February 1, 2007

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The Contemporary Dictionary of Sexual Euphemisms, by Jordan Tate (St. Martin’s Press, 2007, 114 pages)
By Lisa Parsons lparsons@hippopress.com

So this is what you can do with a degree in “interdisciplinary studies.” That’s what Jordan Tate has, according to the book jacket.

In any case…

Do you know what a Dirty Sanchez is? Yeah, me either (or: Oh, you did? Well, I didn’t), so I looked it up, and went “Ewwwww!” and everyone around me (who had put me up to it) snickered. I’m told the term is used frequently on South Park.

Thank you, Dictionary of Sexual Euphemisms, for dragging me back into the loop.

Some of the terms here are mild and fairly well known, others are far out. Some are labeled “often considered offensive,” which seems to mean they’re used as insults. And “offensive” doesn’t even begin to cover the shock value of some of the terms; the fact that they are common enough that someone could include them in a professionally published dictionary is appalling in itself. I speak of the entries involving excrement.

That aside, the book is, how shall I say, useful. Because who wants to be the only one in the room who doesn’t know what a “Dirty Sanchez” is? Maybe you think you’re above it, but if everyone else is snickering, don’t tell me your curiosity isn’t piqued. And maybe you’ll hit yourself after you look it up, knowing that you never should have, angry that you couldn’t resist. But there’s no way around it. It’s no fun to be ignorant.

Only 70-some terms are included in this particular dictionary; sadly, it lacks the recently coined “Santorum.” Much space is taken up with garden-variety definitions of each word in parallel with the sexual ones (“paddle the pickle” can, indeed, mean “to propel a pickle by means of rhythmic, repeated rowing”). No sources are cited; decide for yourself how trustworthy Mr. Tate and his research are. This is not a comprehensive anthropological study. As for me, it left me feeling a strange combination of (A) reassured (because I found I was not completely ignorant), (B) newly confident (my pop-culture awareness got a boost), and (C) icky (because of the ickiness).

You could do just as well by surfing the net for lists of sexual slang or hanging out at certain bars or college campuses for a week. The advantage to the book is that it lets you do your blushing in private and won’t give you electronic STDs.

Not recommended for Intro to Sexuality; too much ick per unit of enlightenment. B