‘Taint your balls, ‘taint your ass, but ’tis in the OED

This week, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is out with its latest update. Among its crop of over 600 new words, phrases, and senses, some sweary entries flashed us the come-to-bed eyes on Strong Language—and we don’t mean continental grip, dead rubber, or additions to the many meaning of come, as suggestive as they may sound. From mild abuses to sexual euphemisms to derogatory slang, we’ve got the highlights here.


n. slang. Sexual intercourse without a condom. In later use frequently spec. unprotected anal sex between men.

1963   T. I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 110   Some of them use rubbers. But most guys want bareback.
1976   R. Price Bloodbrothers iii. 42   She takes her clothes off..and whips out a bag. Awright, I prefer bareback, but it’s for my protection too, you know?
1997   Online Personal Advt. in M. Signorile Life Outside (1998) i. iii. 129   A sampling of..online profiles indicates the degree of seriousness: ‘I like doing my pounding bareback—Don’t IM..if not interested in bareback!’
2003   Mail on Sunday (Nexis) 2 Feb.   I can give any potential partners the choice as to whether to continue with bareback knowing the consequences or to use a condom.
2016   Evening Standard (Nexis) 9 June   I never do bareback… I always had safe sex but not oral sex with condoms.

v. intr. To have sexual intercourse without using a condom (in later use, chiefly with reference to unprotected anal sex between men). Also trans. with person as object.

2000   Guardian 14 Mar. ii. 3/3   Lots of people are barebacking.
2002   Queensland Pride 12 Apr. 5/3   14 percent [of gay and bisexual men familiar with the term ‘barebacking’] reported that they had barebacked at least once during the past 2 years.
2005   in P. N. Halkitis et al. Barebacking 99   Sometimes I’ll negotiate barebacking a guy if he is on the bottom, but if I am on the bottom, I always make them use a condom.
2016   THIS Mag. Jan. 11/1   The notion of two men barebacking sends a very different and decidedly less wholesome message than gay wedding announcements in the weekend papers.

Butt pirate

n. slang (orig. and chiefly N. Amer.) (derogatory) a homosexual man.

1989   P. Munro U.C.L.A. Slang 27   Butt pirate, homosexual male.
2002   Out Mar. 102/1   The same people who one week would call me a ‘fag’ or ‘butt pirate’ would the next week be shoving me into lockers.
2010   M. Sloan High before Homeroom 245   Spent it on drugs, that little butt pirate. Not that I have a problem with gay guys.


n. (a term of abuse for) an insignificant, unscrupulous, or contemptible person (cf. wrastler, variant of wrestler n.).

1954   R. Jenkins Thistle & Grail (1994) iv. 61   Am I Carnegie, that I can throw away fourpence on that shower of chanty-wrastlers?
1988   G. M. Fraser Sheikh & Dustbin (1989) 41   A chanty-wrastler is a poseur, and unreliable.
2016   R. Gavin 3 of Kind 76   If ah get mah hands on that chanty wrassler.

A chanty, meanwhile, is a Scottish term for a “chamber pot,” shortened from Chantilly, a French town known for manufacturing the porcelain used for such shitters.


adj. intended to invite or perceived as inviting sexual interest; alluring, seductive. Earliest and chiefly in come-to-bed eyes. It is unclear whether quot. 1922 is a play on, and therefore earlier evidence for, the usual form of the expression, or a coincidental nonce coinage by Joyce.

[1922   J. Joyce Ulysses xv. 411   I seen you up Faithful place with your squarepusher, the greaser off the railway, in his cometobed hat.]
1962   Las Vegas Sun 21 Nov. 13/5   A number of men have told me that I have ‘come to bed’ eyes.
1969   Financial Times 23 Oct. 15/6   It all revolves around sex… Quite simply, Eyelure creates come-to-bed-eyes.
1972   Texas Star 4 June 9/4 (advt.)    Layer upon layer of luxurious curls you can toss about for a tousled, come-to-bed look.
1989   P. Robins in D. Rees & P. Robins Freezer Counter 40   Our Lennie, with his nut-brown curls and come-to-bed voice paid us both in kind.
2004   Gay Times Feb. 85/3   Despite his cute, floppy fringe, come-to-bed eyes, and little-boy-lost expression, on record he sounds like a slowed-down Grace Jones who’s lived off nothing but Gitanes for the last five years.


n. colloq. (now chiefly Brit.). (A nickname for) a person with red or reddish hair; cf. gingerSometimes derogatory, reflecting negative attitudes towards red-haired people.

