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Foreign tongues: international euphemisms for sex.

Foreign Tongues: International Euphemisms For Sex.

No shock that Parisians are the most poetic.

Sexual euphemisms are used for various reasons—sometimes playfully, sometimes to slightly obfuscate what is being discussed, and sometimes because the technically correct language is a bit of a turn-off (there are few words less sexy than “engorged”). 

A lot of foreign-language euphemisms can lose some of their magic when translated into English—sometimes there’s more beauty and poetry to be found in not fully understanding what’s going on. For a French woman to be aroused and describe herself as avoir la moule qui baille, for instance, sounds rather beautiful, while the English translation of that – “I have a yawning mussel”—is, as well as being confusing due to the mussel/muscle homonym, kind of… unpleasant?

Sexy beasts

Across the world, animals have acquired all sorts of genital-related meanings. Some words can apply to both in different languages. A monkey is a penis in American English—generally in the context of being spanked—while it is a vagina in Mexican Spanish (chango).

In Panama, a vagina might be referred to as un araña (a spider). Venezuela? Un alcancía (piggy bank). In Switzerland, a vagina is a schnäggli, or snail, while in Chile it’s a toad (sapo), and in Japan an octopus (tako). Japanese also has the expression ke manju, which is probably a bit sexier in Japanese than translated into English, where it means "hairy bean paste bun."

Foreign tongues

The act of sex itself has as many euphemisms as there are ways of doing it—in English, it’s possible to construct a sentence where you could replace the verb with literally any word and people would know exactly what you were talking about (“I don’t want to show off but we plant-potted all night long”), and this applies to a lot of other tongues too. 

There’s the playful French faire un partie des jambes en l’air (“play a session of legs in the air”). The industrious Albanian puno tokën (“plough the land”). In Spanish one might poner la tarta en el horno (“put the cake in the oven”), while in Swedish one would parkera bussen (“park the bus”). In Hindi, if telling someone else you had sex after the fact, you might go for the quietly accomplished kaam ho gaya, that “work has been completed”. 

When it comes to completion, French is typically poetic, with an orgasm described as la petit mort, “the little death”, or voir les anges, which translates as “seeing the angels”. Japanese uses a similar death metaphor, with iku—“I’m going”, but in more of a “shuffling off this mortal coil” sense than a “getting on a bus” one. 

In Mandarin, an orgasm is a gao chao (“tidal wave”), while Finnish goes in the other direction with nyt mä tulen (“I am fire”). Some languages just go for non-euphemistic but unambiguously delighted expressions—Bengali’s pracanda uttējanā (“drastic excitement”), Farsi’s ezra shodan (“satisfaction is happening”), and Vietnamese’s cực khoái (“extreme pleasure”).

Menáges a un

There are also, of course, plenty of euphemisms for solo sex acts. A German penis owner might die Möhre schrubben (“scrub your carrot”), while a Russian one may lysogo v kulake gonyat (“pet your monkey”). Cantonese offers up da fei gei for solo penis stimulation and ou ly chee for the vagina – “flying the airplane” and “scratching the lychee”. Japanese offers senzuri and shiko shiko manzuri – “one thousand rubs” for a penis versus “ten thousand rubs” for a vagina. That’s inequality for you.

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