Puttanesca sauce, that delicious tomato mixture of olives, capers, garlic, and some other ingredients, has a name literally meaning "sluttish" in Italian. This is because of an association with prostitutes during World War II for reasons that are not entirely clear. Explanations range from it being cooked as an easy dish by sex workers between customers to it smelling similar to them; linguists are really quite unsure. The root of the term is puttana, a pejorative word for "prostitute". That comes from puta, which is Latin for "girl" and in turn is a conjugation of putus, which meant "boy" but originally had a definition of "pure". Finally, it all derives from the Proto-Indo-European root pewh, meaning "to purify". After its introduction to the United States in the 1960s, puttanesca exploded in usage in the '80s and '90s as it was popularized through cooking shows and cookbooks, peaking in 1998.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.