1911   E. Dyson Benno & some Push v. 58   Miss Dolly Hopgood was commonly called ‘Ginge’, an abbreviation of Ginger, and a polite allusion to her prevailing tint.
1977   G. F. Newman Prisoner’s Tale 21   He..glanced down at his crotch. ‘I’m getting a blue vein here, Ginge,’ he said.
1985   D. Kavanagh Putting Boot In 11   That speedy little ginge had got the ball again.
2007   T. Bell Life in Bus Lane iii. 43   If that wasn’t bad enough, there was the total indignity of meeting a fellow ‘ginge’.

Screw off

v. colloq. (orig. U.S. slang). intr. To shirk one’s duties, skive; to loaf around. Cf. to fuck off

1943   Stars & Stripes (Middle East ed.) 6 Aug. 5/4   It’s easier to screw off from details because there’s no center for reaching men.
1981   Salina (Kansas) Jrnl. 9 Sept. 2/2   Quit screwing off and go and collect rocks.
1991   E. Currie Dope & Trouble i. iv. 66   Some of the workers there would screw off… They were..lounging around and not doing the work.
2008   Atlantic Monthly Dec. 86/2   It’s his birthday today, so I’m letting him screw off.

Screwing around


1971   J. C. Oates in Salmagundi Winter 34   I don’t need any screwing around.
1988   M. Bishop Unicorn Mountain (1989) iv. 39   After much more skylarking and screwing around, Sam married Dolores Arriola, vowing to set himself straight.
2005   W. Deverell April Fool xxiii. 267   The screwing around with other women, the guilt, that’s what led me to drink.

Son of a bachelor

n. used as a term of abuse or contempt; cf. bastard n…Perhaps sometimes as a euphemistic alternative to stronger terms such as son of a bitch.

1657   T. Jordan Walks Islington & Hogsdon iv. ii. sig. F4   You son of a Batchelor, do you throw your Pispots upon my head.
1737   J. Ozell tr. Rabelais Wks. IV. lv. 227   Tack about, helm a Lee, thou Son of a Batchelor.
1861   Warren (Pa.) Mail 16 Feb. 2/1   Every mothers son of a bachelor was pierced to the heart by the fatal shaft.
1958   Stars & Stripes (European ed.) 20 Mar. 3/4   When some son of a bachelor insults me I insult back twice as hard.
2000   New Republic 10 July 31/2   These sons of bachelors will not intimidate me.

Strong Language’s own Jonathon Green also dates son of a bachelor to Thomas Jordan’s Walks of Islington and Hogsdon, which he notes is also an early record of pisspot (which he finds in 1562)—or a chanty, as it were, before extending to an “unpleasant person” (late 1500s), a “drunkard” (1950s), a “lavatory bowl” (1970s), and “anywhere unpleasant, dirty, smelly, etc.” (1990s). Look out for Green’s own updates, including a bachelor’s son/son of a bachelor, later this summer.


n. coarse slang (orig. U.S.). The perineum.

1955   ‘W. Baron’ Play this Love with Me v. 62   My prick was throbbing somewhere around her taint—you know what a woman’s taint is: ‘taint asshole and ‘taint cunt.
1971   E. E. Landy Underground Dict. 181   Taint, the piece of skin between the penis or vagina and the anus.
2005   GQ Sept. 199/2   Steve was so into it that he asked her to rub his ‘taint’. Then it was all over.
2015   B. Garrett When Balls Drop xx. 196   Think long and hard about getting tattoos… Think twice before getting that red hibiscus flower inked over your taint.

In other slang dialects, taint answers to gooch and grundle.

