially taking over the syntax of fuck in this domain. The dictionary’s examples: 1933 shag off! 1971 go shag 1973 shag you!

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