The Grammarphobia Blog

The origin of “sex maniac”

Q: I used the expression “sex maniac” (pardon me) in a paper I wrote about a story written in the early 1900’s. I was told the term would have been an anachronism at that time. Where can I find out when it came into use?

A: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first published reference to “sex maniac” appeared in 1895 in a novel, Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly, by Hamlin Garland: “The brakeman came through and eyed her with the glare of a sex-maniac.”

Garland (1860-1940) was a prolific and popular American novelist. This novel is about a farm girl who, much like Garland himself, leaves farm life behind to become an author.