I may have just found my all time favourite word origin story. Except no one is actually sure where “sleazy” came from! But – and I’m ashamed to admit this is weaving related – there is a possible origin in cloth from Silesia (once a name for part of eastern Europe).
Now, I got wondering about sleazy when I discovered it is another word for gauzy fabrics which just seemed odd. Why sleazy fabric? Because they’re see through? Because they’re often luxurious and maybe therefore of the boudoir?
Excellent quality, fine quality cloth was made in Silesia and after it was sold into various countries – including England – it became known as sleazy cloth.
For some reason “sleazy” left the realm of cloth and became, originally, a word for flimsy or inferior in the 17thC.
It had to wait for the 20thC to take on the meaning we give it today, but again, no one seems to know why, how or where the change came from. We do know in the mid 20thC it became a word for filthy and squalid, but the “low moral standards” aspect is as fresh as the 1960s!
I may, one day, write a book just about weaving terms…