OK, so "euphemy" isn't really a word. But in romance, euphemisms aren't about actuality, they're verbal gads around the block to end up next door, where the goings on are sexy, yet to point out their exact nature to some readers would be like asking them to watch through a neighbor's window as he has at his wife while sporting her Victoria's Secret ensemble.  

Love scenes or depictions of sensual encounters replete with the language of anatomy and physiology can seem base and uncomfortable for some lovers of romance fiction to absorb, and even for many authors to write.  Which is probably why sometimes we end up with lines like this:

"The sweet sound of her voice caused his creamy tribute to burst forth."

If I've read a couple thousand romances, I've never stumbled across that particular euphemism for, well, you know.  So I need to give the author, Bertrice Small, kudos.  

Yet I'll give her bigger props because I like the new novel that line is taken from, "The Border Lord and the Lady," in which the Queen of Scotland's best gal pal's bridnapped by a lusty border lord felled by love at first sight.  The novel's not filled with sexual euphemisms and, for gawrsh sakes, Small's an accomplished storyteller who even has the brass to come up with a total shawkah in this book, and the kind of move that could have folks grunting and groaning online about her "breaking the author/reader contract" like she severed some damn medieval guest/host obligation and led the barbarians into the bailey to rape the buxom wenches and pillage the stores of day-old trenchers -- instead of making a plot choice.

But readers'd have to care first and, they do, oh, they do care about Small. Her 1980s Skye O'Malley saga introduced women to a strong heroine who wins the day with her intelligence and strength of character - and explores the power of her sensuality.  In the years since, Small continues to give her female characters as many choices as the periods within which they live allow.

Over the years, Small's created a kind of sensual romance that appeals to a reader with a desire for explicit sensuality with smoother edges to some of the language, hence the euphemisms that bother almost as many folks as they soothe.  

Even though they don't make me like a book less, I actually feel a little embarrassed when I read euphemisms.  But my discomfort doesn't issue from my thinking as some do that romance is made "cheesy" because someone writes in a style that some call kind of "purple," but rather because "beating ‘round the bush" phrases remind me of inadequate language of sexuality given to me as a kid by well-meaning adults.  

But for other women, creamy- and bursting-forth tributes are just the stuff of which safe and sexy sensual reading experiences are made.

How do you feel about euphemism in romance novels?  What's your comfort level with it?  Do you have favorites?

Sandra Brown's at Center Stage this week: Check her out here!
Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 08-17-2009 11:21 AM
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-17-2009 12:14 PM
One reason I liked Anna Campbell's Tempt the Devil so much is that she addressed some very private issues in a truthful way that made us care about the hero and heroine more -- with nary a euphemism in sight. But in a less skilled author, graphic desciptions can be as embarrassing as purple prose. I can deal with euphemisms or more graphic depictions as long as the emotion is there. If I don't care about the characters, I feel like a voyeur.
by Moderator Melanie_Murray on ‎08-17-2009 12:26 PM

Some euphemisms make me roll my eyes, I'll admit, or giggle like a girl. But seriously, I give all these authors such props, because there are only so many ways to describe certain things, and it's their job to be as creative and original as possible.


My favorite euphemism ever? Manhood.

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎08-17-2009 02:12 PM

A date that will live in euphemy this is not, like Melanie some of them make me roll my eyes because they're so unreal. But I too have to give the majority of Authors that use them the kudos that they deserve, sometimes it helps with the humor of the novel or sometimes with the drama. I don't have a favorite Melanie though that would kinda be like naming my husbands ding - a - ling- a - ling. ;-)


by PrincessBumblebee on ‎08-17-2009 02:58 PM

Hey, Bellas! QB, you are one busy woman today, hehe. Me, I like euphamisms, as long as they're not over the top, myself. I feel it shows the author's creativity and maybe shies away from being too blunt. But, it also depends on teh author's style and how much we care about the characters. Some are darn funny and, to me, are meant to be, hehe. Hey, lets face it,  euphamisms are one of the things we love about our romances!

by Author Keri_Stevens on ‎08-17-2009 03:48 PM

When the euphemism creates sexscenus interruptus, I find it irritating (after all, I want to ride the ride in my mind--not step off and watch other people have all of the fun).


That said, there are only a handful (snort!) of ways to have sex when you break it down to the basic mechanics. The power of the creative imagination is our ability to renew the gift of sex mentally and emotionally time and time again.  So if an author comes up with a new way to put it (or talk about where it is put), I have to admire her boldness.


That said, I challenge all blog readers today to use the phrase "creamy tribute" in conversation within the next 24 hours and report back on the outcome (*double snort*).

