Dear 100 Hour Board,
I am wondering about the origins of the phrase "making love"--but before you get worried, let me explain. I definitely know what it means in our day and time(!), but this phrase shows up in a lot of older movies and books and songs. For example, in "It's a Wonderful Life," when her mother asks her what she is doing, Mary Hatch yells that George Bailey is "making violent love to [her]". Also, in the book "I Capture the Castle", Cassandra says she makes love with Stephen. Given the historical context as well as the physical setting in both of these cases, it doesn't seem likely that they are engaging in anything more than kissing or making out. But maybe I am wrong? I have always wondered about this when things like this come up. If it really was referring to kissing, when did the phrase "making love" come to mean, er, what it does today?
The OED lists the following for the etymology of the phrase to make love: "after Old Occitan far amor (13th cent.), Middle French, French faire l'amour (16th cent.; 1622 with reference to sexual intercourse), or Italian far l'amore."
The OED then goes on to list several definitions, two of which apply to your question. The first is "To pay amorous attention; to court, woo. Freq. with to. Also in extended use. Now somewhat arch." It lists frequent examples starting in 1567 all the way up until the 20th century. This definition doesn't even mean kissing or making out; it just means courting someone.
The second definition is "orig. U.S. To engage in sexual intercourse, esp. considered as an act of love. Freq. with to, with." The first example given is from 1927, and they continue to the present time.
From what I can tell, the French phrase referred to sex as early as 1622, but the English phrase meant courtship up until the 1920s or so, when it began taking on sexual connotations.