Metaphors, euphemisms and the thesaurus

This is another post sparked by two things. The first thing is me reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, which has some fantastic usage of metaphors in it. I always go a bit gooey over a good metaphor, but when they’re especially inventive I just have to squee a little. My favourite one so far is ‘as drunk as a baby in a beer barrel’. Not that I can remember any more at the moment, but that’s beside the point.

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin as well, which is the bad metaphor, but I can’t think of any examples of those either. I’m not doing too well here, am I? Well, that’s because of the second thing which sparked this post, which is something my darling husband drew my attention to. It’s absolutely awesome, and you can find it below.

What he found for me are two timeglider charts, one listing all the various slang words used for the male genitalia, and the other for the female genitalia. They are listed by when they first appeared, and they go back to about the thirteenth century. Give them a little time to load, and play around a bit because you might need to zoom out, but I certainly can (and did) get lost in this for hours. Here is the female one:

Some of my favourites:

For the vagina: cockloft, carnal mantrap, bearded oyster, breakfast of champions, mossy doughnut… Oh, there’s too many to mention!

For the labia: curtains, vertical bacon sandwich.

For the clitoris: boy in the boat.

For the pubic hair: lady’s low toupee, mossy treasure.

And here’s the male one:

This one has many more different things to label, so here’s another few of my favourites:

For the penis (large, small or erect): pump-handle, bowsprit, matrimonial peacemaker, pleasure-pivot, gaying instrument, cucumber, bald-headed hermit.

For the testicles: tools of generation, whiffles.

For impotence: bobtail, fuck-beggar, stuffed eel-skin.

For the male genitalia as a whole: giblets, billiard balls and stick, three-piece set.

The possibilities are endless!

Which brings me to the thesaurus bit – some writer (was it Stephen King?) said that you should never use a thesaurus to find a word to use in your writing. Personally I think that’s bollocks (coconuts, clankers, noogies), because sometimes you just can’t think of the right word. Of course, if the word it gives you is one you’ve never seen before and/or would never use normally, that’s a different matter. Variety is the spice of life, and sometimes euphemisms are the dog’s bollocks.

Please let me know some of your favourites from the timeline, there’s no way I’ve seen them all myself…


3 thoughts on “Metaphors, euphemisms and the thesaurus

  1. tktrian

    Gaying instrument is awesome! On a sidenote, making up metaphors or similes is so much fun, and we love to sprinkle them in our writing. The only problem: we have no idea if they are absolutely awful, especially the serious ones (most are humorous, and humor kind of makes it ambigious), or if they actually work. Oh well.
    To avoid the thesaurus sounds funny; it exists for a reason 😛


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