Slang: What It Says About Culture and Sex

profanityThe first things anyone asks when learning a new language: What are the swear words?

Profanity is a type of slang and slang demonstrates that we belong. In addition to demonstrating in-group identity, slang also tells us about people’s culture and thought processes. And there’s at least one thought process that every culture has developed slang for – sex. Anthropology has never been more fun.

Previous generations of British were so uncomfortable talking about sex that when a comedian stammered “How’s your father?” when the topic of sex came up, the phrase itself became slang for doing it. More recent slang includes “bender” (position classically adopted by male homosexuals), “snog” (much more accurate way of describing making out), “cottaging” (picking up gay partners in public restrooms), and a host of slang terms describing various states of sexual prowling. Which include:

  • “Shark”: On the proactive hunt for members of the opposite sex. The phrase will even include a hand just above the head to drive the point home.
  • “Slapper”: Person on the prowl for anything they can get. Slut.
  • “Pulling”: The passive art of attracting the opposite sex. Less proactive than sharking, but implies you won’t say no. All singles are assumed to be on the pull.
Strumpet: A female prostitute or a promiscuous woman.

Strumpet: A female prostitute or a promiscuous woman.

Australia continues the British trend of slang that sounds remarkably like the act it is describing: “pash” (kiss), “wristy” (hand job), and “gobby” (blow job). Being super horny makes one “toeier than a Roman sandal”. And sex itself is “smash your back out”. Australians don’t “do” things, they “smash” things; applies equally to smashing beer, smashing Vegemite toast, smashing a run, etc. Fitting for a continent filled with venomous things that most definitely need to be smashed.

Venturing into non-English territory, Uganda has some amazingly descriptive sexual slang.

  • Kandahar – “Pussy”. Uganda is a country that regularly sends its troops to assist in various international operations. As a result, the slang quickly shifts. Right now your “drone” will bomb a girl’s “Kandahar” into oblivion. A year ago, your “rebels” would occupy her “Benghazi”. Before that, it was you “bunker buster” nailing her “Baghdad” right in the “Green Zone”. And so on.
  • Lombembe – “Wet vagina” and the sound of diarrhea. Ugandans believe women’s vaginas should be dry, tight and warm. Vaginal secretions from being turned on are considered offensive to both men and women. So women use drying powders known as “love potions” dry and tighten the vagina (even though it causes both parties pain during intercourse).

facebook-swearingRussians, on the other hand, venerate the mighty vagina. The term “пиздaтый (pizdáty)” is literally “pussy-like” and means awesome or stunning. And to judge from the term used to express surprise, ‘”ёбанный в рот!” (Yóbanny v rot)” (literally “f—-d in the mouth”), oral sex is something that can be unexpectedly sprung on someone?!

Kraft Foods certainly got caught with their pants down when recently they had to recall a major product launch as the name “Mohn-dah-LEEZ” sounds similar to a term used for oral sex.



Chinese slang emphasizes the “otherness” of those who have failed to conform. “shèng nǚ” literally means ‘left over girls”. It refers to urban women who are well educated and successful, but have such high standards that they are unable to meet their ideal mate. The men they’re trying to meet could be casually referred to as “zuànshí wánglǎowǔ” – diamond wangs, or rich, eligible bachelors. Another word for bachelors is “guāng gùn” which is used to refer to bachelors but literally means “bare stick”. Careful though, they might be “sèláng” which loosely translates to “color wolf”. Since color is associated with the earthly being, a color wolf is someone out to be as lusty and womanizing as possible.

Another Chinese slang phrase emphasizing the group over the individual – “nǐ ruò àn hào biàn shì qíng tiān” – translates to “as long as you’re happy, then you have my blessing”. It’s used in situations where you see the person you’re crushing on with another person, and signals selflessness on the part of the speaker. British slang

Language changes quickly, with slang turning over multiple times within a single generation. (Um, ejaculate used to mean “to utter suddenly and passionately”). Change is good but also leaves some fun things behind. Because some antiquated slang for sex is simply awesome. Let’s all bring back “Barney mugging” – a 1920’s term for sex. Barneys were cops, so…mugging a cop equaled sex? Telling someone “Bank’s closed!” used to mean to stop making out, which you may be doing at a “petting pantry” – the movie theater. A “cake-eater” was a ladies man and you know you were locked down when he gave you a “handcuff” (engagement ring) or “manacle”, a wedding ring.

Compare that to the latest American  slang and you can see how some social mores shift while others stay the same. “Cougars” are older women dating younger men, “obese” means outstanding or excellent, “mantsy” is an anxious need to have sex and “vagina funeral” is when someone turns a woman off so much her vagina dies.

In addition to showing that you’re hip to the latest slang, a little profanity is good for you. It provides pain relief, gives the swearer a greater sense of power and control, contributes to peer and social bonding, increases circulation, elevates endorphin, and contributes to an overall sense of calm, control and well being. But for these benefits to kick in, swearing can only be used sparingly.

So feel free to indulge, just a little. Talk dirty.


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