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Sex is less about bodies than bodies in motion. It's not the static organs that make sex, but rather the things that are done with them (or to them). To put it another way, sex is more about verbs than nouns.
For most people, the main sex verb is fuck. In fact, in 1999, an entire book was published The F-Word which was devoted to that single term. However, there are plenty of actions that happen before copulation, and thus plenty of words before fuck, including those that refer to the auto-erotic activities that commonly coincide with the discovery of one's sexuality. Masturbation is perhaps the most familiar of these words, but it's not the oldest: that honor goes to frig, which dates back to the late sixteenth century.
My father is a great man.
He is a pioneer in geometry, a composer of magnificent hymn tunes (and master of several instruments), an authority on the paleontology of southern Indiana, and the foremost chronicler of the early study of natural history in the same region.
Forgive this outburst of filial pride; I have a point illustrated best by his example. The point is one he tirelessly emphasized throughout the years his children were growing up.
"Abraham Lincoln was a great leader. Mussolini was also a great leader. Cancer is a great peril. By definition, your new blue jeans are not great. They may be comfortable, fashionable, cool, or even good, but they are not great."
"But, Dad, you've said this a thousand ..."
"Do not use," says my bottle of pain reliever, "if seal is broken or missing." I puncture the foil cover on the bottle with my thumbnail. Oops, now the seal is broken. I pull off the foil. Worse. Now the seal is missing from the bottle. What should I do? Disobey the instructions? Just suffer through the headache? Try another bottle, but this time saw through the bottom of the bottle so as to leave the seal intact?
"The word is villain."
"May I have a definition, please?"
"Villain. A malicious person. In fiction, someone who opposes the hero."
"Villain. V-I-L-L-A-I-N. Villain."
"No. I'm sorry."
The December issue of The Vocabula Review is due online December 21.
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