Sex and semantics


I'm uncomfortable with the term "boink."  

Last week I saw the word employed rather casually in a column in our daily paper,and it struck me that everyone else must be growing increasingly comfortable with it. The editor certainly wasn't bothered, and the advice columnist, feeling it was the best pick off the euphemism menu, used it in a sentence as though people of all ages would know what she meant and perhaps routinely enlist the word themselves.

Where did it come from? Clearly, from a disgruntled sort opposed to the words"make love." But why "boink?" Is it the sound one encounters in the act of sexual intercourse? No, it's the sound of something hitting something else. This term could not have been born from a night of veteran lovemaking. This sounds like a newbie, leaving the world of virginity and noticing it all breeze past a little too quickly.

There's a sadness in the word, a sense that our hopeless romantic didn't enjoy the full glory of some otherwise gleeful intimacy. It was a fleeting and perhaps unsatisfying bit of passion that must have come and gone like a hailstone off a garage roof.

Afterward, he (and let's agree this was a guy) thought to himself, "Is that it?"Then and there, the term "boink" was born.

The woman, desperately disappointed, lying on her back, wondering what had just occurred, was not thinking "boink" at all, but probably "blip." She'd been"blipped."

Yet somehow "boink" caught on. The public cottoned to it for its cartoon imagery. It was a safe word. Kids could hear it and not come away scarred.

Seeing it in Carolyn Hax's column last week in the Star Tribune, where she wrote, "If you trust your husband not to boink the neighbor only if she doesn't ask to use your phone, then you can't call that trust," gave me the sense we might be opting to crown this term the most user-friendly of the bunch.

I object.

We all know the alternatives, of course. "Doing it" is childish and gives the word "it" too much potency for a two-letter offering. "Screwing" is industrial and sounds like a tool belt is involved. "Copulating" is clinical and "coitus" sounds like a disease. "Banging" is the worst of the lot, and should be followed by an arrest more times than not. "Shag" sounds like you're just killing time."Sleeping together" is flat-out inaccurate and to be avoided by anyone who likes precision in his or her language. "Poke" is an Old West term that's not only soulless but smacks of a cash payout. "Having sex" sounds greedy and possessive,or worse, like one is ingesting something. "Getting laid" calls to mind the efforts of city street crews. "Making whoopee" screams for party favors, and"the wild thing" is pleasantly descriptive but ultimately uncivilized.

Admit it, "making love" is the best we English-speaking tribes have been able to come up with. It's safe for the children, it's beautiful (whether its description is wholly accurate or not), and it annoys the fewest. Sure,there are those assorted slang terms that will always have their place in back-room chatter, but all are ultimately intended to avoid bringing emotion to the deed, for fear it will seem too real or too intimate. We like to keep our distance.

If this all seems a bit prudish and you plan to reject these arguments and opt instead to seek a variant of your own, I encourage you to try something few have: Come up with a word that's sensual, a word up to the weighty task of describing one of the most extraordinarily sublime moments in a couple's existence.

Or, if you choose to continue with the clipped and aurally disturbing term"boink," at least know you're preserving the 1980s far past its freshness date.A little etymology research reveals that "boink" came into fashion courtesy ofthe '80s sitcom Moonlighting. Bruce Willis is credited with being the first to repeatedly toss this gem into living rooms across America. He's its Johnny Appleseed. Consequently, if you use the word, you're throwing a bone his way,saying, in effect, "Atta boy, Brucer." Is that the legacy you want to leave? I'd sooner steal from David Hasselhoff.  

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