Monday, August 6, 2012

Euphemism Quandary

Part of writing historical erotic romance is using the correct euphemisms for the private parts. For some strange reason, publishers frown on the use of penis and vagina, even though those would certainly be correct. When you ask why, they mumble something about those terms not being sexy or romantic.

Mumble, mumble, mumble...

Men seem to stick to the big three--cock, dick, and prick. All are old names that evolved from the Medieval era. They're serviceable terms, easy to remember, and can be employed in a variety of ways to insult their fellow man.

My story is set in 1820 (or thereabouts). The approved euphemism for most erotic romances--pussy--wasn't in use until 1880. Extensive research was required for an alternate. Setting aside the "C" word--a word that was considered offensive and vulgar even in the Medieval era--we're left with a mish-mash of oddities.

Cunny/coney, cunnicle, bessy, mossy, teazy, fluffy, nonsuch, tuzzy-muzzy, quim, chink, and notch. I confess, I'm left with an impossible vision in my head of some dignified woman referring to her genitalia using any of these terms. These were the least offensive I found for the time period.

The time period my story is set in was more frank about sexual expectations than fifty or sixty years later. Procreation was an important part of marriage and a couple who did not produce children were considered failures. There is a tendency for modern readers to impose current cultural values on earlier eras. While a certain modesty was expected during the day--and really, who wants to do house work with the girls hanging out for all to see--evening dress at the time would make some of us blush now.

Country girls knew very well what was expected of them. They had clear notions about the birds and bees. So what words do my hero/heroine use?

I'm still mulling the euphemisms. Pondering the possibilities. What's your vote?



  1. Well, prick and schmuck sort mean the same thing - a jerk, so I would avoid those. A putz ain't so nice either. Maybe you could say... "Down there..."
    Oh and I hate nether regions and loins.

  2. It is a conundrum, isn't it? Ah well, something for everyone...