Tuesday 9 October 2007

Why I like shagging

It's just such a good word for it. In my opinion. But not in everyone else's...

"Think of the transitive verbs for sex ... screw, hump, ball, dick, bonk, bang, shag, pork, shtup," says Steven Pinker in his new book. "They're not very nice, are they?"

Well, much as I love Steven, I have to disagree. I think some of them are much nicer than others, to the point of being -- well, pretty nice, actually. The f-word (first in his list, but edited out to make this more respectable) is a horrible word for the act. It's more useful as a swear word than anything else. (I am trying to give it up or at least cut down, since A said he thought it might be Sasha's first word. Oh dear.) But 'bonk' -- well, that's sweet, isn't it? And slightly crazy: associations with 'bonkers'. And I like the onomatopeia (gosh, that's hard to spell -- I'm not going to double-check, it's 1am here). 'Shag' is definitely my favourite, though, and A's. But a friend recently objected to my use of the term here, and as she's reserved but definitely not prudish I was startled, and gave it some thought.

First of all, to me, it sounds much less like something that somebody does to someone else than words like 'poke'. (I Speak As One who, as a feminist undergraduate, used the term 'make love with' to avoid such connotations.) Secondly, it's self-deprecating. It implies fun and slight naffness. I think the associations are with 'shaggy' (and therefore Scooby-Doo, if you're the right age) and 'shag pile'.

Because of this implicit humour, it makes the act sound fun, which is to be commended. 'Bonk' sounds fun too, but I suppose it has a suggestion of force, which we don't want. Not very much, though. Perhaps it also sounds just a bit too silly, whereas 'shag' has the hint of smut that's needed. 'Shag' also somehow connotes relaxation, casualness. You can say 'Fancy a shag?' in a very unthreatening way, and none of the others quite works like that.

Actually, looking at the list again, is 'dick' really a euphemism for sex? I thought it meant willy. Interesting how many words for sex and the make organ end in '-ck'. And 'shtup' ( why shtup when it's schmaltz not shmaltz and so on -- or isn't it Yiddish?) is too hard to say.... Imagine trying to ask "Fancy a schtup?" when drunk, as you almost invariably would be.

My favourite Steven Pinker joke: A linguist is giving a lecture. The linguist says, "Although there are many examples of the double negative in many languages, there are no examples in any language of a double positive." A rival linguist at the back of the hall says "Yeah, yeah."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shag is my favourite one, too, and I´ve never been able to stomach the f-word - except as an expletive or an intensifier. However, surely the idea that it´s something you do TO someone else shouldn´t be too much of a problem - sex is full of things you do to the other person for reasons like wanting to turn them on, after all, and it can be terribly relaxing to just lie back and let things be done to you. However, I do love the f-word (which I can´t write out in full, as this internet cafe has filters) as used by a friend in the expression "to run the f---", which I love both in literal and metaphorical uses.