Finally, the OED antedated a number of sweary terms after reading through the Selected Letters of Norman Mailer, which author has also gifted us the likes of shitstorm and fucking A. In her article introducing these updates, OED Associate Editor Eleanor Maier explains that obscenity laws and censorship pressures in the 19th and early 20th centuries make it difficult to find evidence for swear wordsand making uncensored private letters like Norman Mailer’s invaluable resources. Mailer himself was forced to substitute fug for fuck in his 1948 The Naked and the Dead, as Rob Chirico has discussed.

Fuck up

intr. To blunder, to make a (serious) error; to fail, go wrong. Cf. to screw up…

1944   N. Mailer Let. 30 Apr. in Sel. Lett. (2014) 17   If you do something wrong or make a botch of a job it is called ‘fucking-up’.


slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.) (euphem.). = motherfucking adj.

1948   N. Mailer Let. 7 Feb. in Sel. Lett. (2014) 68   Words liked browned-off, fouled-up, mother-loving, f——, spit for [sc. instead of] shit are the most counterfeit of currencies and represent the public’s conception of Army life.


n. work considered to be menial or routine; drudgery.

1958   N. Mailer Let. 29 Oct. in Sel. Lett. (2014) 241   The only trouble is that this was shit work, prefaces to my short collected stuff, and to my horror I got sick of myself.

Interested in more shit work on Strong Language? We’ve got you well covered


All definitions and citations are from the OED Online, accessed June 2017.

10 thoughts on “‘Taint your balls, ‘taint your ass, but ’tis in the OED

  1. rcreed June 27, 2017 / 2:52 pm

    I became familiar with “mother-loving” through its use in “West Side Story,” but interesting to know it’s at least 10 yrs older than that. Bated oaths are an interesting backwater of sweary language!

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Kelly June 28, 2017 / 11:01 am

      I’m criminally under-experienced in the “West Side Story,” alas, but yes, minced oaths are fascinating indeed–and well illustrate linguistic creativity under the social pressures of taboos.


  2. ardj June 28, 2017 / 10:58 am

    “Ginge” scarcely qualifies here: it is no more abusive, maybe less, than “ginger”, and in fact any abuse is surely in the eye of the beholder/mouth of the utterer rather than in the word itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Kelly June 28, 2017 / 11:09 am

      I respectfully disagree. “Ginge” may be mild, but it still derides a person on the arbitrary basis of appearance, and therefore constitutes derogatory and thus abusive language.

      While I understand your argument, I don’t know how much it would hold up in the face of slurs. I’m sure plenty of children with red hair have been quite hurt by playground mockery of it.

      And consider the N-word. While its reappropriation in the black community is a subject of much debate, a white person using the N-word is offensive even if that individual may not behold it so.

      Besides, on Strong Language, we discuss all aspects of swearing, including euphemisms and child-like abuses, even if they don’t have the shock value of “fuck” or “cunt.”


      • ardj July 1, 2017 / 7:35 am

        I quite accept that ‘ginge’ may be used as a term of abuse; and I apologize to any red-, auburn- or real ginger-heads (including my friends and, alas long-lost, past lovers) who may have been wounded by such attacks, if they feel I am somehow overlooking their experiences. My point was, or should have been, that any word(s) could be a term of abuse, from ‘intellectual’ to ‘dessicated calculating machine’, from ‘boot’ to ‘tie-wearing’, from ‘paki’ to ‘yank’ (and, yes, those last two are not exact equivalents). In this perspective, ‘ginge’ can be used as an attack on someone’s appearance, but is not in itself a taboo word of some kind: it has a perfectly good affectionate use.


      • John Kelly July 5, 2017 / 3:55 pm

        Great point re: the affectionate possibilities of “ginger.”


  3. Joe Clark June 28, 2017 / 11:40 am

    Can you please figure out how to write an apostrophe? Hint: It isn’t the character imprinted on your keyboard, but neither is it two out of three attempts in your headline:

    ‘Taint your balls, ‘taint your ass, but ’tis in the OED

    A lexicographer who can’t typeset is a contradiction in terms.


    • John Kelly June 28, 2017 / 11:45 am

      Aw, you missed a golden opportunity: ’Taint an apostrophe in your title!


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