‘passion-killer’: meanings and origin

In British English, the noun passion-killer denotes anything which discourages or inhibits sexual activity.

This noun was originally used in the plural, in British military slang, to denote the sturdy, practical and unattractive underwear issued to female service personnel.

The earliest occurrences of the noun passion-killer that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From It’s a Piece of Cake; or, R.A.F. Slang Made Easy (London: Sylvan Press, August 1943), by Cyril Henry Ward-Jackson—the following is from the 1945 edition:

BLACKOUTS. The navy-blue winter-weight knickers issued to the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. (See “Twilights” and “Passion Killers.”)
PASSION KILLERS. Service knickers issued to airwomen. (See “Blackouts” and “Twilights.”)
TWILIGHTS. Knickers, summer, W.A.A.F. They are a paler shade of blue than the winter-weights. (See “Blackouts” and “Passion Killers.”)

2-: From a letter to her parents, written from Algiers, Algeria, by Lois M. Kelley, Corporal in the Women’s Army Corps, published in The Tulsa Tribune (Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA) of Friday 26th November 1943:

Acting as secretary to three British and an American officer, Corporal Kelley is in favor of the British custom of pausing in mid-afternoon for tea and cakes.
British sentiment about other things—hose, for instance, she disdains. “I wish you would send me some more of those nice lisle hose you sent last Christmas—even though the British officers call them ‘passion killers’.”

3-: From Watch the Birdie!, by Len Wallace, about the British film actress Patricia Roc (1915-2003), published in the Picturegoer (London, England) of Saturday 18th June 1949:

In The Perfect Woman, the delectable Miss Roc appears before the camera for the first time in the kind of attire that glamour girls are popularly supposed to specialize in. To wit, black lace scanties. This somewhat crabbed reporter goes on record as expressing the view that Pat in the black vital necessities is a “good thing.” The boys will agree; and many a barrack-room wall will testify to that endorsement.
It seems that we, the refined and delicate British, have produced a genuine sex-appeal girl. That’s quite an achievement from the nation that has also produced that devastatingly lethal passion-killer, the R.A.D.A. accent.

4-: From the review of the television show An Arabian Night, produced by Associated-Rediffusion on Thursday 9th June 1960—review by Philip Purser, published in the News Chronicle and Daily Dispatch (London, England) of Friday 10th June 1960:

All was nice and harmless and modest, as befits A.R.’s present policy. Even the dancing girls wore black passion-killers beneath their diaphanous skirts.

5-: From Tony Delano’s column Today from Paris, published in the Sunday Mirror (London, England) of Sunday 23rd June 1963:

PARIS IN JUNE . . . warm, mellow and in carefree mood before Parisians start their great holiday trek to the sea, surrendering the city to the tourists.
On the beaches this season everybody—every female body, anyway—is wearing trim, sexy Bermuda shorts in light, bright and clinging fabrics.
They’re a far cry from those passion killers that have made American tourists look hideous for years.

6-: From There is no promise in a pinta, by Christopher Ward, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Friday 9th December 1966:

Mr. Duncan Macmillan, the barman at the Charing Cross Hotel, London, […] said […] certain drinks caused certain ladies to feel a little more warmly disposed.
[…] He had heard that as far as aphrodisiacs go, you couldn’t beat prunes.
But, as I pointed out, you can’t sit feeding a girl with prunes all night, can you?
No, he reckoned that you couldn’t beat champagne cocktail. Well worth the few extra shillings, and judging from what he had seen a sure winner every time.
There used to be a drink called Between The Sheets, he said, but that was rather old hat now, and anyway, it was guaranteed to make any girl put her defences up.
Beer is a sure passion killer, says Mr. Macmillan, and as for Guinness—well, he’s amazed the Irish ever propagate.

7-: From the account of Paris fashion week, France, by Felicity Green, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Tuesday 24th January 1967:

QUIET GOOD taste? Forget it! Restrained elegance? You must be joking.
Paris fashion week has opened with a dashing, flashing display of fun that proves there’s bags of life in the old place yet.
Take designer Louis Feraud for instance. Feraud opted out of the exclusive league a while ago, but has fat and healthy tie-ups with both British and American manufacturers.
[…]
Among my fancies . . .
SLEEVELESS gabardine shift dresses with cropped jackets in marvellous colours straight from a jar of boiled sweets—apricot, orange, lemon, and stop my mouth watering.
BRIGHT cotton canvas boots for summer.
SHORT shifts in football stripes with toning tights. Passionkillers if ever I saw them, but fun.

8-: From a correspondence from Paris, France, by Mary Holland, published in The Observer (London, England) of Sunday 30th July 1967:

THE haute couture, that old dictator, is dying but it won’t lie down. The model girls in Paris have never looked plainer. This week they have made even the grand ladies of the American Press look pretty and chic and feminine. At least most of them could be described, charitably, as ‘jolies-laides.’ The models in the salons are laides-laides and no messing.
The clothes are real passion killers. The most interesting thing about, say, a pair of flannel culottes made in one with a bodice which crosses over to fasten with diamante buttons down the side is to puzzle out how the girl gets it on and off. At least it is interesting as a mental exercise; I suspect that putting it into practice is a long and tedious drag.

9-: From The age of the naked knee is ending . . . Those hemlines are certain to take the plunge, by Fay Young, published in the Spalding Guardian (Spalding, Lincolnshire, England) of Friday 11th August 1967:

The hippie influence has worked its way in already, with the inevitable phoney effect. There will probably be a lot of weird “excitingly beautiful” designs churned out.
You have to cash in on the movement and make it good so that no-one realises that you don’t understand the significance of love hallucinations.
For example, the Paris Original—a psychedelic design of plastic flowers in a full length crackle and crunch passion killer. Very contrived, but no doubt it will catch on. It always does.

10-: From a correspondence from Bonn, Western Germany, by Dennis Martin, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Monday 2nd October 1967:

A DOCTOR is claiming that many sex problems in marriage are caused by electricity.
Electrical plugs and points installed under the bed can “deaden the desire to make love,” he says.
The theory, put forward by 59-year-old Dr. Reinhold Voll, is being taken seriously by German medical experts.
Dr. Voll says: “Reading lamps and bedside radios are the chief enemies of balanced marital love-making.”
Electric blankets and pillows and faulty wiring systems are great passion-killers, too, he adds.
Dr. Voll, who practises at Pochingen, near Stuttgart, says he has numerous cases to prove that electricity interferes with “the processes of love.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.