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I'm sure most of you have heard "necking" to mean kissing with passion; however, before "necking" the popular word among American youth was "petting". From Flappers to Rappers: The Study of American Youth Slang by Dr. Thomas Dalzell states that by the middle of the 1920s folks overwhelmingly were using the word necking instead of petting. The book doesn't state when petting was first used. Nevertheless, I'm most interested as to why folks used petting and necking to describe one who is kissing with passion. Any thoughts?

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Necking doesn't mean “with passion,” it means “on the neck.” And petting doesn't mean kissing at all, it means “fondling.” –  Bradd Szonye Mar 15 '14 at 22:48
Not according to From Flappers to Rappers as well as online sources I've used which research old slang from the early 20th century. I understand if those words are spoken today they are understood more as you've defined them; however, my sources have defined them both to have once meant kissing with passion. –  User53019 Mar 15 '14 at 22:53
They're euphemisms, and euphemisms have a short half-life. As soon as everybody knows, they're just synonyms and you have to find a new euphemism. Taboo words, on the other hand, are the healthiest in the language; everybody has to know them in order to avoid saying them. –  John Lawler Mar 15 '14 at 22:58
If you have sources that define the words differently from their usual meaning, please include an excerpt in your question. –  Bradd Szonye Mar 15 '14 at 23:01
@User53019: We've already addressed the status of that book when it comes to "reliable use of slang" in one of your earlier questions. Without question, almost all native speakers who still use the word petting (vanishingly few, as John implies) understand it to mean touching erogenous zones (perhaps through clothing). Necking is even more dated, but it basically meant putting heads/necks together, which will pretty much inevitably involve kissing. Totally different to petting. –  FumbleFingers Mar 15 '14 at 23:17

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The verb 'neck' meaning "to kiss, embrace, caress" is first recorded 1825 (implied in necking) in northern England dial., from the noun.

I would imagine the implication is that the activity took place from the neck upwards.

The sense of 'petting' meaning "to stroke" is first found 1818. Slang sense of "kiss and caress" is from 1920 (implied in petting, in F. Scott Fitzgerald).

The common-sense trajectory seems to be the use of the word in relation to domestic animals, then children, then adults affectionately, then romantically.

See 'petting parties' here.

All very tame compared to bussing, it would seem. :)

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I wonder how much bussing is influenced by French baiser - to kiss. Where in actual fact, baise-moi would probably translate more accurately as fuck me rather than kiss me. –  FumbleFingers Mar 15 '14 at 23:20
@FumbleFingers Seems closer than the given German 'kuss', but then perhaps they took that distinction into account. –  Leon Conrad Mar 15 '14 at 23:24
You just prompted me to check OED. They say "origin uncertain", but like your link, they give the obsolete bass (cognate with Fr baiser) before mentioning the German possibility. For myself, I have no problem accepting that many current words are to a greater or lesser extent "mixed parentage". Or at least, that various "aunts and uncles" may help a word to retain currency, or shift its meaning. As we're now discovering with the genetics of viruses/bacteria, "direct lineage" isn't always the only factor when studying the link between past and present. –  FumbleFingers Mar 15 '14 at 23:34

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