Saturday, April 10, 2010

snogging

Eek!  The Wordnik List of the Day yesterday was titled "Hugonyms" and was explained as "Anything hugging related".  The Facebook announcement of this included several people excited about learning the new-to-them BrE (though not marked as such) word snog.  One went so far as to comment:
I'm gonna go snog my kids.........*snog* (love it!)
Eek!  Eek!  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!  Eeky eekness!

Because it's a BrE slang word, it's not in most of the dictionaries that American-based Wordnik uses.  So, if one clicks on snog in the "Hugonym" list, the only "definition" one gets is from WordNet. But WordNet is not a dictionary--it's a lexical database that is closer to being a thesaurus.  It links words together into "synsets"--i.e. synonym sets.  So the "definition" that we get for snog is essentially a definition for the central word in its synset, kiss
touch with the lips or press the lips (against someone's mouth or other body part) as an expression of love, greeting, etc.
But one would not snog a person in greeting.  Well, I wouldn't, and I'm betting most of you wouldn't either.  (Did I mention eek?!)

Snog happened to be fodder for my Valentine's Day Difference of the Day tweet:
Difference of the day: (orig. & chiefly) AmE 'make out' vs. BrE 'snog'. Happy Valentine's Day!
Commenters on that tweet differed on whether making out required activities other than deep, passionate kissing (which, eek, is the meaning of snog).  But compare Urban Dictionary definitions:
make out the act of swapping spit with your significant other... or perhaps just some hottie you met at a party, but anyway, you just sit there sucking at each other's faces for an extended period of time and if you're lucky there might even be a little romming around of the hands if ya get my drift :p
snog  1. verb; to interface passionately with another being, creating a field of physical obsession and focused arousal +centered+ on the lips, mouth and tongue.
2. verb; to play tonsil hockey
Parents:  please do not snog your children.  Or announce that you will do so on the internet.

Lessons of the day:
  1. a little knowledge is a dangerous thing
  2. WordNet should not be used as a dictionary
 I'm going to go wash my eyeballs now.

52 comments:

Interface said...

eewww, I think the naughty-word filter at my work would block this post.

ella said...

my bf and I were discussing a similar topic last night (both of us are BrE speakers living in Canada.) We were discussing 'wanker' which is used joyfully by american writers who don't quite get the fact that this is a graphic word which is actively used in everyday speech - it sounds 'quaint' or comical to american ears and they don't realise how inappropriate it is to people in the UK.

lynneguist said...

That popularity in America made wanker the BrE-to-AmE Word of the Year for 2006.

PapaScott said...

Wasn't there a lot of snogging in the Harry Potter books? Or did that get edited out of the US editions?

Anonymous said...

To my mind, the word also has a female sensibility about it; men are less likely to use it. Like some other words, eg sprink.

biochemist said...

'Shagging' is similar - perhaps a couple of stages further on than 'snogging'.

A very inappropriate use was observed in the movie Braveheart when a nasty character referred to gang rape by English soldiers as 'a bit of shagging' - double eeeeek!

Johnny E said...

Yeurgh. That made me squirm...

On the subject of Hugonyms, I would like to bring to readers' attention the excellent word 'glomp', meaning a cross between an overexcitable hug and a flying tackle.

townmouse said...

hehe - reminds me of the innocent AmE use of the word 'bonk' when a child or someone knocks their head on something.

I would have thought that onomatopoeically (sp?) the word 'snog' would imply a certain amount of saliva exchange... it has that face-chewing aspect of it built in.

Robbie said...

"Shagging" is sex, pure and simple. Although that does put it a couple of stages further on from snogging...

PapaScott: This website:
http://www.hp-lexicon.org/about/books/differences.html
...lists all the changes made to the Harry Potter books for the US versions. The word "snog" doesn't show up in any of them, and I would presume it would have been translated to a US term if it had appeared in the books.

Even if (like me) you find yourself bored stupid by Harry Potter, the site is interesting as a study of UK-US language differences in practice.

TheRabbi said...

Snog definitely gained popularity in the US among a certain demographic after they stopped changing words in the US edition (thankfully - what, Americans can't deal with some extra vocab?) and Harry Potter got old enough to besnogging people. Not sure about the community at large, but within the set of people who are fans of the HP series, snogging is still in good use. (The movies haven't hurt either.)

