Talking Dirty: Is It Taboo Any More?


Museum of Euphemism cartoon

Are euphemisms for sex or bathroom actions becoming dead words?


Now, when types of slang words that have been stigmatized as obscene have become pretty much prevalent in a majority of social situations, why, to use another euphemism, beat around the bush?

In fact, that sound that bleeps out the offending words seems to be occurring more and more on television (on some reality shows, that sound seems to drown out the dialogue), perhaps showing we don't bother to even code anymore language that refers to those taboo sex/bathroom actions.

Too bad, I say, from just a creative standpoint. The richness and humor of coming up with ways to convey pooping and fucking ... it was a linguistic freedom that flourished within oppressive constraints, and some of the words mockingly confronted such oppression.

Here are some awesome euphemisms from The Big Book of Talking Dirty:

The Big Book of Talking Dirty

catch a horse (20thC) (Aus.) to urinate

fie for shame (19thC) the vagina; from the image of the vagina as something shameful

four­legged frolic (mid 19thC) sexual intercourse

gentleman of the back door (18thC) a homosexuality

get one's hair cut (20thC) to visit a woman for sex

give the Chinaman a music lesson (20thC) to urinate

give one's gravy (19thC) to give someone an orgasm

hundred­and­seventy­fiver (1990s) a homosexual (para. 175 of the German penal code outlawed homosexuality)

massaging the one eye'd monk (1990s) masturbation

Euphemisms for masturbation

One a much more serious note, there's one taboo area I still think we still use euphemisms for, because, in a time when any sign of aging can supposedly be quick­fixed by botox and billions of dollars are spent on prolonging life (not to be confused with finding cures for diseases): death. We're more and more uncomfortable with it, even when it happens naturally.

Often the young try, like the young of generations past, to sublimate their fear with a carpe diem attitude, or they end up scapegoating older people, inflicting a social death upon them, because they see in them their own future.

We all fuck and piss and shit and die: that's the reality all human culture confronts in a myriad of ways.

How many ways can you say that?

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