Origin of the word dating
“As early as 1905, private investigators hired by a group of Progressive do-gooders in New York City were taking notes on what we can now recognize as the dating avant-garde.” She recalls the report of one such special agent, staked out at the Strand Hotel in Midtown, who noted that the women he was spying on did not seem like prostitutes, per se, but were concerning nonetheless.
Of the “store employees, telephone girls, stenographers, etc.,” he noted that “their morals are loose, and there is no question that they are on terms of sexual intimacy with their male companions.” So heavy was the concern that these loose, immoral women might harm society that, “in the 1910s, John D.
Rockefeller Jr., the son of the Standard Oil founder, funded investigations into the commercialized vice industries of more than a dozen American cities.” By the mid-1910s, women on dates came to be known as “Charity Girls” — as in, since they took no money for their “favors,” they were perceived to be giving it away as charity — and by the 1920s, “the prostitutes at New York’s Strand Hotel complained that Charity Girls were putting them out of business.” It sounds like a joke, until you learn that some women were thrown in jail for this horrible crime.
As with concepts like the “teenager” and “middle-class,” dating is an historically recent invention, spurred by an influx of women into the big cities seeking work around the turn of the 20th Century.The word “date” was coined — inadvertently, it seems — by George Ade, a columnist for the Chicago Record, in 1896.In a column about “working class lives,” he told of a clerk named Artie whose girlfriend was losing interest in him and beginning to see other men socially.Middle English: via Old French from medieval Latin data, feminine past participle of dare ‘give’; from the Latin formula used in dating letters, data (epistola) ‘(letter) given or delivered’, to record a particular time or place. But how much worse would it be if the very act of it landed you in jail?