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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

10 January 2007

Not to be Crass, but. . .

(Note: Getting this past Blogger censors will be a challenge, but I have to try for the sake of our art.) Kalen and I once participated in a wonderful discussion about the lack of good euphemisms for a very important female body part. I hope we will recreate the discussion here soon. Maybe for my next post?!? Hmm.

Anwyay, during this discussion, I started pouring over a book called Sexual Slang by Alan Richter, PhD., and I found that there were very few slang words for the most important female body part (ahem) and lots of names for the male sex organ. Lots of them. Lots and lots. I came to the conclusion that most men spend too much time thinking about their own body parts and not enough about their woman's. But it was fun all the same. In the name of education, here are a few of the best. I've left out many of the obvious, aggressive names like dagger and cutlass and sword and stick. *Vicki rolls her eyes* Enjoy!


Very early:
weapon – 11th century
pintle – 12th century
member – 13th century
yard – 14th century

15th Century:
arrow
horn
lance
verge

16th Century:
"his affair"
bauble
dart
little finger
pike
rubigo (Scottish)
stalk
stand
thistle
tool

17th Century:
carnal parts
carnal stump
eel
flapdoodle
potato finger
pudding
roger
sceptre
tantrum
torch of Cupid

18th Century:
beak
devil
impudence
old horny
ranger
rule of three
silent flute
stretcher
tallywag
what

19th century:
banger
best leg of three
Captain Standish
fancy work
fixed bayonet
goose’s neck
handstaff
jiggling bone
lamp of life
Saint Peter
sensitive truncheon
sugar stick
uncle

"Potato finger"? Wow. Needless to say, my favorite is "best leg of three", followed closely by "sensitive truncheon". "Carnal stump" is just wrong, wrong, wrong. But seriously, I hope your heroes never use most of these, though they may come in handy for villains or maybe older brothers. In reality, I prefer to use the good old "c*#k" word in my books. I think it's historically accurate for most of our time-periods, and I also think it can be sexy as hell. What's your favorite euphemism? What's your favorite BAD euphemism? Come on, let's share!!!

20 Comments:

Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

"Yard" is the most common euphemism I see in period texts up through the 18th century (seems men have always thought VERY well of themselves, LOL!). I think “manroot” is one of my least favorite purple prose euphemisms, though “sugar stick” from your list just might replace it. *shudder*

Like Vicki, I prefer to just use “c*ck”.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Kalen, that was my first response too! Yard? Well, I guess.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

What say you???? My hero whipping out his flapdoodle?

One of my heroines staring at his tallywag?

Gasp, NEVER.

Kinda kills the romance AND the passion. LOL. The very words just crack me up.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Kristina Cook said...

I also prefer the c&*k word, and finally worked up the nerve to use it in my upcoming release--because frankly, in the hero's POV, I think it's historically accurate and far sexier than the alternatives.

Best leg of three?! Okay, that one had me rolling on the floor laughing! And sugar stick?! OMG!

10:51 AM  
Blogger Maggie Robinson said...

Turgid member has to be the worst (altho I suppose it's better than flaccid member).

C*ck is okay. Really, everything sounds pretty sad, doesn't it? We need to get some entymologists to work on this.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I got to wondering about "yard", it seems just too much of an exaggeration. OED to the rescue! Some definitions for "yard" from roughly between 900 and 1500.

1. a. A straight slender shoot or branch of a tree; a twig, stick. Obs.
d. Used typically of a thing of no value.

(Well, that should cut any braggarts down to, uhm, size.)

2. a. A staff or stick carried in the hand as a walking stick, or by a shepherd or herdsman. Obs.

(So many sheep and "rod in hand" jokes here. My brain may fry.)

3. a. A stick or rod used as an instrument for administering strokes by way of punishment or otherwise. Obs.
b. fig. A means or instrument of punishment; hence, punishment, chastisement. Obs.

4. A wand, rod, or staff carried as a symbol of office, authority, etc.; hence in fig. phr. under the yard, under (the) rule or discipline (of). Obs.

(yes, if we can't personify it with a name, we turn it into a weapon.)

Somewhere in my 1936 translation of François Rabelais' _Gargantua and Pantagruel_ (cruelly out of reach at home) is a long passage describing peasants couples complimenting each other with euphemisms such as, "you are the lace for my shoe" or "you are the clapper for my bell", but I'll be danged if I can find any trace of this in online translations. Besides, it wouldn't help with the original French. I just point it out because there were a lot of creative euphemisms for both men and women.

