Notes: euphemisms 7/26/10

A description of my Sunday morning, originally intended for e-mailing to friends:

After breakfast, I worked at the computer, filing examples while watching a gay porn flick (Sweat, a “food-fuckers” scene, with three guys of remarkably similar appearance, down to the minimal buzzcuts, having enthusiastic sex with one another, most of it involving foodstuffs, in the cramped and steamy restaurant kitchen where they work). When that had served its purpose – fulfilled its function, done its work, performed its role – I moved on to writing a posting on “bear music” for my blog and watching Visconti’s Death in Venice, eventually posting a note on Facebook about it:

Downer: watching Visconti’s “Death in Venice” (with Dirk Bogarde as Gustav Aschenbach/Gustav Mahler). It ends badly, as you will recall. And not far from the end, there’s a nasty summary of what Aschenbach-Mahler’s life has come to:

“In all the world there is no impurity so impure as old age.”

(Nick Fitch and Lise Menn said things to soothe my distress at this sentiment.)

The material that’s relevant here, which I’ve put in boldface, is a series of four VPs that are rough paraphrases of one another, each serving as a gently euphemistic reference to masturbation; “gotten me off” would have been a slangier and somewhat more direct way of putting things, and larger-scale revisions would have allowed for even more direct and more vernacular language (instead of “watching a gay porn flick … When that had … I moved on to …”: “jacking off to a gay porn flick … When I’d come I moved on to …”).

The version I wrote depended on the reader filling in some crucial background information, in particular that gay porn flicks are a species of functional art, the specific function being to serve as a masturbatory aid (as the video equivalent of “one-handed literature”, or “boner books”) by aiding arousal, so that a gay porn film has served its purpose when the viewer ejaculates (somewhere during the course of the action, not necessarily at the very end; the films are, after all, intended to provide a number of occasions for viewer fulfillment, a number of “happy endings”, every 10-15 minutes).

What I wrote referred to serving a purpose without making explicit what that purpose was. So it was indirect in content. And it didn’t use any sexual vocabulary at all, even euphemistic or medical/technical vocabulary. So it was indirect in form. It would actually have been subtle if I’d used only one reference to function (“served its purpose”, say, which is all I wrote originally) instead of piling on one synonym after another, ostentatiously calling attention to my indirectness.

So many ways to avoid taboo topics and taboo vocabulary, and so many ways to achieve display through concealment.

3 Responses to “Notes: euphemisms 7/26/10”

  1. Collage essays: from concealment to display « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Notes: euphemisms 7/26/10 […]

  2. H. R. Freckenhorst Says:

    I’m amazed at your ability to multi-task. I’m afraid that filing examples would have been beyond me.

  3. How can I put this? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] many of them of this form, here; some discussion of display through concealment in these euphemisms here; and a note on the extension to the meta-euphemism verbing the noun […]

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