Saturday, March 12, 2011

Euphemism, Repartee, and the Master

by Kerry Schafer

"Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?
Ophelia: I think nothing my lord.
Hamlet: That's a fair thought to lie between maid's legs.
Ophelia: What is, my lord?
Hamlet: Nothing." ~Shakespeare

My sister word whores blew me away this week with their euphemistic prowess. I had thought myself reasonably well versed in sexual verbiage and repartee until I read their varied and educational posts. Every day this week I found myself staring at the computer screen, mouth ajar, eyes crossed, realizing just how sheltered I have apparently been all my life.

As the week progressed, my sense of doom and foreboding grew. I was going to have to write a post myself. I thought about offering up an excuse - that there are only so many good euphemisms to begin with, and they'd all been taken by the time we got around to Saturday. Only, I have to admit that even if I'd had the first post I'd still have come up empty.

Clearly I needed a little help, so I turned to the Master of sexual innuendo and repartee - the one and only Bard of Avon - Mr. William Shakespeare himself. Strictly speaking, the samples I've chosen from his work aren't exactly euphemisms. I'm afraid you'll have to humor me. Whether it's euphemism or innuendo or word play, you've got to admit he was a pro.

Here's another one from Hamlet:
  • Hamlet: My excellent good friends! How dost thou Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do you both?
    Rosencrantz: As indifferent as children of the earth.
    Guildenstern: Happy in that we are not overhappy; on Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
    Hamlet: Nor the soles of her shoe?
    Rosencrantz: Neither, my lord.
    Hamlet: Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?
    Guildenstern: Faith, her privates we.
    Hamlet: In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true! She is a strumpet. What's the news?
Moving right along from the Privates of Fortune, try this little snippet from the Taming of the Shrew:


Who knows not where a wasp does
wear his sting? In his tail.


In his tongue.


Whose tongue?


Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.


What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again,
Good Kate; I am a gentleman.

Next, from the poem Venus and Adonis:

Graze on my lips; and if those hills be dry, stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.
- William Shakespeare

And then there is this well known phrase from Othello:

"I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs."

Interestingly enough, Shakespeare appears to have lifted this from a much earlier source, Rabelais, circa 1532:

"In the vigour of his age he married Gargamelle, daughter to the King of the Parpaillons, a jolly pug, and well-mouthed wench. These two did oftentimes do the two-backed beast together, joyfully rubbing and frotting their bacon 'gainst one another."

I think "frotting their bacon" is a lovely image with which to end this week. If anybody else has any favorite quotes from Shakespeare or beyond, I'd be delighted to see them.


  1. Ok, now you did it! I'll be having nightmares for a week after reading this post. That part about bacon was just too much for this piggy.

  2. eww eww eww ... "frotting their bacon"??? That's the least sexy euphemism for sex I've heard since "rumpy pumpy" or "bumping uglies."

  3. to mitigate the bacon frotting, a bit of romance:

    Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
    Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

    R&J, doncha know

  4. Three cheers for Shakespeare!!

    But, my good brother,
    Do not as some ungracious pastors do,
    Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
    Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
    Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
    And reaks not his own rede.

    -- Ophelia calling her brother a hypocrite for insisting that she remain a virgin and chaste in the face of Hamlet's amorous advances, while Laertes goes off to Paris to whore around

  5. Gotta love Shakespeare! He could make naughty sound so classy. ;)

  6. Well done, Kerry! I must confess I lifted a scene from Hamlet for a book. An FBI agent arrives to interrogate a suspect in a political murder--a college professor. The locals won't leave and she doesn't really want them to know what's going on. The professor gives her an opening by reciting Hamlet's soliloquy. It was a fun bit to write. There are so many wonderful instances from "Midsummer's Night's Dream" and "The Tempest" though I'm not the scholar I was once and would need the books in front of me. Alas, it is packed away still in a box. Maybe I shall find said box this morning and unpack it, then spend the afternoon lost in the Bard's words....

  7. John Donne was no slouch at this sort of thing either. Loved these lines:

    "Off with your wiry coronet, and show
    The hairy diadems which on you do grow.
    Off with your hose and shoes ; then softly tread
    In this love's hallow'd temple, this soft bed.
    In such white robes heaven's angels used to be
    Revealed to men ; thou, angel, bring'st with thee
    A heaven-like Mahomet's paradise ; and though
    Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
    By this these angels from an evil sprite ;
    Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright."

  8. Damn. "Bacon-frotting"? We have a euphemism contest WINNER!

  9. Mr. Rabelais, please come and claim your prize -

    Silver - very cool with bringing the Shakespeare into the scene. I love it when I stumble across something like that in a novel.

    Linda G - yeah, Shakespeare was truly a pro. I remember substitute teaching and presenting The Taming of the Shrew to a class of 10th graders in a Christian Academy. That was interesting, lol.

    KAK - Laertes was such a self righteous prick, wasn't he?

    Jeffe - that was lovely, but I like the bacon frotting, although I am sorry for the emotional distress caused to McPig.

    Trudy - I hadn't ever heard "rumpy pumpy." Um, eww.

  10. Okay - I'm going to have to use bacon frotting somewhere, clearly. Ewwww.

    I love this Shakespeare stuff - although I will also profess fondly having to read Lysistrata back in high school(!) It's totally pervy and was written back in 411 BC, so clearly euphemisms were part of the scene, even back then.

    (If you've never read it, check it out - it's pretty funny - there are many "visual" euphemisms - i.e. men walking around with terrible "burdens", which are basically just giant erections.