• Michael Shannon and Ray Liotta play real-life criminals Richard Kuklinski and Roy DeMeo

When did people start saying “porn” as shorthand for pornography? It sounds like a product of the home video era, when pornographic movies became easier to come by: a flat, workaday term for an increasingly familiar commodity. Compared with the more juvenile “porno,” with the negative sound of its second syllable, it’s difficult to imbue “porn” with any sense of outrage or taboo. This may explain why I have trouble imagining anyone using the term before the 1980s. Even among its makers or staunchest defenders, did anyone predict it would ever become so commonplace?

I thought about this while watching a new movie called The Iceman, which opens commercially tomorrow. In it people utter the word “porn” during two scenes, one set in the mid-60s and the other in mid-70s; at both points it sticks out like a sore thumb. In the first instance it’s spoken by Ray Liotta, who plays the New Jersey mobster who hires Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) as his hit man. When they first meet, Kuklinski copies hard-core movies for a living, leading Liotta to sneer, “How long you been dubbing porn?” I suppose it’s not implausible that in 1964 the sleazeballs who profited off stag reels were so familiar with their product that they’d employ this blase term. But where would they pick it up? Wouldn’t they be used to saying “stag reels” or “blue movies” (or some other such euphemism) like everyone else?