I must first confess that I always hesitate before I go look up a word in the dictionary. It’s not because I’m too lazy to walk into the other room, but rather because I know what’s going to happen to me once I start leafing through those thin, crackly pages of my Webster’s. My target word might be “semiotics,” for example, but somehow I find myself pausing in the “E’s” to read the definition for “etiolate,” and refresh my memory concerning the appearance of the “Eton jacket.” A few more detours later, I finally arrive at my goal page 1219, only to be seduced by such intriguing words as “semidiurnal” and “semilunar valve.” Before I know it, an hour has passed and the progress of my current writing assignment is dangerously delayed. (I keep the OED high on a shelf for my own protection).
Fortunately, I was able to indulge my addiction with no guilt at all as I perused the provocative pages of the Dictionary of Semenyms: 1, 383 synonyms for semen with examples of usage from erotic literature. The author, Cecil Goran, dedicates his book to “the world’s erotica writers, with all their off-beat terms for beat-off sperms.” I will heartily agree that this book is an inspiring resource for an erotica writer, but it will appeal equally to any reader with a love of language and an interest in the culture of sex.
In his opening section, “About This Dictionary,” the author observes that “men and women of all sexual orientations share a fetish for semen,” hence the popularity of the cum-shot. This sent me back to my Webster’s for a quickie—with a mere passing glimpse at “fettle” and “feverweed.” “Fetish” has three major definitions: an object regarded as having magical powers; an object or idea eliciting unquestioning reverence; or an object or nongenital part of the body that is repeatedly preferred or exclusively used for achieving sexual excitement. The third definition is probably the most popular usage in our hyper-sexual age. However, after reading Semenyms at greater length, I came to realize that semen does in fact serve to illustrate all of these definitions, although most readers would probably assume only the last.
I owe thanks to Linda Williams, the author of Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible,” for pointing out that the cum-shot is not necessarily about the semen itself, but rather what it represents as proof that the male performer’s pleasure was genuine and that “real sex” took place. While the female orgasm must be taken on faith for the most part, men can’t fake an ejaculation, although there are apparently dry orgasms (see the “Semenless Terms” section for more on this). Initially nothing more than an innocent opalescent blob, semen takes on meaning from its context. The Dictionary of Semenyms thus explores more than just poetic, slang and vulgar terms for semen, it tells us much about the myriad ways we interpret the expression of sexual desire.
Although the volume provides a list of “Off-beat Terms for Erotica Writers,” losing yourself in the other sections of the book might be even more fertilizing to the imagination. Each entry comes (I’m not really meaning to pun here, but the sparkling wordplay gets your mind wandering in that direction!) with an example from erotic literature that not only serves as proof of such usage, it represents a cluster of attitudes and assumptions about male sexuality in general. “Angel tears” in the “Poetic Imagery” section invokes a sense of mystery and heavenly glory, “bollock yogurt” in “The Dairy Group” whisks you to the back alleys of a grimy mill town in the Midlands. In fact, I came up with about a dozen ideas for stories with different settings and tones as I read and admired the evocative powers of so many passionate wordsmiths. Talk about a resource book for writers.
Semenyms offers a buffet of luscious tidbits for the mind beyond a lovingly and impressively curated collection of sperm words. Did you know that different vowel sounds resonate in different centers of the body? Are you curious about tips to increase the quantity of pre-cum and semen, the speed of the initial spurt of ejaculate or the calorie count of an average ejaculation? (A mere 15 calories, which made me think of a friend who—apparently needlessly—spit her boyfriend’s joy juice into the pot of a plant on her nightstand table to avoid breaking her diet.) There’s also advice on how to tailor the taste of your “cocksucker soup” to your lover’s preferences. Vegetarians have the edge, which I can confirm from personal experience. The “Glossary of Safe Words” and the “Scarlet Letters” section will also get you musing fruitfully about other aspects of the erotic urge.
It is certainly fitting that a book about pleasure is such a pleasure to read. By the way, I neglected to mention back when I was on page 1219 of Webster’s that my eye snagged on another word so appropriate to the topic that Freud would certainly smile at my “random” choice of examples. Just to the left and a few inches down from “semiotics” shimmered the word “seminal.” The basic meaning is, of course: “pertaining to, containing, or consisting of semen.” However, I find the second definition even more appropriate to this review: “highly original and influencing the development of future events.” For indeed, I would argue that Semenyms‘ promise to deliver 1, 383 synonyms for “the male essence” is also an implicit call for the reader to give birth to number 1,384.
I know I’ll be working on it the next time I sit down to write a story.
Dictionary of Semenyms
(CreateSpace, January 1994; ISBN-10: 1441462546)
Available at: Amazon
© 2010 Donna George Storey. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission.