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Oct 27 2012

Embracing the Euphemism

I’m at CSICon this weekend with very limited writing time, so have a fun repost. Originally posted here.

I’ve long had a complicated relationship with euphemisms. On their own, I don’t like them much. I’m annoyed by people’s inability to talk about the things they clearly want or need to talk about. Many of them reflect the negative attitudes that keep us from speaking plainly in the first place. And some of them are just gallingly twee.

However, put a bunch of them together in one place, and they go from an act of denial to a demonstration of our creativity in the face of repression and a testament to the fact that we will talk about these things, no matter how much we’re told we shouldn’t. One lovely example is this song, brought to my attention by Sex, Etc., a sex education site aimed at teenagers. I don’t need to tell you this isn’t work-safe, do I?

Then there’s this classic song about penis euphemisms.

Doing a song about euphemisms for breasts would be almost pointless. There’d be no challenge in it. As a friend’s father once pointed out (in a totally non-creepy way, for the record), any plural noun can be a euphemism for breasts. “Look at the refrigerators on that one,” being the illustration.

I also love the practice of using euphemisms to riff because you’re talking about a subject in depth and are going to get bored using the same word over and over, as when Scicurious wrote about constipation–and bras:

More to the point, previous work with girdles (heh, I love that, “previous work with girdles”, I shall have to quote me) has shown that you get smaller and slower #2 when you are “under the influence of a girdle”. And well, if a girdle, could maybe the pressure exerted by a bra change your log dropping abilities?

So they took 7 female subjects, ages 11-41 years (yes, really). All of them suffered from no constipation and were under no medication at the time. The women went braless for a week, then wore the bra for a week, and spent the last week uninhibited and nippin’ out. For those three weeks, EVERY TIME they pinched a loaf, they had to record it…and WEIGH IT THEMSELVES. One wonders what scales they had to do this, and how they got the women to do it. I really hope they were paid.

Or as when Bug Girl wrote about the relationship between pubic hair removal and the prevalence of pubic lice:

Honestly? I think the only reason this paper made it past the journal editors was because it was about pubic lice, and crotch crickets are inherently interesting because of the pastures they graze in. (Which, of course, is exactly why -I- am writing about them!)

I did some investigating (in the library, pervs!) and found that there is actually data available on happy trail hair removal for women in the US and Australia. The percentage of Australian college women who shaved their pudenda was around 48% during the same time period; but that means that the majority of women still had some or all of their original carpeting, whether or not it still matched the drapes.

We also know from a very detailed study of American women in 2010 that there is no dominant pattern to hair removal in the US. Women aged 18-24 were most likely of all age groups to have naked crotches, but even then only 38% of them were hair free down there. Having a hairless muffin was actually the least common pattern of body hair in the over 2,450 women studied. Additionally, removal of one’s No-No Fro was NOT related to having experienced an STD infection in that study–which strongly suggests that the sample used for the “Brazilian hypothesis” was not representative.

Any one of these euphemisms alone would bug me. (“No-No Fro”? Really? Could we send a more sex-negative message?) All of them together, however, make me laugh more than wince, no matter how appalling they are individually.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Argle Bargle

    There was a cartoon showing a well-muscled man on a beach holding two women on his shoulders. Two other men were walking by and one says to the other: “Look at the chicks on that boob.”

  2. 2
    joshuazucker

    One of my favorite collections of euphemisms (for male masturbation) comes from a song about Jocelyn Elders’s firing: “Firing the Surgeon General”.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    In this post, Moano Singham links to a hilarious Stephen Colbert bit about Faux News JAQing off about Libya. Regarding one of their correspondents, he asks “Why does Peter Johnson Jr. have a name that’s three euphemisms for penis?”

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2012/10/26/benghazi-gate/

  4. 4
    jaytheostrich

    “gallingly twee”? What exactly does that mean?

  5. 5
    Nomen Nescio

    did somebody call for euphemisms?

  6. 6
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Euphemisms amuse me when they are intentionally more vivid and evocative than that which they are supposedly meant to mask, as long as they are fresh and creative. My general requirement is that they are having a jab at using euphemisms (or in some cases, the root of the thing being euphemistically described). Extra points for the extremely silly.

  7. 7
    erickuritzky

  8. 8
    leftwingfox

    Or Patton Oswalt on G-rated smut. (Note, clip is very much not G-rated)

    http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/21457d3005/patton-oswalt-g-rated-from-standupfan

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