According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the definition of euphemism (ˈyü-fə-ˌmi-zəm) noun is “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.”
Sure, there are times when you’re around children and may want to obscure what you’re saying or be nice in polite company and say “feminine protection” for tampons. Of course, we hear euphemisms cleverly deployed in television and film all the time to get around the sensors or just not offend certain viewers. Okay, that’s all true, but if we’re honest, euphemisms can also be hella fun just to say. And they can serve a purpose when you and your lover are “bumping uglies” or “taking a trip to pound town.”
In a recent blog, we talked about talking dirty. Euphemisms can be a brilliant and simple way to have a delightfully salacious and sexy conversation. We find that couples often coin their own euphemisms for sex acts or even just silly names for body parts. On that point, Merriam-Webster are… were, well, very smart, nice people we’re sure, but no fun at parties. Their online Thesaurus, for example, could come up with only a few tired nuggets as synonyms for sexual intercourse such as “making love” and “getting it on.” Now us “smack the salmon” and “hit a home run” hipsters can do hella better than that, can’t we? You bet your “beast with two backs” we can! An oldie – circa 1500s to 1600s – but personal favorite since it can be found in The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare. Oh yes, literature lovers, the Bard stands as an early master of euphemisms, if there ever was one. You always have to remember his actors were playing to fairly bawdy and rowdy audiences in the mosh pit that were as likely to throw vegetables as jeers. He knew they wanted the sexual puns as ribald as possible and keep them coming fast and furious. Great, wise and commercially viable playwright that he was, Shakespeare obliged. Will is generally credited with coining or introducing more than 1,700 words, and he readily deployed them in naughty sentences. He certainly peppered his plays with numerous memorable eupho-blasters such as “get thee to a nunnery” (brothel) from Hamlet and from Romeo & Juliet: “O happy daggar! This is thy sheath.” (Pretty simple to figure out, so we’ll leave that one to your imagination). (For more in-depth innuendos, which can be even punnier than just being another name for an Italian enema, here is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s take on Shakespeare’s slang and sexual language.)
People may tend to use euphemisms in places of worship, too, without realizing that the Bible is rife with somewhat masked but obvious sexual expressions. In the Good Book, for example, genitals are described as “feet,” “thighs,” “mandrakes,” “pomegranates” and “hanging fruit.” Meanwhile, the most common euphemisms for intercourse are “to enter,” “to lie with,” “to know” and “to go into.” According to one religious news blog we found, “Instead of being a list of sexual shalt-nots, the Bible contains so much graphic eroticism that parents may want to keep the sacred text away from youth under age 18,” one article says. “The Bible — which has been the foundation for much of the world’s sex-related laws — is actually, it seems, quite erotic, and surprisingly soft on things like prostitution and polygamy.”
When it was first published in 2007, The Contemporary Dictionary of Sexual Euphemisms by Jordon Tate did something few other dictionaries had ever attempted – apologies to Merriam & Webster, again, but we know they never did: “record the fascinating and often raunchy inventory of English sexual euphemisms.” According to its promotions at least, the book is “a hilarious, unabashed, at times shocking compilation of every sexual euphemism you’ve ever heard – and many more you haven’t.” If you really want to have fun, though, check out some of the ancient innuendos that ran in this article, “All The Ridiculous Historical Euphemisms For Sex” by JR Thorpe in Bustle in 2015. For example, those randy denizens of the 1300s would refer to “giving someone a green gown,” and they weren’t talking about what to wear to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade or the spring cotillion. The term means having sex on the grass or on a hillside. One lover’s green gown is another lover’s “roll in the hay,” we suppose.
Just for you, we have assembled the following glossary of euphemisms to toss out wherever, whenever, and however you like. After all, it is a free country where we all have the right to “have our corn ground” or “grope for trout in a peculiar river” or even “play nug-a-nug” in “the service of Venus.” Be honest. You know you want to click on that hyperlink now to learn even more wacky and wonderful ways to describe sexual acts. Or you can take a moment to see how many of these famous slyly dirty descriptions are already in your repertoire from a list provided by BuzzFeed’s staff several years ago.
- Knock boots
- Check the oil
- Feed the kitty
- Do the no pants dance
- Two-person pushups
- Slime the banana
- Fill the cream donut
- Burping the worm in the mole hole
- Test the humidity
- Stuff the taco
- Ride the skin bus into tuna town
- Polish the porpoise
- Spear the bearded clam
Hard to even type some of these without laughing out loud – or stirring up fond memories… So now it’s your turn. Cultivate your own mini-dictionary of euphemisms you and your partner and friends like to use for anything sexual. Take THAT, Merriam-Webster!