Big influx of interesting portmanteau finds in the last few days. But before I get to them in other postings, a puzzler from the Nightcharm site (“Naked Men Pictures and Videos, Nude Males, Gay Erotica and Gay Porn” — with essays), where we find, in an entry by Shawn Baker on cumshots:

There was a time when the portmanteau term “cumshot” wasn’t a fixture in the English lexicon.


Well, cumshot does combine two things. But it does that by concatenating them, in an ordinary compound, which is to be analyzed either as N + N (the OED‘s proposal) or V + N (much rarer than N + N, but still attested), rather than as an overlapping combination like smog from smoke + fog (or the dozens of other portmanteaus I’ve posted about).

Why should Baker have classified it as a portmanteau?

Possibly because he’d come across the technical term and found it attractive; it does, after all, denote a kind of combination of two lexemes, a way of putting two words together in the same package, and it sounds cool. But [class, chant it with me!]:


[Some days I think this is what would go on my gravestone, if I had one. (I won’t, since I have every hope of being cremated, like my parents and both of my life partners.)]

Technical terminology often expands in ordinary language when people extrapolate from the label and its standard examples; eggcorn quickly came to be seen by some people as the name for any sort of linguistic error manifested in or through spelling, for example — in effect, becoming a new, and cooler, label for spelling mistakes of all kinds.

So let’s be generous to Baker and pass on to the compound cumshot. (For actual cumshots and some discussion of their role in porn, see my recent X blog posting.) From OED2, draft additions of April 2002 (under come, n.1, in subentry for slang come ‘semen ejaculated at sexual climax, esp. spilt ejaculate’, which has cites from 1923 on):

come shot n. (also cum shot) slang (orig. U.S.) a sequence, in a pornographic film, showing ejaculation (cf. money shot n. at money n. Compounds 2).

1973    W. Rotsler Contemp. Erotic Cinema 211   We had an unwritten rule that we did not use an external *come shot in a film… Come shots seem to be one of those strange conventions as if to say, ‘See it’s really real!’ That they really did do it.

1989    Playboy May 57/1   Therefore, in place of love, we get lust; instead of tenderness, we get machismo. The only connection between men and women is genital, and a woman’s orgasm gets edged out by ‘come shots’.

2001    FHM Feb. 19/2   We don’t go for any really close-up gynaecological shots and we don’t ever do cum shots.

(The sense of shot in the compound is ‘a snapshot; a picture (or sequence of pictures) continuously shot by a single film or television camera’ — though surely one of the attractions of the term come shot is the echo of the the noun shot ‘ejaculation’, related to the verb shoot ‘ejaculate’.)

More detail in the Wikipedia entry:

cum shot, cumshot, come shot [comeshot is also attested], pop shot, or money shot are slang terms used to describe a person ejaculating (in film or video, or image in a pornographic magazine), usually onto a person or object. It is typically used by the cinematographer within the narrative framework of a pornographic film, and since the 1970s has become a leitmotif of the hardcore genre. Cum shots have also become the object of fetish genres like bukakke.

Cumshot seems to now be the most common spelling: solid, rather than separated, and with cum rather than come. The choice of cum or come turns out to be a complex matter, as I explained in a 2006 Language Log posting on the compound come face ‘facial expression during orgasm’: there are straightforward spelling preferences (which differ from person to person), and there are two separate lexical items here, a verb meaning ‘to ejaculate semen’ and a noun meaning ‘ejaculated semen’. A fair number of people — I am one — normally differentiate the verb from the noun via spelling, using come for the verb and cum for the noun; call these people “differentiators”. (If, instead, you use cum for the verb, then you’ll be inclined to give it the past tense cummed rather than came.)

Consider come face for a moment. This is a V + N compound noun, with the first element denoting the act of ejaculation, and if you’re a differentiator, then come is the right spelling for it (while cum face denotes a face with cum on it — something that is also amply illustrated in porn).

But then come shot (or comeshot) should be the spelling for the image of someone ejaculating (and cum shot or cumshot would be an image of ejaculated semen, on the ejaculator’s body or someone else’s or on some object — again, something illustrated in porn, though it’s not as highly valued as thrilling depictions of ejaculation). The frequent spelling cumshot is wrong for a differentiator, but then we all have to live with exceptions and idiosyncrasies.

The larger picture: composite nouns of the form X shot (with photographic shot; there are of course many other senses of shot, but they’re irrelevant here) come in several varieties, among them:

N + N, with the first N denoting a body-part depicted in the shot: face shot, head shot, body shot, crotch shot, basket shot, dick shot, ass shot

V + N, with the V denoting an act depicted in the shot: fuck shot, kiss shot, piss shot, come shot

Most V + N examples are homophonous with N + N compounds in which the first N denotes an act: kiss shot ‘shot of kissing’ (V) or ‘shot of a kiss’ (N), for example. (But not come shot, because there’s no act noun come.) Sometimes the context clearly points to a V reading, as on the website for PozBronc (“Bareback’n Jack: No Stiff Bare Dick Turned Away”), which has a gallery of

Fuck Pics (Me Gettin’ & Me Givin’)


Fuck Shots
Me on top or bottom

as well as Dick Shots, Ass Shots, Body Shots, and Piss Shots. Fuck pic and fuck shot here denote images of fucking, and piss shot an image of pissing.

Come shot fits right in with fuck shot. A V + N compound, not a portmanteau.

One Response to “?Portmanteau”

  1. Package vocabulary « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] 5/17/11: Cumshots (link): to accompany “?Portmanteau” on this blog (here) […]

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