Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quick Note to Self

I am in Las Vegas and am certainly the only person at the Encore reading Morton Smith's the Secret Gospel.   Indeed here I am in perhaps the best hotel on the Las Vegas strip and hanging out with what are alleged to be the 'elite' of American culture, and I notice every time we come back how much more idiotic this whole culture is becoming.  I had someone come up to me asking me if I was reading 'the Secret' - you know that Oprah book of the month club thing.

Anyway, I told them and that I was enjoying it thoroughly.  I was learning a lot about "getting in touch with my inner spirit."  But this was one of only two stupid encounters with Americans that I had today.  My son went over to a neighbors house.  There was my son, the boy whose parents owned the house and another boy all of whom take a class together.  As I was leaving I told the other boy's father that the lads made a nice threesome.  'Threesome!' the boy's father exclaimed.  'That's not the right word.  That's just for adults.'

If Americans spoke another tongue beside English one could understand perhaps why it is they struggle with their own language.  I couldn't believe that the word 'threesome' can now only be used to denote a 'ménage à trois.' I don't expect Americans to know what the verb ménager means in French, or even that it is a French word.

After all there is that relatively new recording artist Niki Minaj whose name was clearly intended to allude to the star's sexual adventurousness. Just for a laugh I decided to see what Americans thought 'ménage' meant the answers ranged from "a three-some with two girls...or it just means a bi-sexual female" to "[it] means he/she likes doing nasty things such as sex, kissing, or a rapper that likes to get raped."  I wasn't aware that there was a kind of woman who 'liked to get raped' before.  My God.

Of course there's no point expecting a people to know how to speak another language when they can't even gain mastery of the one they inherited. My polite slap down about the improper use of 'threesome' led me to wonder - has 'threesome' gone the way of 'gay,' 'b.j.' and other terms which didn't begin as sexual euphemisms but ended up so because of vulgarizing of modern culture?

So I did a Google Books search to see how the phrase 'nice threesome' was being used. Lo and behold, my neighbor seems to be on to something. The first result was from a book called 'Best Adult Movies' as one of a list of titles of pornographic movies which isn't surprising I guess. The next book was called 'Love in the Afternoon' by Judy Hardy-Holden from 2006 where it appears in the following sentence - "She dreams of a nice threesome with a male and female, that would be rather nice. Or a nice evening home with the Dildo and batteries, either would work." [p. 166]

Then the book in third place was apparently a similar work of titillation "Sue was tempted to take his other arm and make it a nice threesome, but decided not to. They went in the house and Sue realizing, three is a crowd, smiled and kissed him lightly on the cheek to say goodnight and before she could walk away ..." [p. 167]

 Next came a strange work of prose called London Bridge Volume 2 where the phrase appears in a series of non sequiturs which I don't even understand. This was followed by familiar fare called the Gatekeeper by Philip Shelby from 1998 which reads:
“You're shivering. What's wrong?”
She looked up at him. “Your pals' girlfriends made a pass at me.”
He drew back. “What?”
“They thought we'd make a nice threesome.”
“Hollis, come on! Maybe you misunderstood ...”
“Their groping me?"
I have never read this book and probably never will. But surely an editor should have spotted 'their groping me' as a mistake for 'they're groping me.'

Then came Soho Whore from 2008 by a woman of letters called Sheila Foster whose work I can't even reproduce here at my blog because I like to keep the language bland and old fashioned: "He had his fingers around the outside of my c**t, whether to give me more joy or to be near Alf s thrusting c**k I really don't know. We made a nice threesome, we did, and if there was one thing lacking it was knowing what I could do with my mouth." [p. 101]  That's absolutely wonderful language. A must read for everyone.

 Then comes Stephen Petretti 2002 classic Hot Shot Fng which serves up familiar fare "She'll probably be on the rag. I'll just take Kathy for a ride if Janine don't want to go. She probably don't want nothing to do with me anymore. Hey, maybe I'll get both to go for a ride and get a nice threesome going in the Bronco." [p. 99]

I needn't pretend anyone will be surprised with what appears in Arno Karlen's 1988 book Threesomes: studies in sex, power, and intimacy. It is only when we get down to the number eight position that we come across something which isn't sordid: George Deering's 2008 book the Christ-Like Child:

Mary had picked the name Hope for her sister Kaitlin's child, so Danny and I thought that if we added Faith and Charity it would make for a nice threesome.” As the fortieth week in space commenced, all of the ships could be seen returning to earth. [p. 93]

So finally we find someone else who uses the term 'threesome' in the same sentence with children. So too with the next book - albeit from 1964. Something called The High Pasture by Ruth Peabody Harnden: you-all could make a nice threesome. Tim looked at Danny who promptly said, "My idea." The questions in Tim's mind must have shown in his face: Was Shep just being nice? How did the kids feel about including him?" [p. 12]

Then 1938's Sight and Sound put out by the British Film Institute: "(The Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express make a nice threesome!) Reviews in the Listener and in the New Statesman and Nation are particularly useful for older children. Later on, when the class has begun to practise ..."

In any event, the list goes on but it does appear that in modern American English you aren't supposed to describe a group of three as 'a nice threesome' any more. Really sad, the vulgarizing of our culture. But that's the way it is, I guess ...

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