Some thoughts on British linguistics

The Brits have it right.

This morning, while I was in the shower, I was thinking about snogging.

Not the practice of snogging (which, I hasten to add, I’m strongly in favor of), but the language of snogging. Which is something where we on this side of the pond have got it all wrong.

I quite like the word “snogging.” It’s a fun word. A playful word, kind of like the act itself. The American term, “making out,” is dreadfully dreary by comparison. You can see the Puritan work ethic here; only the Puritans could make it sound like a manufacturing process.

Yes, I think about language in the shower. Hush.

In many ways, I think British English gets it wrong. And I don’t want to hear any “they did it first, so that makes them right by definition;” American English is English 2.0, the bugfix release of the original. Like calling the trunk of a car the “boot” for example–I have often stored things in a trunk, but the only thing that gets kept in my boots is my foot, thank you very much. (If they’re using boots for cargo storage and transportation over there, I don’t want to know about it.)

But in the language of physical intimacy, American English kind of falls down flat, with a sort of shocked expression on its face, and then lies twitching in the gutter for a while. “Bumping uglies.” “Doing the horizontal mambo.” “Doing the nasty.” “Hot beef injection.” Ugly language for a beautiful act.

It’s not all this bad, of course; I’m kind of fond of “the act of darkness” as a sexual euphemism. And the Brits have their own ungainly words as well; “bonk,” “bugger,” and “shag” are all perfectly ridiculous in their own right.

But “snog”? Yes, I quite like that word.

48 thoughts on “Some thoughts on British linguistics

  1. American is “English Lite” not “English 2.0”. It’s designed for people who can’t handle ambiguity (what, a word meaning more than one thing? The shock!) and who can’t handle all the letters (ah, who needs that “u”, anyway?).

    /tongue firmly in cheek…

  2. American is “English Lite” not “English 2.0”. It’s designed for people who can’t handle ambiguity (what, a word meaning more than one thing? The shock!) and who can’t handle all the letters (ah, who needs that “u”, anyway?).

    /tongue firmly in cheek…

  3. Ah, now me, I happen to enjoy the verb “shag.” I think it’s lots of bright colors and fun. But that’s how old I am, I guess.

    My strongest introduction to sexual euphemisms is probably reading Joe Bob Briggs, so I tend to make ’em up as I go, such as “Doing the triple-horned antelope dance” and so forth. Because if it’s not FUNNY, it just plain doesn’t make sense.

  4. Ah, now me, I happen to enjoy the verb “shag.” I think it’s lots of bright colors and fun. But that’s how old I am, I guess.

    My strongest introduction to sexual euphemisms is probably reading Joe Bob Briggs, so I tend to make ’em up as I go, such as “Doing the triple-horned antelope dance” and so forth. Because if it’s not FUNNY, it just plain doesn’t make sense.

  5. That’s a super sweet picture :).

    I like the word “snog” too. “Making out” just seems very childish, like it’s not *real*. So then I just call everything “sex” which doesn’t convey a lot of information, or at least makes people prone to making the wrong assumptions. But snog, I think, works great.

  6. That’s a super sweet picture :).

    I like the word “snog” too. “Making out” just seems very childish, like it’s not *real*. So then I just call everything “sex” which doesn’t convey a lot of information, or at least makes people prone to making the wrong assumptions. But snog, I think, works great.

  7. I must say, I prefer the word “snog” in almost all circumstances, except one:

    “Wanna make out?” beats “Wanna snog?” as an intimate query, possessing and lending as it does a certain necessary and polite formality in what is otherwise by definition an informal process.

    ;}P>

  8. I must say, I prefer the word “snog” in almost all circumstances, except one:

    “Wanna make out?” beats “Wanna snog?” as an intimate query, possessing and lending as it does a certain necessary and polite formality in what is otherwise by definition an informal process.

    ;}P>

  9. Snog and shag are just fine, but why did the Yanks and Brits swap the sides of the female body where one finds the fanny? That has lead to all sorts of confusion.

    In his “Evening Harder,” Kevin Smith endures a teaching moment in London when a woman in the audience describes normal sex as “fanny fun.” Yes, it really is possible to shock Kevin Smith, the man who coined the phrase “oral bowel movement.”

    And the Brits do have that almost American of euphamisms, “making the beast with two backs,” from Othello.

  10. Snog and shag are just fine, but why did the Yanks and Brits swap the sides of the female body where one finds the fanny? That has lead to all sorts of confusion.

    In his “Evening Harder,” Kevin Smith endures a teaching moment in London when a woman in the audience describes normal sex as “fanny fun.” Yes, it really is possible to shock Kevin Smith, the man who coined the phrase “oral bowel movement.”

    And the Brits do have that almost American of euphamisms, “making the beast with two backs,” from Othello.