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-17-2009 04:41 PM
Yeah, it kind of drives me nuts when I go to writers' workshops (online or otherwise) that remind us not to use the same old words. Yeah, well, unless I invent a couple or start writing in tongues, there are only so many words and (ignoring the Kama Sutra for the moment), only a certain number of positions that are possible for non-contortionists. I will admit to using the word "phallus" in one story. I got a one-word comment from a critique partner, but it was dripping with unsaid words: "Really?" I kind of snorted up my tea when I read that.
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-17-2009 04:42 PM
Delete the "kind of." I admit it -- I snorted.
by Author Jessa_Slade on ‎08-17-2009 05:01 PM

I had cake and ice cream for breakfast.  (Hey, it's been a rough week.)  Certainly that's a creamy tribute.


I'm with PrincessBumblebee.  A well-turned euphemism is a thing of beauty. 

Actually, what's the NON-euphemism word?  Penis.  That's is.  And nobody wants to SEE that throughout a love scene.  I mean, nobody wants to see that word; the penis itself is fine. 



by Lisa_Kroener on ‎08-17-2009 05:12 PM

"Creamy tribute"? How cool is that? Ten points for creativity, I love it! *grin*


I'm not the euphemism kinda girl. Really, neither reading nor writing. Which doesn't mean I have a problem with euphemisms being used in a text/novel/article I read, no, doesn't bother me.


However, in my own writing (which I hope to publish one day soon!) I'm very direct and forthright. And not because I'm very skilled in the art of describing things but because I can't do it differently. The fact is that I'm just not good with euphemisms or periphrasis in general. So I handle sex scenes like I am - just say it.


The only problem I have (not always, just when I think about it) is that my mum always is the first one to read the stuff I write. And somehow it feels strange to know that she reads my anatomic descriptions of  the human body perceived by a mind in sexual haze (now that is a sentence! Would almost pass for an euphemism for "horny" wouldn't it? *biggrin*). Somehow I don't want my mother to read my raving about the big penis of the mighty knight, ahem-ahem.


The other thing is that the wife of my English teacher (whom I told about my wish to be a writer), who's an editor, started reading my story, too. That's actually a very cool thing. However, I don't want my English teacher of all people to read my raving about the big penis of the mighty knight. I can imagine that would be ... interesting for him. :smileyhappy:

by Lisa_Kroener on ‎08-17-2009 05:17 PM

Oh, and another thing is that German euphemisms are always worse than English ones. I don't know why, it just is like that. You don't want to know what horrible words I've already read for "clitoris" (now that's a word even I wouldn't write, agree with Jessa Slade here) in German texts - embarrassing.




Simply embarrassing.

by Blogger Albert_Rolls on ‎08-17-2009 05:53 PM
"A Day Which Will Live in Euphemy": Best title ever, to adapt a critical move from The Simpson's  comic-book guy.
by amyskf on ‎08-18-2009 01:42 AM

"Creamy tribute," I gotta say, is kind of cool, because he's a border Lord and would give a tribute to someone he admired...it just happened to be a creamy one, for her. But I agree with (I think) everyone, in the right hands and not too deep a purple a euphamism is fine. 


A Day Which Will Live in Euphamany -- you literally kill me. Seriously.


Keri. I snorted with each of your snorts. And Lisa, no way in  hell would I let my Mother read the "good parts," so I commend you, and can only imagine the German euphamisms...because you haven't told us.


I really liked Janet Evanovich calling her...womanly bits, her "hoo-haw," now that made me snort.

by amyskf on ‎08-18-2009 01:43 AM
Er, it wasn't Janet's womanly bits, it was Stephanie Plums womanly bits...sorry.
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎08-18-2009 09:09 AM
Yeah Amy Janet E can euphemize me any day I love the stuff she comes up with.
by MalePerspectiveGuy on ‎08-18-2009 10:01 AM

Kudos for a very clever title, QB. THe only think I would add to the discussion of euphemisms is the use of "air quotes" as a way to assist in bringing attention to them.  You know, "So they decided to do (air quotes) it."



by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-18-2009 10:39 AM
Or fireworks. Or waves crashing on the shore.
by 1lovealways on ‎08-18-2009 03:51 PM

Hey, I like euphemisms as long as they make some sense in the context of what the author is trying to describe.  What I don't like is something that is added in because the author can't think of a way to describe it and they simply throw something silly in that makes absolutely no sense at all.  When that happens I'm left thinking the author may just as well had said it plainly.  That leads to something else, because sometimes that's not possible either.  Oh, heck!


