Make Your Editor Cry: Butt Naked vs. Buck Naked

Make Your Editor Cry:  Butt Naked vs. Buck Naked

Both buck naked and butt naked are informal (slang) English and you are unlikely to have cause to use either in professional formal writing. Buck naked is older with butt naked appearing much more recently.

In the phrase “buck naked” the word buck most likely refers to buckskin, which is to say the skin of a male deer. Deer of either sex rarely don any apparel and often—really always—choose to run around in the woods completely nude.

Recent identity politicos have maligned the old “buck naked” idiom by insisting that the word buck refers to either male native Americans (Indians) or male slaves of the antebellum era, which groups were also offensively classified as “bucks” at the time. The logical facts that rather handily undermine this modern spin is that 1) neither of these people groups ran around completely nude as a rule, and 2) the argument shifts from one group to the other or both dependent upon the identity politics agenda being pushed by the given spin-master, and 3) there is not one shred of substantial evidence anywhere in the last 250 years of usage to reasonably support this modern politically charged interpretation as the intended usage.

The phrase “butt naked” is much newer and likely sees use because of the word butt having a long history of referring to a person’s buttocks. Naturally, butt naked is the preferred idiom of those identity politicos because it is somehow deemed “less offensive.”

Of course, the word “butt” might be deemed offensive by sensitive readers.

My advice? If you want to describe someone as completely nude or naked or without a stitch of clothing, perhaps simply write that he or she is “completely nude” or “naked” or “without a stitch of clothing” or some other less informal description that avoids the identity politics debate entirely.

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