  11. Hmm. Perhaps if you put a mental image of a collared submissive waiting to be figged kneeling *on* the mental image of the woolly avocado-green shag rug, it would be better? (I don’t know; it works for me…)

  12. Making out sounds like a manufacturing process to you? The puritans aren’t the ones bringing their own baggage to a phrase this time.

    One definition provided for “making” in the 1973 edition of Webester’s Intercollegiate Dictionary is “a process or means of advancement or success”, for a positive view of intimacy. The combination with “out” (“away from the inside or center”) gives more reason to view the described action as a highly felicific activity.

    The origins of snog are recent (half a century), but unclear. It’s either just a water-downed version of snuggle or a portmanteau of snort and hug, the sort of thing you’d expect to hear some punk use to make intimacy sound tough.

  13. Making out sounds like a manufacturing process to you? The puritans aren’t the ones bringing their own baggage to a phrase this time.

    One definition provided for “making” in the 1973 edition of Webester’s Intercollegiate Dictionary is “a process or means of advancement or success”, for a positive view of intimacy. The combination with “out” (“away from the inside or center”) gives more reason to view the described action as a highly felicific activity.

    The origins of snog are recent (half a century), but unclear. It’s either just a water-downed version of snuggle or a portmanteau of snort and hug, the sort of thing you’d expect to hear some punk use to make intimacy sound tough.

  14. You know what I like?

    “Fancy”

    As in “Hi! You’re cute! I really fancy you!”

    I also like snogging and shagging as well.

    Another one that’s kind of fun is “pulling” or “on the pull”…if you’re going to go out and try to pick someone up, you’re pulling.

    But then again, many of my days in London were spent discovering all sorts of little fun words and phrases. The source of much fun for me.

  15. You know what I like?

    “Fancy”

    As in “Hi! You’re cute! I really fancy you!”

    I also like snogging and shagging as well.

    Another one that’s kind of fun is “pulling” or “on the pull”…if you’re going to go out and try to pick someone up, you’re pulling.

    But then again, many of my days in London were spent discovering all sorts of little fun words and phrases. The source of much fun for me.

  16. Definitely like the word “snog” – to me it evokes really getting into it much more than “making out”.

    One that got me when I came from the UK to the USA was replacing the UK’s “love bite” with the word “hickey” – where on earth did THAT come from?

  17. Definitely like the word “snog” – to me it evokes really getting into it much more than “making out”.

    One that got me when I came from the UK to the USA was replacing the UK’s “love bite” with the word “hickey” – where on earth did THAT come from?

  18. Two of my partners are British — I *love* the word “snog!” πŸ˜€

    Although the phrase “a good rogering” has been known to cause me to bust out in giggles . . .

    — A <3

  19. Two of my partners are British — I *love* the word “snog!” πŸ˜€

    Although the phrase “a good rogering” has been known to cause me to bust out in giggles . . .

    — A <3

  20. i think this is an issue on which reasonable people might disagree. for instance although many “straight” men want to have extra marital sex with women, most of them don’t want to have sex with men. perhaps they are straight and choosing to behave monogamously. on the other hand maybe they’ve known to the depths of their soul that if their woman strays, the relationship is over. i personally think this is a cultural thing (and kinda gross) but someone else may strongly feel that it’s their identity rather than their choice.

    reading dan’s column i’ve gotten the impression that he doesn’t believe that monogamy works. if you think that he’s being hostile to poly people, maybe he doesn’t have enough experience fielding questions from poly people with successful relationships. he gets questions from people whose relationships aren’t doing so well. this may lead him to a natural sampling bias. since he’s not in a poly relationship he may not be very familiar with happy poly people. he seems like a pretty reasonable guy and the topic is open for discussion. you should definitely put in your two cents as someone for whom the poly “lifestyle” is comfortable and healthy.

    incidentally i would love to know how you make that work as i’m also someone who can’t really imagine being monogamous and can’t figure out how to date. if you wanted to start your own advice column, i would read it avidly.

  21. i think this is an issue on which reasonable people might disagree. for instance although many “straight” men want to have extra marital sex with women, most of them don’t want to have sex with men. perhaps they are straight and choosing to behave monogamously. on the other hand maybe they’ve known to the depths of their soul that if their woman strays, the relationship is over. i personally think this is a cultural thing (and kinda gross) but someone else may strongly feel that it’s their identity rather than their choice.

    reading dan’s column i’ve gotten the impression that he doesn’t believe that monogamy works. if you think that he’s being hostile to poly people, maybe he doesn’t have enough experience fielding questions from poly people with successful relationships. he gets questions from people whose relationships aren’t doing so well. this may lead him to a natural sampling bias. since he’s not in a poly relationship he may not be very familiar with happy poly people. he seems like a pretty reasonable guy and the topic is open for discussion. you should definitely put in your two cents as someone for whom the poly “lifestyle” is comfortable and healthy.

    incidentally i would love to know how you make that work as i’m also someone who can’t really imagine being monogamous and can’t figure out how to date. if you wanted to start your own advice column, i would read it avidly.

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