Thursday, December 24, 2020

For The “Clean Minded” (UPDATED)

     “Let's have no more talk of bestial orgasms and erotic tonguings. It burns high-voltage holes in the brain. It's been proved in oscillographs.” – Peter O’Toole as Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney in The Ruling Class

     I have another bone to chew over with you all, and – much like the previous one – it’s entirely inappropriate for the day and the season. After all, we’re about to commemorate the birth of the Son of God from the Blessed Virgin Mary: an even in which sex was not involved. Though eighty generations of Mankind have been produced by sexual congress since that blessed event, the thrust of that event was entirely asexual. So a discussion of anything that involves sex is...well...not quite in the Christmas spirit.

     Actually, this tirade isn’t about sex per se; it’s about terminology.

     I subscribe to a couple of services that publicize new eBook releases. As you might expect, these services categorize the eBooks they promote according to genre, so the client can go directly to the group of new eBooks that he’s most likely to want to read. There are sections for every genre one might care to read, including a few even I was unaware of until I encountered them through one or another of these services. I’ve also used such services to promote my own new releases.

     One of those services recently repartitioned its Romance category into several subsectors, including “Clean Romance” and “Steamy Romance.” As you might have anticipated, novels in the former group are sex-free; those in the latter are sex-heavy. There’s a gray zone category simply called “Romance.” That probably embraces works that include a little sex. How little that should be to qualify, I cannot say; the service leaves the categorization decision to the author.

     I must ask: Is clean the antonym of steamy? They don’t strike me as proper opposites. Among other things, we use steam to clean certain garments, steam mops to clean certain kinds of flooring, and steam jennies to clean automobile engines. The terms might be easily enough understood in context, but counterpoising them this way does a certain violence to the language.

     Once again I must ask: Why not Clean and Dirty Romance? That is, if the service wants to give clients the impression that it’s run by old Grundyites who pretend to be above all that grubby grunting, moaning, and emission of fluids. Or perhaps they would prefer to call the categories Steamy and Cool Romance, for an improved appearance of sophistication? In either case, the terms would be closer to antonymic. That way, when the kiddies sneak books out of our private stashes to goggle at under their bedcovers with flashlights, their minds might be warped but at least their vocabularies wouldn’t be bruised.

     Television, texting, and the public schools are already doing enough to miseducate our progeny. The fiction industry must not give them aid and comfort with inappropriate word choices. Take your stand today!

     [UPDATE: An old friend has just written to suggest an even better pair of adjectives: Decent Romance versus Indecent Romance! As another old friend once observed, “If it’s in hard enough and deep enough, it’s in decent.” But I digress.]

1 comment:

Ed Bonderenka said...

Should they not be written in French, Italian, Spanish or Latin?