What is a romance novel without euphemisms? Is that even possible? They’re such a standard part of the love scenes (even in the books closer to erotica) that I sometimes wonder if you could even write a romance novel without them.
Of Euphemisms & Romance Novels
What Is a Euphemism?
In layman’s terms, a euphemism is a word or phrase used to talk about a topic that is considered rude, upsetting, or embarrassing. It’s a way to talk around something instead of using the actual terms for the topic.
For example, death has a lot of euphemisms because it’s upsetting, and it is (or was) more polite to sidestep upsetting things in conversation. You might hear that someone “passed on,” “expired,” or “crossed over.”
Other topics with plenty of euphemisms are sex, drugs, crime, and anything else forbidden by society. The euphemism is the way you would refer to something in front of a strict grandmother or a child (or when trying to slip something by a parent or teacher).
The Importance of Euphemisms in Romance Novels
In terms of romance novels, euphemisms are what authors write to describe making love without writing the specifics. Writers frequently use creative words or phrases to refer not only to the hero and heroine’s private parts but also to the act itself.
In fact, “making love” is a euphemism (in this case, it’s here to keep WordPress happy).
Some other common examples from romance novels are…
- “his arousal,”
- “her heat,”
- “his manhood,”
- “possession,” and
No, they don’t mean the basic dictionary definition of the words. If you don’t recognize the non-dictionary meaning, read a few romance novels. You’ll catch on quickly. (I’d explain, but then WordPress would get mad.)
And, actually, some of the phrases and words are so common that we don’t even recognize them as euphemisms most of the time when we’re reading. They’re just how many authors write love scenes in romance novels. Only the really explicit books actually spell out what’s happening, and even then, some of the most common euphemisms slip in here and there.
It’s really blatant in the more restrained romance novels though. Some of those love scenes are mostly euphemism. To the point where the euphemisms can distract from what you’re reading (and sometimes inspire spurts of laughter – such as “the secret of her inner warmth” or “his longest finger” or “the magic button” 🤣).
In answer to the original question, I don’t know. To successfully write a romance novel without euphemisms, you couldn’t even use “making love,” and that might be pretty hard to avoid. And if you tried and succeeded, it might be classified as erotica instead of romance anyway. So maybe not. In a weird way, euphemisms are part of what make a romance novel a romance novel.
At least, that’s my impression. What do you think?
2 thoughts on “Can You Write a Romance Novel without Euphemisms?”
Somewhat off topic, but the other day I was wondering exactly what the difference is between writing romance and writing erotica. Is there a hard line?
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I’m not sure that there’s a hard line (or if there is, it gets a bit blurred at times).
The biggest difference is the focus of the story and the graphic nature of the love scenes. Romance is more focused on the story line of falling in love and has some love scenes scattered throughout. For many books in the genre, the love scenes are less graphic and more euphemistic. Those with more graphic scenes are the romance novels edging towards erotica, but books that cross that line have a larger number of sex scenes – enough so that the focus of the book is shifted to sex first and romance second.
At least, that’s my impression. Others may disagree.