Friday, 21 August 2009

My Manly Prize

W00t! The other day I sort-of-accidentally won a competition over on Jeremy Edward's blog, and my manly prize (p92) arrived in the post yesterday. (Why trans-Atlantic airmail is nearly as fast and nearly as cheap as UK inland parcel post is an abiding mystery to me.) I've won A Dictionary of Semenyms by Cecil Goran (NSFW!), an exhaustive, eye-opening and occasionally stomach-turning compilation of over 1300 synonyms for semen derived from erotic literature, lovingly and beautifully produced. (And yes, suddenly everything I say looks like a double entendre.)

I was glued. Yes, glue is a semenym. As are bollock-yogurt and magical unicorn mayonnaise (which made me laugh) and scrip and tallow (which made me think "Ooh, clever, must make a note for future use").

Most of all I was struck by a very basic point about the human mind: the incredible weight of meaning it stacks onto everyday objects. Semen is, materially speaking, a couple of teaspoons of whitish fluid produced with a brief sensation of physical pleasure. Yet we load it with symbolic force - spiritual ("his Holy Offering"), emotional ("great lumps of fear, hurt and pain", "his precious love-offering") and social ("fratload"). It's made to stand for nourishment and vitality, masculinity and male bonding, the shining life-force and desolate mortality. It can represent contempt and rejection or desire and acceptance. It's the pure essence of a man or the distillation of his lowest nature. It's beautiful and revolting.

And this is before we even get into the symbolic burdens carried by the penis, the vagina and by the act of copulation itself!

We are (so far as we can tell) the only animals that do this. We're the only ones who give meaning to the mundane. We're the only ones who tell stories about ourselves. We're the only ones whose lives and actions are shaped (and twisted) by mere ideas. It makes us unique and wonderful - and it makes us terrible beyond even our own ability to describe.


neve black said...

"...I sort-of-accidentaly won a competition..."


Yes, agreed we humans, particularly writers spend a lot of time relishing in and on the human factor, don't we?

Simply brilliant post. ;-)

Nikki Magennis said...

Yes, sometimes I wonder if conscious thought is just an unfortunate side-effect of our over-sized brains. All that frantic judging and pondering, and all over these invisible idea things.

Lovely post, tho, and enjoy that book, it looks wonderful!

Chris said...

I was going to wonder at the amazing depth of your thought on a few fluid ounces of "some clever new word for semen", and then I realised that the chances of me coming up with something that was both witty and not in your book was nil. So I'll just sit here smiling and nodding in wonderment at the depth of your thought.

Beautiful post.

Chris said...

Oh, wait, how about "cock magma"?

Janine Ashbless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janine Ashbless said...

He's got "magma" and a number of variations on lava: "man lava" "molten lava" "red-hot lava" and "lust lava", but no "cock magma". Congrats Chris!

Thanks for the compliments everyone!

Confidant said...

What a profound and poetic posting! (Alliteration accidental.) I'm delighted you found my book thought-provoking, and I thoroughly enjoyed (and appreciate) your analysis of the phenomenon. Best regards! :-)

Jeremy Edwards said...

Terrific tribute to your "manly prize," Janine!

And, yeah, that overdeveloped human mind: can't live with it, can't live without it!

Janine Ashbless said...

Thanks for dropping by, Confidant!