I love the 'waves crashing on the shore' line.  At least I know what's going on.  And I can imagine the scene myself.  That I can do.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-18-2009 04:01 PM

Lisa, i'm simply looking forward to your mighty knight and his big penis. Oh, and if you want to add a heroine and a story to the mix, that'd be fine, too.


I admire what you're saying, which is, "I write in a way that's comfortable for me."  Now, that doesn't mean writers need no help improving skills. But it definitely shows when there's discomfort -- and sings when your unimpeded voice comes through.  I read a book on writing erotic a long time ago and the idea of one being uncomfy w/ mom or grandma, etc. reading our work simply put was: Get over it.  Their point wasn't condescending or made to demean concern for offending loved ones, or wanting their approval. But the idea was, just put it out of your mind and/or understand we're adults and won the right to talk/think/write/behave vigorously about sex when we became adults (you know what I mean).  I'm really happy you have someone who's looking at your stuff! good for you. :smileyhappy:


And i'm thinking of how German words can be all mashups of several words, so I'd kind of love to read the euphemisms, though probably there'd be something lost in translation (ouch!) for folks who don't speak German.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-18-2009 04:02 PM
And may I just add, friends, that Albert Rolls just made my day week year! d'oh! 
by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-18-2009 04:16 PM

Great point, 1lovealways!  Sometimes it does seem either the author's trying to come up with something new/to toss in -- or her editor's encouraging her in a certain style.  Some authors are just better than others at plain speakin, and the reverse, the clever euphemism.  And I'm w/you and the rest about the waves crashing; sometimes the 'fade to black' is so much better than the uncomfortable alternative.  And sometimes the imaginin's mighty nice, like you said.

Maybe an [insert euphamism here] could be the printed equivalent of the air quotes, MPG!

And, yeah, like, you, keri_stevens, I haven't been able to use creamy tribute in enough incarnations the past few days. you might imagine what convos w/my husband have been like...

I like womanly bits.  Also enjoy anything centered around delicate/blossoming/dew=kissed petals of femininity.  And Melanie, yes yes a 1000 x yes!  Manhood is the best euphamism, from straining almost painfully, to seething and proud, also inclusive of pulsing/throbbing/hot/etc. 


Oh, you know, I do get bummed when an author uses only one or two terms for a body part in a novel, like alights on an historical term then uses it andonly it faithfully the rest of the time.  I wish for more euphemism then.  though it does show how tough it'd be to get historically accurate on the stuff, right?

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-18-2009 04:26 PM

amy, I literally was making your connection from border lord and creamy tribute to, gawd, the cheviot sheep that were tossed into Scottland, thinking, Oh, sheep's milk.  Then I realized what you were saying. got it.


Jessa, ice cream is, indeed, the creamiest of tributes, itself worthy of tribute in no small measure. And you're exactly right; penis is the least romantic of terms, isn't it?  I actually don't mind becke's use of phallus, cause it works sometimes.  And the critique partner's reaction is just that: one person's reaction.  I just want to feel like the language used is 'authentic' to the author's voice and story. As I said above, sometimes our reaction is about us, not the word. Or rather it always is.

And speaking of the whole penis thing, during the Princeton romance scholarship conference, I made a comment about writing a post about my pleasure with the trend of so many romance authors describing in loving detail the glans penis.  (this was in relation to a man who wrote me a letter related to that post, as well as both gay and straight men wondering whether guys who read romance are generally gay men).  Anyways, I'd thought a clinical crowd would have received the remark a little more openly, but talking about penises may have been inappropriate.  Cause, you know, we were talking about romance novels and all.
by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-18-2009 04:32 PM

PrincessBumblebee, you wrote" Some are darn funny and, to me, are meant to be, hehe. Hey, lets face it,  euphamisms are one of the things we love about our romances!  I think you're right!  It's very cool when we can feel the author having fun along with us! Great point.


Becke, you've said something really interesting, which is:  I can deal with euphemisms or more graphic depictions as long as the emotion is there. If I don't care about the characters, I feel like a voyeur.  It does feel like so much slot/tab stuff when, even in erotic romance, the case hasn't been made for our caring about the characters. It can start to squick, and your suggesting it's akin to voyeurism is kind of what I was talking about at the beginning of the post. What's even more interesting is that you're a fan of really explicit erotic romance, so for you to feel the voyeur, the emotion disconnect would have to be enormous.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-18-2009 04:36 PM
I think that's why Lora Leigh has such a huge following. She is HOT but there is always a very strong emotional connection. 


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