And while this may not be historical, Kalen and I have a mutual friend who would sometimes say on his way out looking for girls, "John Thomas needs a new hat!" Though he may have never said it within earshot of Kalen.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Jolie Mathis said...

This reminds me of the out takes at the end of GRUMPY OLD MEN (remember?) Ol' One Eye! I can't remember any of the other euphemisms they used.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Y. said...

Some of these definitely made me laugh..."little finger" "fancy work" and "what" especially.

I read a contemporary romance where it was referred to as "the animal in his pants," "one-eyed trouser monster," "trouser rat" and "Mr. Happy" by the hero. Definitely not romantic to me.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Scott, WHO SAYS THAT?!!

I thought the boys pretty much treated me as one of them, but apparently not! LOL!

2:55 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

I read a contemporary romance where it was referred to as "the animal in his pants," "one-eyed trouser monster," "trouser rat" and "Mr. Happy" by the hero. Definitely not romantic to me.

Oh, my GAWD, would you just DIE? Definitely not romantic. In fact, my junior high boyfriend used to call it Mr. Happy, so let's grow up, shall we? ;-D

And according to Sexual Slang, "John Thomas" was actually used in Lady Chatterley's Lover. So maybe your friend was just well-read! It was later shortened to Thomas and then Tom or Tommy. Also, Tommy Rollicks is cockney slang for testicles, as it rhymes with bollocks.

Hahahahaha. Tommy Rollicks.

The only problem with this book is that it truly is a dictionary. There are no charts or lists. If you want to find a 17th word for erection, you just have to read through all the definitions. It's hard work. Get it? hee Hard.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

And thanks for the alternate definitions of yard, Scott! Now it all makes sense!

There were tons of very aggressive, punishing words that I left out. Like whip, blade, club and pistol. Club? Real nice.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

"John Thomas" is great, I think it was the "needs a new hat" part that would have gotten which ever friend of mine this is wacked.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

You think?

Sounds pretty historically accurate, in my opinion. Regressive, even. *wink*

4:15 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Wonder who John Thomas was? Poor guy....;-)

5:09 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

The worst I ever read: purple helmeted warrior

9:41 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Kristina, congrats on finally using the C word!!! *grin*

I think it's gorgeous, personally, but it is definitely crossing a line. It takes a deep breath to write it out the first time.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Susan Wilbanks said...

purple helmeted warrior

Some history of the English language series I caught on the History Channel a year or two ago had a woman in Regency attire read off a list of period euphemisms for the part in question, speaking in a very proper educated English accent. One that has stuck with me is "his majesty, in purple cap."

I used "c*ck" in my last manuscript, at least when in the hero's POV, because I was pretty sure that's how he'd think of it. It's a word that lost its shock value for me long ago--I don't know if it's my foul-mouthed friends, or all the Spike/Buffy fanfic I used to read. :-) But my CPs were a bit shocked at first.

As for my least favorite euphemisms, the extra-coy ones bug me. Things like, "His whole body hardened." Makes me picture rigor mortis instead of arousal. I'd rather have a scene fade to black than have a vague, coy sex scene.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I used "c*ck" in my last manuscript . . But my CPs were a bit shocked at first.

I don't get this, but then my friends pretty much swear like sailors. *GRIN* I've never found "c*ck" to be at all shocking, and it least it doesn't leave me with the giggles.

What I hate are some of the euphemisms for vulva that seem to have taken over erotic romance: quim (ick, makes me think of gelatinous things that quiver), cunny (period, yes, but gross), and the dreaded yoni (beloved of hippie girls everywhere).

1:40 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Thanks for posting these, Victoria. Nothing like a good snigger to get me in the mood for struggling with my next chapter. Actually, the one that made me laugh was 'little' finger. Can you imagine any man actually owning up to that one? I sure can't! The first time I used c*ck, I was rather shocked at myself, but I must say the frisson has worn off since. And I think it's the best alternative - it's realistic and it isn't precious, unlike manroot. Shudder. I remember in old Mills and Boons that his thighs always hardened? What?

7:54 PM  
Blogger Kate Pearce said...

jiggling bone, jiggling bone??
I laughed so much I nearly fell off my chair.
thank you

7:53 PM  

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