Thursday, February 12, 2009

Words I have a problem with.

Cum: It's come.

Sperm: It's a complex mixture primarily composed of fluids, proteins, and sugars from the seminal vesicles and prostate.

Erotica: It's porn. Every attempt I've ever seen to differentiate sexual media into "erotica" and "porn" has always ended in the conclusion that "erotica is the porn that I happen to like." (Digression: I first encountered this distinction--and first realized its bullshittiness--when I was about twelve and the school library had a book of Gloria Steinem essays including "Erotica vs. Pornography." And I am not too proud to admit that being very young and her accounts of pornographic humiliations very detailed, I... I wanked to Gloria Steinem.) The word porn simply means media made and used for wanking and implies no evil; the word "erotica" is needless and judgmental fluff.

Kyriarchy: Kyriarchy is the hip new alternative to patriarchy--"kyriarchy" describes all the power differentials in the world, including male>female but also young>elderly, racial majority>minority, rich>poor, straight>gay, and so on. It's a word of victimhood and despair; it transforms areas where real advancement can be made into something huge and complex and unfathomable. It also has a tendency to conflate real injustice with inevitable inequalities--it's always gonna be better to be rich than poor, it doesn't have to be better to be straight than gay.

Prostituted woman: Yes, let's make it painfully linguistically apparent that we can't conceive of a prostitute doing it of her own will. Bonus points for using it to describe women who aren't actually prostitutes at all but are simply being sexual in some unapproved way.

Womyn: Oh for fuck's sake. You can't even use the letters in "the other side's" name? What are you, Crips and Bloods?

Va-jay-jay: You're not twelve.

Curvy/"Shaped like a woman"/Reubenesque/BBW/Bountiful/etc.: Fat. I'd rather say "I'm fat, and I can still be sexy" than "I'm not fat, that would be horrible, I'm just... curvy!"

Political lesbian: Sexuality is not political. Your sexuality lives in your dreams, your unwanted obsessions, the involuntary quivers and wetnesses of your loins--not in which gender you find to be morally superior. And it's rather trivializing of garden-variety lesbians; it's a cheap way to inject sanctimony into something you (hopefully) wanted to do anyway. "Oh, those suckers just date girls because they want to; I date girls because I'm fighting the good fight!"

Ecdysiast: I can't spell it.


  1. I love you.

    And "ecdysiast" would make a good safeword, eh?

  2. Speak for yourself. I see the word "cum" when used to mean orgasm and semen so often and "come" used that way so rarely that I actually find "come" to be momentarily confusing and a little surprising. It's called language drift. Deal with it.

    In 100 years our descendants are probably going to be speaking a global language that is a hybrid of english, french, and japanese with a little chinese and spanish mixed in, and they'll be spelling it "caam".

  3. That's an intriguingly improbable cultural future you're envisioning, Anonymous. But I'm with you in not being bothered by "cum."

  4. For some reason I always assumed Porn was pictures and movies and Erotica was written. Porn = visual, erotica = written/imagination.
    It's all wankable, just different forms, but maybe I'm just silly.

  5. William the Coroner - I can't pronounce it either!

    Anonymous - There's language drift, and there's incorrect language. You can't always tell which is which until much later, but until then, I'm on the side of the stodges. (Well, actually I'm not sometimes, but I am when it comes to come.)

    And I think you stole your future from "Firefly."

  6. Holly
    That's what makes it such a good safeword. Bwahahahaha.

  7. Erotica is porn masquerading as literature. It allows writers to have some self-respect after having produced it.

    New fan, by the way. I've been lurking for a week or two.

  8. Holly- Bravo on the Firefly future call.
    Porn vs. erotica: Penthouse forum type writings = porn, Anais Nin = erotica. It's all in how flowery the lingo is.
    Total agreement on womyn and prostituted woman, my spellcheck won't even let womyn get by, blasted patriarchy.
    Never heard of kyriarchy or ecdysiast, but maybe So-Cal is behind in the times.
    Curvy et al. ='s Monroe, Manheim, and my favorite morning show weather girl. Fat ='s Gilbert Grape's mother. There is a difference, if only semantic.

  9. So I googled it: what a great way to say stripper. My new favorite $3.00 word. Thanks.

  10. Re: Firefly

    I haven't watched TV for over a decade, and I'm not familiar with that show even from hearsay (aside from it being sci-fi), so no. I am an amateur linguist. I have been observing how English and French are displacing most of the world's languages, and (online at least) English and Japanese seem to be borrowing a lot of words from each other. Also, Chinese and Spanish are extremely common as a first or second language.

    I would think in the age of global communications, there would be a tendency for the major languages to start blending together. Okay, maybe not in 100 years, that was a bit hyperbolic. Let's say 200 then.

  11. English has been, in the words of one linguist, "chasing other languages down alleys and mugging them ruthlessly for vocabulary" for as long as it's BEEN a recognizable language, and in centuries past an educated person had to know at LEAST three languages, one of them dead, to be considered respectably literate. True, the hoi polloi were often barely literate in their first language, but they were not the ones that wrote, traded, and conducted diplomacy.

    I really don't see what's so new about the modern world that languages will just meld. For starters, their basic systems are often radically different- especially Chinese.

  12. For some reason, I always thought erotica was written and porn was drawn or filmed or otherwise visual. I wonder if I'm the only one who uses those words that way. If yes I'm probably confusing a whole lot of people. Oops.

