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Some thoughts on British linguistics

The Brits have it right.

This morning, while I was in the shower, I was thinking about snogging.

Not the practice of snogging (which, I hasten to add, I'm strongly in favor of), but the language of snogging. Which is something where we on this side of the pond have got it all wrong.

I quite like the word "snogging." It's a fun word. A playful word, kind of like the act itself. The American term, "making out," is dreadfully dreary by comparison. You can see the Puritan work ethic here; only the Puritans could make it sound like a manufacturing process.

Yes, I think about language in the shower. Hush.

In many ways, I think British English gets it wrong. And I don't want to hear any "they did it first, so that makes them right by definition;" American English is English 2.0, the bugfix release of the original. Like calling the trunk of a car the "boot" for example--I have often stored things in a trunk, but the only thing that gets kept in my boots is my foot, thank you very much. (If they're using boots for cargo storage and transportation over there, I don't want to know about it.)

But in the language of physical intimacy, American English kind of falls down flat, with a sort of shocked expression on its face, and then lies twitching in the gutter for a while. "Bumping uglies." "Doing the horizontal mambo." "Doing the nasty." "Hot beef injection." Ugly language for a beautiful act.

It's not all this bad, of course; I'm kind of fond of "the act of darkness" as a sexual euphemism. And the Brits have their own ungainly words as well; "bonk," "bugger," and "shag" are all perfectly ridiculous in their own right.

But "snog"? Yes, I quite like that word.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 28th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
I don't like "snog." It sounds like something icky, like"snot."
Apr. 28th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
I agree. Either "snot" or "nog" like egg nog, which is disgusting.
Apr. 28th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
Apr. 28th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
American is "English Lite" not "English 2.0". It's designed for people who can't handle ambiguity (what, a word meaning more than one thing? The shock!) and who can't handle all the letters (ah, who needs that "u", anyway?).

/tongue firmly in cheek...
Apr. 28th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
I like that word too. :)

(And I love that picture! Squee!) *kiss*
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 28th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
That's a super sweet picture :).

I like the word "snog" too. "Making out" just seems very childish, like it's not *real*. So then I just call everything "sex" which doesn't convey a lot of information, or at least makes people prone to making the wrong assumptions. But snog, I think, works great.
Apr. 29th, 2009 12:12 am (UTC)
I must say, I prefer the word "snog" in almost all circumstances, except one:

"Wanna make out?" beats "Wanna snog?" as an intimate query, possessing and lending as it does a certain necessary and polite formality in what is otherwise by definition an informal process.

Apr. 29th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
"Yes, I think about language in the shower."

Apr. 29th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
Snog and shag are just fine, but why did the Yanks and Brits swap the sides of the female body where one finds the fanny? That has lead to all sorts of confusion.

In his "Evening Harder," Kevin Smith endures a teaching moment in London when a woman in the audience describes normal sex as "fanny fun." Yes, it really is possible to shock Kevin Smith, the man who coined the phrase "oral bowel movement."

And the Brits do have that almost American of euphamisms, "making the beast with two backs," from Othello.
Apr. 29th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
"Snog" is okay, but "shag" isn't? I fail to follow your reasoning...

Apr. 29th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
"Shag" gives me too many mental flashbacks of hideous 70s plaid carpeting. Not an image I want when I'm thinking of sex...
Apr. 29th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
Hmm. Perhaps if you put a mental image of a collared submissive waiting to be figged kneeling *on* the mental image of the woolly avocado-green shag rug, it would be better? (I don't know; it works for me...)
Apr. 29th, 2009 11:59 am (UTC)
I see I'm in for an interesting weekend!


(Although I think I'd like to call 'safeword' on that shade of carpet.)
Apr. 29th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
Oh and see I like Shag because of David Cassidy's oh so HOOOOOTTT shag haircut. It's all in what you remember. And did want to shag David? Oh my yes.
Apr. 29th, 2009 06:33 am (UTC)
That's all I've got to say ;)
Apr. 29th, 2009 10:46 am (UTC)
Re: Trousers
Pants, damn you, pants!

(also, hi! What's a nice guy like you doin' on a blog like this) ;)
Apr. 29th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Making out sounds like a manufacturing process to you? The puritans aren't the ones bringing their own baggage to a phrase this time.

One definition provided for "making" in the 1973 edition of Webester's Intercollegiate Dictionary is "a process or means of advancement or success", for a positive view of intimacy. The combination with "out" ("away from the inside or center") gives more reason to view the described action as a highly felicific activity.

The origins of snog are recent (half a century), but unclear. It's either just a water-downed version of snuggle or a portmanteau of snort and hug, the sort of thing you'd expect to hear some punk use to make intimacy sound tough.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 30th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
You know what I like?


As in "Hi! You're cute! I really fancy you!"

I also like snogging and shagging as well.

Another one that's kind of fun is "pulling" or "on the pull"...if you're going to go out and try to pick someone up, you're pulling.

But then again, many of my days in London were spent discovering all sorts of little fun words and phrases. The source of much fun for me.
Apr. 30th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
"Snogging" is an utterly fantastic word. I'm also a big fan of the act itself. :D The Brits do have a large and colorful slang vocabulary.
May. 4th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Definitely like the word "snog" - to me it evokes really getting into it much more than "making out".

One that got me when I came from the UK to the USA was replacing the UK's "love bite" with the word "hickey" - where on earth did THAT come from?
May. 6th, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC)
Two of my partners are British -- I *love* the word "snog!" :D

Although the phrase "a good rogering" has been known to cause me to bust out in giggles . . .

-- A <3
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )