Strumpet sounds like an epithet my grandmother would have uttered disdainfully to describe the hussies who stayed too late in the downtown clubs. She’d have meant it dismissively, yet even spoken as a pejorative, the word entices with a linguistic imprecision that begs precise clarification — not from my grandmother, but from the strumpets themselves.

Kids these days don’t seem to know the word, or they disregard it, preferring the vulgar efficiency of slut andwhore, graceless appellations that resonate with judgment and nearly always overstate their case. Strumpet may be a trollop, but its spirited freedom is more defiant of convention than morality. My grandmother wouldn’t acknowledge such a distinction, but I do. After all, harlot is in the eye of the beholder.

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