  13. Also people need to get over the idea that semen is mostly protein. It's actually mostly sugar -- specifically fructose -- and other complex carbohydrates. The reason it doesn't taste sweet is it's got a bunch of minerals.

    The word "cum" arose in a particular context (the early 1970s.) Which means it's fine to use if you also say "I luv you" and "groovy," and if you draw daisies or hearts over your i's and j's. Otherwise not so much.

    Kyriarchy I like, though, not because it lets everyone be a potential victim but because it makes everyone a potential *oppressor.*

    Cool list, Holly,


  14. Figleaf - I'm not too comfortable with the idea of everyone as oppressor either. I'm of the mind that oppression is an overt physical thing, and when I think I'm just going about my daily life not harming anyone, I'm really... not harming anyone.

    I feel like saying "oppression is everywhere" distracts pointlessly from the real, literal, non-subtle oppression in the world.

  15. Re: Labrat

    There's nothing different about modern *languages*. Rather, what's different is modern *communication*. The airplane, the telephone, foreign movies, globalization... all have had an indirect but significant effect on the evolution of languages.

    In the past, cultures were mostly isolated from each other, with only the wealthiest people (and those who traded on their behalf) having contact with outsiders. And even then their global range was usually rather limited. About the only time when cultures blended was due to conquest.

    Today, people in most parts of the world have to deal with other cultures and languages - sometimes located at parts of the globe distant to them - whether they want to or not. (Not so for the common people of some of the wealthier nations, like the U.S., but otherwise...) Cultures and languages are blending into each other... most people in 3rd world countries have lost their original language and are now speaking dialects of English or French, or pidgin languages consisting partly of either. Iran and Saudi Arabia have banned valentines day, which have only fairly recently started being celebrated in the middle east... but there's a big black market for flowers and chocolates about this time anyway. Most words of recent invention are the same in pretty much every language, with minor spelling and pronunciation differences, if that. And so on.

    And I didn't mention the internet. Do I even need to?

  16. Anon: Your point about the spread of both literacy and exposure in communication is taken, but I do want to make a couple of points.

    One, I mentioned English and English's history of chasing down vocabulary from all possible sources for a reason. English today is a vastly different language from English hundreds of years ago when the average English speaker could be expected to be an illiterate peasant, but the structure of the language and its fundamental English-ness is still intact; it didn't become more Latin or German or French or Russian or Spanish, it became a more generous version of English with some new linguistic conventions. As the language got more and more exposure as a language of traders and merchants, it didn't become subsumed in other languages, it simply absorbed the parts that were useful and carried on.

    You can see much the same thing happening to modern Japanese- they assimilate culture and vocabulary at a rate that makes the Borg look like a stodgy and closed society, but they haven't so much become a Westernized society as they've taken a tremendous amount of Western stuff and made it their own, with its own Japanese spin. Much like the Americans with kanji tattoos, the Japanese with random English words on their shirt don't know what they mean... and they don't give a flying fuck. The English isn't a symbol of their wanting to be more Western, it's a novelty.

    The language shifts represent less a universal melding of cultures made uniquely possible by modern communication than they do an accurate picture of who's on top lately, culture-wise- which is roughly as it's always been. As I mentioned earlier, even with two very powerful competing cultures, the fundamental structures of their language are often so different that a true melding simply isn't possible; the grammar, phonics, alphabet, and even mindset is simply too different. This is why bilingualism is always more common than "spanglish" or any other "melded" tongue- and even such "melded" ones usually have one language structure or the other truly dominating, with only the vocabulary being the borrowed part.

  17. I'm gonna be amused by JDN as a linguist. I think he owned a game store when he made the comment about English mugging other languages and rummaging through their pockets for loose vocabulary. These days he's a book reviewer.

    He says it would be a fascinating fifteen minutes of fame if anyone ever attributed him properly.

  18. Well, I finally found a blog post where I can say something other than "I heartily agree!"
    Though I do, especially in using sperm to refer to something other than male gametes; erotica being a somewhat useless word when defined as different than porn; and kyriarchy being a disempowering and confusing semanticism.

    But I must confess, though usually I'm on the side of stodginess and rectitude in language, I just think "cum" is a useful and recognizable distinction.

    Similarly, I find that describing a person as fat gets across the fact that you think they have an unhealthy excess of adipose tissue.
    Calling someone curvy/Rubenesque/etc, gets across the fact that you're deeply disturbed by women with countable ribs portrayed as attractive or desirable.

  19. Va-jay-jay?

    Oh no. I assume this means you've never heard "Vagoo"


  20. What you're calling sperm is really semen. SEEEEEEMEEEEEEN!!!!

    But seriously, sperm are the cells, semen is the fluid that the cells come in.

  21. In my brain: erotica is anything written, porn is anything visual. I have books of erotica and I watch porn on the internet.

    I use "cum" as a noun and "come" as a verb, usually. It looks nicer to say "I'm coming!" rather than "I'm cumming", which just looks silly. But using "cum" as "the liquids that escape one's genitals when having an orgasm" is perfectly fine for me.

    "Womyn" and "va-jay-jay" are 100% silly.

  22. I heartily agree on all points aside from the "curvy=fat" one.
    It's a difficult one but, there are some women (and yes, I am one of them) who wouldn't necessarily classify themselves as fat, but they definitely aren't 'skinny' either. I agree that the word 'fat' shouldn't be used as a derogatory term that people should feel ashamed to use to describe themselves, but I don't know if it is a good descriptor for those who are 'not-skinny'.