“How do I make cum taste better?” someone asked sex advice columnist Dan Savage.
“Cum” is not a word. We don’t have three-letter alternate spellings for other four-letter words that have double meanings. You wouldn’t write “I know this guy who sucks and he’s a mean dick, but he’s so fucking hot, I want to suk his dik.” The proper spelling of “come” works just fine too. But in answer to your question: Come is an acquired taste. No one likes Guinness the first time they drink it, right? But soon you’re happily knocking back pints of the stuff.
If you believe the Oxford English Dictionary, Savage is right: the OED doesn’t even acknowledge cum, listing only come, but I think in this case the dictionary hasn’t caught up with current usage. The contemporary dictionary at oxforddictionaries.com is a bit more yielding, listing cum as a variant spelling of the preferred come. In the other corner we have Urban Dictionary, which brings up more than 120 entries for cum that have pretty much the same definition.
As a morpheme in a longer word, cum beats come hands down. Cum-a-holic (both with and without hyphens) brings up 188,900 hits on Google, compared with come-a-holic/comeaholic’s 48, and precum similarly demolishes precome in a Google Fight. Bizarrely, although the sexual cum isn’t in the OED, pre-cum is listed as an alternate spelling for the preferred pre-come. And seeming to contradict itself, the dictionary gives supporting quotations that both spell it pre-cum:
His cock, wet from pre-cum, slid easily into the ass that Steve had already loosened up. (R.N. Boyd Sex behind Bars, 1984)
HIV is in the blood, cum and pre-cum of an HIV positive man. (Gay Times, Feb. 2004)
So what is a discerning potty-mouthbrain to saywrite? Maybe a swim through cum’s history will guide us to righteousness.
What cum is not
The Internet brims with cum-related apocrypha. Cum isn’t…
…an abbreviation of scum
You’re wrong about “cum,” Dan. Linguistically and historically cum is shortened from scum. A condom was a “scumbag,” hence the derogatory term. You’ll find a tiny little bit of Internet evidence—with actual citations—here. So using cum (or scum) is perfectly OK, and if anything come (as a noun) is the more recent/improper use. Just figured I’d tell you as it is a fun bit of trivia.—HH
Unfortunately, that “fun bit of trivia” is wrong. Lexicographers agree that cum is an alternate spelling of come, and records of its use date back to the 1920s. Scum and scumbag were not recorded to mean semen and condom, respectively, until the 1960s.
…a cognate of the Latin cum
Pronounced “coom,” cum survives as a preposition meaning with in Latin expressions like magna cum laude and (pronounced “cum” in some dialects) as a connective in compounds like actor-cum-director, indicating a dual role. It has nothing to do with the sexual cum.
Interestingly, a friend of mine who thought this connective cum was a corruption of come believed actor-cum-director meant actor-turned-director—in other words, that they were sequential rather than simultaneous roles. I’m willing to bet he’s not alone.
Because the language gods are hilarious, precum also has a false cognate in Latin, as the genitive plural form of prex, meaning prayer. A book of prayers is liber precum.
…a result of textspeak and laziness
People spelled the spunky come as cum long before texting existed, and although cum does save a character, the most likely motivation for using it is that it instantly evokes bawdiness. In contrast, come has so many other uses that you might have to do a double-take to confirm what the writer meant.
Historically, both spellings were used in the non-sexual sense until the 17th century, when come prevailed as the standard. After that, writers sometimes used cum in dialogue—usually to characterize speakers who were less educated and who used nonstandard English.
“Oh, yas; Moye cum de possum ober de Cunnel, and make him b’lieve Sam war bad. De Cunnel du n no de hull ob dat story.” (James R. Gilmore, Among the Pines, 1862)
Come and cum sound exactly the same, so there’s no phonetic reason to substitute the latter for the former, but using cum implies a character’s distinct lack of refinement.
That association with coarseness and vulgarity is what makes cum so effective at conveying sexual context in modern usage, and, whether Dan Savage likes it or not, the sexual cum is going to stick. Too many people are using it for it to be policed into oblivion. However, its lewdness has activated censors (be warned that putting summa cum laude on a resume might reroute your job application to a spam folder), and the Latin cum meaning with has been so skunked by the pornier cum that we may see attic-cum-studio constructions give way to attic-slash-studio.
The upshot: whereas the sophisticated daintily sip come out of an appropriate receptacle (pinky raised), boorish philistines guzzle cum straight out of the bottle. In other words, cum is not wrong, but it certainly feels dirtier—which may be exactly the effect you’re aiming for.
What come/cum is
We may never settle on the proper way to spell come/cum, but can we at least agree on what it means?
As a noun
Come = semen. End of story?
Well, the OED says that it’s also used, though rarely, to denote “fluid secreted by the vagina during sexual play.”
The walls, the floor and even the roof of the hut were coated with your sperm and her come. (Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America, 1967)
Many of Urban Dictionary’s top entries for cum concur that lady juices also count, but people are divided over whether cum includes all of her sexual fluids or just when she “squirts.” This quote shows the more inclusive usage:
The Caveman and The Roman both reached for Tiara’s buttocks, each grabbing a cheek, kneading and massaging their way to her anus, as they continued performing their lubricious manipulations on her breasts. Each man inserted a finger in her anus, which was already lubricated by the juices from her cum. (Zane, Caramel Flava, 2006)
As a verb
There seems to be general consensus that to come/to cum means to orgasm. This usage of the verb to come predates the noun come/cum by almost three centuries and may have begun as come off:
They lay soe close together, they made me much to wonder;
I knew not which was wether, until I saw her under.
Then off he came, and blusht for shame soe soon that he had endit;
Yet still she lies, and to him cryes, “one more and none can mend it.”
(“Walking in a Meadowe Greene,” c. 1650, in Bishop Percy’s Loose Songs)
Oddly enough, unlike get off or jack off, where the off conveys orgasm, come off retained its meaning even when it was shortened to come and later cum.
Like its noun form, the definition of the verb come/cum isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Both males and females* can come—but can both cum? Does coming (cumming) hinge on the production of come (cum)?
We know the past tense of come is came. Is it the same for cum? Or is it cummed?
Is to cum necessarily intransitive? Or can you use it transitively and “cum your pants”? Can to come ever be transitive?
For each of these questions, we can find examples of usage to support either side. Who’d have expected come to be so nuanced?
With all of these conflicting opinions, let’s settle the issue once and for all in the best way we can—through a thoroughly unscientific online poll:
Come/cum as a noun
Come/cum as a verb
*Using male/female to denote biological sex vs. man/woman for gender