Comedy · Words · Writing

Watch Your Words: The Un-sexy Side of Double Entendres

As a writer, I am keenly aware of the words I use, especially when typing things others will read. Not only am I careful of what I say, I watch how I say it, all the better to analyze, and improve. It’s a constant struggle.

And that is why, on Sunday morning, I nearly spit out my coffee when I found a romance novel titled, I kid you not, “Dripping With Love.”

Ahem.

There are many reasons this is a very good title for a novel. For example, without even reading this work, I knew that it was a) explicit, and b) crap. I could skip it without worrying I was missing anything.

Alright, you caught me. “Dripping With Love” is an awful title, because it does exactly what you never want to do in writing: it brought up the wrong mental image. I mean, there’s probably a novel out there that can pull off a title like that with camp aplomb, but trust me, I read this one, and it didn’t. 

But it did inspire me to come up with some romance novel titles of my own. So, romance novelists. If you wanted to call your masterpiece “Dripping With Love” and are disappointed that it’s already taken, perhaps you would prefer “Love’s Moisture.” Or if that seems a bit wet to you, perhaps “Love Is Hard” is better? Or “Tickling Her Fancy.”

I’ll stop now. You get the point, I’m sure: when choosing a title, watch your double entendre. For the sake of all that’s holy, watch for them, because there is nothing more jarring than a double meaning the author neither intended nor accounted for.

We're looking at you, Bloomingdales.
We’re looking at you, Bloomingdales.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this feeling. One moment you’re innocently reading along, the next you’re jerked back to brutal reality by a phrase that is, well, wrong. It might be in a book, a brochure, or even advertisement that’s just off enough. You have to look twice, because surely no one could be that dense? Oh wait, they were.

Truth is stranger than fiction.
Truth is stranger than fiction.

It brings to mind when I was living in Japan and found that a nearby bakery was called Pantasy. I almost died laughing. See, in Japanese, this is a great name for a bakery. You combine pan, bread, with the English world “fantasy” to make an easy-to-pronounce romantic bakery name! Unfortunately, all I could see was “pants fantasy,” which isn’t quite the same thing. They tried, but alas, English is full of that sort of thing.

This is why writers must be mindful of their words at all times, and doubly so anywhere within ten miles of a romantic scene. Recently I read another novel, which shall remain unnamed, which insisted that a certain character was “making love” to someone’s chin.

Now, you may point out as many times as you like that this is an old-fashioned way of saying “kissing quite a lot in a loving way,” but this novel was written in 2010, when “making love” has definitely gained another meaning, which it is far more commonly used for. I spent a good four or five minutes trying to figure out exactly how making love to someone’s chin would work.

This is not a task for sensitive souls, especially as the author went on to tell me that these two characters were alternately “making love” to each others hands, collar bones, and backs of knees. By the time the characters got to the usual place, I was no longer sure if they were kissing or completing the last of the four Fs, and I was too busy making fun of it on Twitter to particularly care. Talk about love scene fails.

So authors, sign makers, advertisers–anyone whose job is to string language together–please, choose your words carefully.  Otherwise, rather than creating scenes of wonder, romance, and delicious baking, you’ll only succeed in making your readers laugh their pants off.

Or, in some cases, right back on.

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