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I came across the term "sex film actress" in the Op-Ed column The Disposable Woman. I could guess what the phrase meant, as "sex worker" is a new term for "prostitute", and therefore "sex film actress" would be the equivalent for "porn star".

I checked if this term had been used before, and there were a smattering of uses, but it looked so infrequent it seemed as if the term was coined each time. Is there a name for such a phenomenon?

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What about a programming language that's constantly re-invented. Lisp? – Jared Updike Mar 8 '11 at 19:13
@JaredUpdike - If they could say it clearly the first time they wouldn't have to keep repeating it. – Hot Licks Nov 9 at 23:35
... A bad penny? – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 at 0:08

3 Answers 3

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I don't think there's currently a word for it, but you could probably get away with calling it a re-neologism. (Although in the case of "sex film actress", the re-phrasing is so pointless even by PC standards that I'd have to label it a "useless euphemism".)

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I was going to call it political correctness, but I could sympathize with why the term was used. – Andrew Grimm Mar 4 '11 at 23:14

"sex film actress" is more precise than "porn star" as there are many kinds of porn media (and many kinds of porn) and "sex film" narrows it down a lot. Also, "actress" narrows it down to "female" but that's probably redundant based on the context. So using the phrase "sex film actress" might not be a euphemism nor an attempt at being PC, but rather an attempt at being explicit.

Given that this is not a word but rather a phrase with a pretty obvious meaning, it doesn't strike me as being remarkable. If I described Lon Chaney as a "silent film actor" you should know immediately what that means even if "silent film actor" isn't a set phrase.

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Apart from when "porn" is used metaphorically (such as "food porn"), when is "porn" different from "sex film"? – Andrew Grimm Mar 4 '11 at 23:12
@Andrew: well, if it's just photos of porn? – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Mar 5 '11 at 5:05
A "sex film" is synonymous with a "porn film". I'm not sure why one would need to distinguish between an individual who acts in pornographic films and an individual who poses for pornographic photos. The necessity for differentiating between the two nearly-identical professions is almost nonexistent, as far as I can tell. In any case, I find it extremely doubtful that the original author used the term as a deliberate differentiation from a person who poses nude for still photos. – Dr. Funk Nov 9 at 23:34
@Dr.Funk - Of course, you're not a sex film actress. (Are you?) – Hot Licks Nov 9 at 23:37
someone who only poses for still photos would not be a star. – sumelic Nov 9 at 23:55

The term compulsive euphemization fits in the context of political correctness.

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