Great Moments in Pedantry: Parsing the language of porn


In a post that would be horribly NSFW were it not all just a block of text, linguist Arnold Zwicky blogs about how the vagaries of English allow you to interpret the same line from a gay porn in multiple ways.

The story begins with a young man crying out, (1) "Oh yeah, shoot my ass!," at the climactic moment of a segment in the gay porn compilation video A Bronco Named Brad (on the video, see here). The speaker is asking his partner to (2) "shoot [your cum] on my ass, ejaculate on my buttocks" [ONTO reading].

In other contexts, (1) could convey (3) "shoot [your cum] in(to) my ass, ejaculate in(to) my anus" [INTO reading]. Note the two different senses of ass here— 'buttocks' or 'anus', with the anus being the centerpiece of the buttocks, so to speak—related metonymically.

But now for the main linguistic point, shoot 'ejaculate' used, exceptionally, as a transitive verb ...

From there, the post rises to a level of technical language analysis that almost, *almost* distracts from the fact that we're talking about the use of language in a porn that seems to be targeted at Brad-fetishists.

Submitterated by Sam

Image: Some rights reserved by johntrainor


  1. “Brad-fetishists”..? i’m more of a wire nail and finishing screw fan [titters insanely] m’self.

  2. Regardless of its intended destination, I believe in the vernacular the term “man-juice” would be more appropriate.

  3. A gay porn linguistics blog?! This man is doing a service to an entire generation! Thank you, Arnold Zwicky!

  4. And, to take the language pedantry to an even deeper level, the author of the article has gotten the anatomy part wrong. One can shoot into a rectum, not into an anus. You can shoot onto buttocks and onto an anus, but into a rectum, so his statement about the “INTO reading” is misdirected.

  5. Forget the words, how about the moaning and groaning? Does “UUUHHHHHH!” mean: (A) “That feels good, please continue” (B) “That kind of hurts but in a good way” (C) “Hey, what you’re doing is…interesting!”, (D) “I’m ambivalent, but the scene calls for me to emote in some way and this is the best I can do”. Apparently language isn’t the only thing that can be messy sometimes.

  6. Porn dialog should be direct and unambiguous. Viewers should not be confused about the intent of the participants. This is a clear example of what not to do when writing a porn script. I’m pleased to see something on this site worthy of serious critical analysis.

    1. Porn dialog should be direct and unambiguous. Viewers should not be confused about the intent of the participants

      Or to put it another way:

      1. Do not pant long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.

      2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good porn script is a series of clear, linked statements.

      3. Do not use big words. If your partner tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong.

      4. Never use words whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.

      5. The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of colour, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.

      6. Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.

      7. Every day, for six months at least, practice talking dirty in this way.

  7. In my undergrad linguistics class we were told about a figure in the field of some prominence who used amusing examples in journal articles. The only one I can remember is an example of a sentence unintelligible without context:

    “Spiro conjectures Ex-Lax.”

    The context being:

    “What does Pat Nixon frost her cakes with?”

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