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I recently read the opening chapter of Middlemarch and was surprised by the appearance of the word gimp in relation to articles of clothing. In this context it meant

twisted silk, worsted, or cotton with cord or wire running through it, used chiefly as upholstery trimming

However, I was only familiar with the gimp from Pulp Fiction. According to wiktionary this is :

A sexual submissive, almost always male, dressed generally in a black leather suit.

This is apparently derived from another meaning of gimp that OED dates to the 1920s (origin unknown).

a physically disabled or lame person

Wiktionary suggests that the word is a mutation of limp and therefore unrelated to gimp fabric. But what about the BDSM sort of gimp, when and where was the first such usage and which came first, the gimp or the gimp suit? Does the 'sexual submissive' meaning originate from the Tarantino film?

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

EtymOnline has this:

gimp (1) 1925, "a crippled leg," also "a crippled person," perhaps by association with limp, or a corruption of gammy (see game (adj.)).

gimp (2) also gymp, ornamental material for trimming dresses, furniture, etc., 1660s, from Fr. guimpe, O.Fr. guimple "wimple, headdress, veil," from a Germanic source (cf. O.H.G. wimpal).

It agrees with your sources on etymology of gimp as a slang word and sheds some light on it's "fabric" meaning, which seems to be at least several hundred years older.

As to gimp suit, it seems to be coined in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (Wikipedia) and is younger than both above meanings of gimp.

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Interesting discussion here saying that it was an accidental coinage by Tarantino: boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-386794.html –  z7sg Ѫ Sep 5 '11 at 15:07
    
@z7sg Ѫ Indeed, very interesting –  Philoto Sep 5 '11 at 15:34
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gimp suit as a BDSm term is believed to have originated in the late seventies or early eighties, although its original usage differs slightly from what we are familiar with today. it does NOT originate from the Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction. it can first be observed in erotic BDSM literature around the described time period. Based on some of these texts, it seems that the original "gimp suits" were more of a complicated full body restraint than a full body harness/ shame-cover as they are more typically viewed today. A common theme in a lot of bondage play was the limitation of the submissive's ability to move, whether it be via handcuff, leash, or restrictive clothes such as corsets. The "gimp suit" originally expanded on this idea, with severallatch points for external restraints, stiff fabrics and even stiffer reinforcements, and various other points of restraint. the gimp suit was a veritable full body restraint. although i have no confirmation on this (i wasnt around to watch the conception of the term), it seems most likely that it was termed a "gimp" suit because it essentially handicapped the user, making them a more classical "gimp." I've discussed this terminology before, and that is the best i've ever come up with. Today, gimp suits are moreso an objectification and humiliation tool, meant moreso to degrade the wearer to a sexual "toy" as opposed to partner. however, many suits stil retain the original idea of restraint. Hope this helped!

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Thanks for responding, and I'd probably switch this to the correct answer if you could quote the published BDSM texts you're referring to. –  z7sg Ѫ Jul 16 '12 at 19:33
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