The Daily Evergreen

Sex euphemisms disguised the act for millennium

As society has advanced, euphemisms have become less prevalent, one columnist argues

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen columnist

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Disguising the act of sex is an ancient practice. Euphemisms are an important part of language, especially language regarding sex.

Today, it is more generally acceptable to discuss sex openly, but it is still somewhat awkward. Those wanting to censor their dirty deeds have a variety of options to choose from, dating back to a period when writers changed sex into something more poetic.

We have to travel back to the Middle Ages to understand the nature of sex and why euphemisms were so important.

Generally, people of the Middle Ages were conservative Christians who had problematic ideas about a lot of things, including women’s sexuality.

There was no way of talking about sex openly. If you did, it was considered blasphemous. Instead, people came up with more elegant ways of saying they wanted to have sex, though many of the phrases did not hold up in modern culture.

In the 1300s, sex in the grass or on a hillside was the act of “giving someone a green gown,” as defined in “Green’s Dictionary of Slang” by Jonathon Green.

Obviously, options were limited in the Middle Ages, but there was also a certain amount of romanticism involved in the countryside. Green was considered the color of innocence, so this euphemism is actually pretty charming.

Green’s dictionary also cited sex as “fadoodling,” “joining giblets,” and “having your corn ground.” Giblets are defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the visceral organs of a fowl, a type of bird, which farmers in particular ate.

“Grinding corn,” also an old farmer’s trick, developed into a sexual euphemism due to the symbolic imagery of pounding a cob of corn into the ground using a rock. This does not sound enjoyable for either party, but sex in the 1800s probably was not that much fun to begin with anyways.

Shakespeare is known as the master of words, and almost every one of his plays had a phrase that would later cement itself in the English language. Not all his phrases were winners, though.

In his play, “Measure for Measure,” Shakespeare euphemized the act of fingering a woman as “groping for trout in a peculiar river.” First of all, this paints a pretty gross image. Second of all, referring a woman’s genitals as a “river” is arrogant on the man’s part.

Over time, the euphemisms became dirtier.

Once sex became less constrained and more acceptable for discussion, there was no need for a different way to say, “I want to have sex with you.”

Today, the euphemisms are mostly something of a big joke. Teenagers aren’t serious or trying to be sensual when they talk about “smashing” someone; it would be cringe-worthy if they did.

We can thank “Jersey Shore” for the poetic verse of being “DTF” and “smooshing” someone. The show’s cast solidified the idea of turning sex into a joking matter, and out of that idea came new, less subtle euphemisms.

Nowadays, teenagers have the eggplant emoji at their disposal, sent alongside droplets of water to represent something dirtier than wet fruit. There is also the “happy endings” phrase, which represents getting a massage, followed by oral sex.

“Piping” and “screwing” are more mechanical ways of referring to sex, while “smashing” and “getting frisky” are pretty general terms for the same thing.

The British still call sex “shagging” or “knocking boots,” while people in Germany masturbate by “scrubbing one’s carrot,” as told in “Green’s Dictionary of Slang.” It will be a while before I look at carrots the same way.

I’ll close by noting one of the most basic words for sex: the F-word. The word came from the Latin words meaning “to strike” or “to fist,” according to Green’s dictionary. The F-word was integrated into English literature as a replacement for the word “swive,” which was the first genuinely obscene word for sex. Green’s Dictionary of Slang marks this happening in 1475, which means the F-word has remained a staple in sex culture for over 500 years.

Sydney Brown is a freshman journalism major from Las Vegas, Nevada. She can be contacted at 335-1140 or by [email protected]

About the Writer
SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen life editor
Sydney Brown is a sophomore journalism major from Las Vegas and the Life editor at The Daily Evergreen. She joined the Evergreen in fall 2017 as a freshmen reporter for Life and became the Life editor in spring 2018. After graduating she hopes to become a documentary filmmaker and work for an independent news organization...

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Sex euphemisms disguised the act for millennium