Generally speaking, writers are not a conservative bunch. They’ll try anything, say anything and write about it all in (occasionally excruciating) detail. So why the bizarre shyness that seems to overcome even the best romance authors? One minute it’s all probing tongues and throbbing groins and then suddenly his “member” is getting cozy inside her “center” and they’re “making love” until something or other spasms (often her womb, which, quite frankly, sounds unpleasant).
Okay, sometimes you need a euphemism or two just for the sake of variety. That’s when standards like nub, folds, shaft, bud(s), core, and length come into play. And using only anatomically correct terminology would definitely get too clinical, not to mention dull. But is there really any excuse—other than to make readers snicker and roll their eyes—for the egregious examples that follow?
You have to wonder why Christine Feehan thought “feminine channel” was a good idea. I found it in Dark Slayer, but it could just as easily have come from a 1970s tampon ad.
Despite the cringe-inducing title, I thought Tamara Hogan’s Taste Me was pretty good. That is, other than the descriptions of groins rubbing against “dewy core[s]” and “lush portal[s].”
It seems Elissa Wilds is a fan of pearls, as in “her little pearl,” “engorged pearl,” and “little, nerve-laden pearl” (all found in Darkness Rising). Wilds also mentions “her sweet valley,” which sheds a whole new (and unwanted) light on those Sweet Valley High books I read as a tween.
I guess Jade Lee was going for a Medieval-ish sounding euphemism when she replaced penis with “prock” in her Dragonborn series. It’s not the worst euphemism ever, but it has a vaguely unpleasant ring to it (maybe because it’s so similar to “prong” and there’s not much sexy about prongs). After a while of constant use it also gets tiresome and a little silly (maybe Lee needs a euphemism for prock!)
When I found Taken for Revenge, Bedded for Pleasure by India Grey in a secondhand bookstore I couldn’t not get it (the title alone!) But it also rewarded me with this prime example:
“…he felt the agonising [sic] relief of his aching arousal being freed from the confines of the unyielding fabric.”
Lastly, Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books are a rich source of euphemistic gold! From “We reached the end of the tunnel” in Living Dead in Dallas; to Quinn’s “excitement” being pressed against Sookie in Definitely Dead; to my personal favorite in her latest, Dead Reckoning, when Sookie refers to her vagina as her “yahoo palace.”
It goes without saying that this is by no means an exhaustive list; I’m sure someone could devote a lifetime to ferreting out all the examples to be found in romance novels alone. Maybe the real purpose (and definitely the real fun) of euphemisms is to see what else writers can come up with. When you settle in to read your next book, though, you might want to grab yourself a glass of wine—to go with all the cheese.
Aspasia Bissas is a blogger, writer, and collector of cheesy euphemisms. “Gosh-darn melon farmer”—her ultimate favorite—was borrowed from a now-forgotten movie censored for TV. You can read more of her ramblings at her blogs Blood Lines and Domicile.