Sunday, October 13, 2013

You keep using that word . . .

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
(Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride)

In my extensive reading of erotic fiction, either as a Beta reader or as a reviewer, I come across a lot of troubling—or at least moderately bothersome—issues. Anyone listening to me while I read would hear lots of grunts, gasps, sighs, moans and curses, mostly of the tired, jaded, incredulous variety, frequency determined by the quality of the book in hand. Here are a few of the things that have bugged and annoyed me most in recent months.  

CRESCENDO versus CLIMAX. Originally a musical term, literally (and simply) meaning “getting louder” in Italian, CRESCENDO has been coopted, confused, and abused by so many writers of pretentiously awful fiction (and not just erotica), that it’s probably best to avoid the term altogether. The verb “to crescendo” is too often confused with the noun “climax” as in, They built up to a roaring crescendo. But crescendo is not the final destination, it is a description of the journey, as in, Their passion rose in a long, slow crescendo, culminating in a roaring climax, or Her cries crescendoed as her lover pushed her towards the brink. A crescendo is a loudening, an intensification, a rising; it is not an explosion or the grand finale itself. As always, use unusual or fancy words sparingly and with keen awareness of precise definition, the better not to be thought of as a pompous ass or a hack.

PRE-COME: While The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus is not intended as a textbook on human physiology or anatomy, there are far too many writers who do not seem to understand the nature or natural behavior of pre-come (or pre-cum). This problem is especially prevalent among female writers, perhaps either because they do not themselves own a penis, or have easy access to one for purposes of reference and research. The term refers to those small droplets of fluid that form on the tip of an erect penis during the initial stage of arousal, usually slowly oozing out of the urethra, often so subtly as at first to be unnoticed. Not quite the same thing as COME (or CUM), its behavior is very different; pre-come seldom if ever spurts out or gushes forth, and almost never arrives in sufficient quantity to dampen anything more than the GLANS, though, over time, enough may build up to lubricate the entire shaft. Pre-come itself does not make a particularly effective or long-lasting lubricant, as it can quickly become sticky or tacky. Writers need to take such physiological niceties into account if they themselves wish to be taken seriously. Of course, it doesn’t help that there are almost no serviceable synonyms for PRE-COME, other than the subtly euphemistic or vaguely poetic (harbinger), or the downright clinical (“first inklings of arousal”, "droplets" or “fluid”).

And while we’re on the subject . . .

COME versus CUM (again): We’ve spoken before about the distinction between COME and CUM. My simple rule of thumb is that CUM should only be employed as a noun. Still, I see a lot of writers—even some otherwise pretty good ones—who use CUM as both noun and verb, either because they think the simpler spelling has a more transgressive, gritty or vulgar feel to it, or because they honestly haven’t thought about the distinction. Ask yourself this next time the issue arises; what is the past tense of CUM? Stumped? The word has no past tense precisely because it is a noun!

Coming next week (no pun intended): review of Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey


1 comment:

  1. Hoorah on "cum" being a noun ONLY!
    My pet bugbear is writers who have no clue where the hymen is. (Clue: it is *not* located inside the vagina)