@Anonymous: Interesting. Though I'm American, and so the word is (still) marked as an import for me, I've come away with the impression that it would be used by men just as much as women.

@Johnny E: 'Glomp' is indeed a wonderful word. It's time for it to go mainstream!

@All: Why all "eww" and "yuck"? It's just kissing. Well, snogging.

lynneguist said...

@TheRabbi: Because you shouldn't snog your children!

Zhoen said...

I love to say Bugger as a swear word, because although it's pretty bad in Br/E, no one in AM/E knows that, and I can get away with it. I haven't thought to use wanker yet, but it would work the same way.

I would never use snog as a kiss for anyone but a romantic/passionate kiss between potential sexual partners. Snuggle with kids, don't snog 'em. That's certainly the subtext I've always understood from the massive amounts of Br/TV/comedy we watch.

Supergrunch said...

Incidentally, I don't think anyone British under the age of say, 25, would actively use the word - it comes across as somewhat quaint and cheesy. I've heard multiple people complain about Rowling putting the middle-aged words in the mouths of kids in HP - see especially the epilogue of book 7.

Supergrunch said...

Incidentally, the closest new equivalent of snog is probably "pull", although this has certain different connotions. For instance, it's usually associated with kissing random people, typically in clubs, and so it sounds a little odd to pull your boyfriend/girlfriend, and even more so with wife/husband, though this latter one may be a result of the youngish age group that use the use "pull". Furthermore, I understand that in some Northern dialects it a very different meaning, along the lines of "met someone random and shortly after had sex with them".

Kelv said...

In a similar vein, Steve Carell was a guest last week on GMTV (cosy, bland breakfast programme). He mentioned Ricky Gervais, particularly how, "as you say here, he always takes the piss out of me". Cue an immediate apology for his language from the presenter!

I'd assumed Carell was being deliberately mischievous, but then I recalled the (American) New York correspondent for BBC Three's 7pm news a few years ago. During her live report about some individual, she stated that he was "pissed" about something. She seemed genuinely shocked that the newsreaders in London had to apologise for her bad language so early in the evening.

So is "piss" and its variants not considered swearing in America?

lynneguist said...

@Kelv: On the contrary, I just read reference to 'piss' in the Rochester, NY newspaper which was expressed as "the p-word". My experience has been that it's less taboo in BrE--particularly as in pissed for 'drunk'.

Kelv said...

Thanks, Lynne. I've often wondered about this ever since, so it turns out it was just the BBC employing potty-mouthed reporters. :)

empty said...

I learned "snog" from watching the 'Brit-com' "As Time Goes By" on American TV. It seemed clear that it was slang of a bygone era.

May I nit-pick and correct the quotation: A little learning is a dangerous thing.

Amanda P. said...

One of the above comments mentioned "shagging." As I live in North Carolina, this is a type of dancing - for real. It always makes the visiting Brits twich a little bit to hear that people are going out "shagging".

I didn't start to hear "snog" until HP 6 came out, though.

Jonathan Bogart said...

In my experience, the use of "piss" in the sense of "being pissed" [angry] is fairly acceptable in most AmE contexts, while as a reference to urine it's only just less taboo than "shit." (i.e. I'd tell my mom I was pissed off, but I'd wouldn't tell her I had to take a piss.)

If Carell's knowledge of BrE is roughly the same mine (I know the vocabulary but not the social cues), he would probably assume that (BrE phrase) "taking the piss" was closer to the former.

Robbie said...

"Pulling" is not at all the same as "snogging"! You pull someone when you get them to agree to go to bed with you. You absolutely cannot pull somebody who is already your spouse or lover. I'd guess the nearest AmE equivalent would be "hook up".

"Pull" is usually used in the context of a casual and more or less immediate hook-up, such as in a club or pub. It would be strange to hear someone talking about "pulling" someone they've been friends with for a while.

"Pull" has traditionally been used mostly by males about females, because traditionally it's men who talk women into bed and boast about it afterwards. Nowadays you'll find just as many young women talking about pulling men.

It's quite a cynical word that has the flavour of boasting about conquests. It implies the other person is an object or a target, like a fish being pulled in. You wouldn't normally say "pull" to the person you're trying to pull!

As far as "snog" goes, I've never considered it particularly male or female, or particularly old-fashioned. If I wanted to be cynical, I might suggest that modern teens don't talk about snogging much because they just fall straight into bed!

lynneguist said...

@empty: There are no quotation marks around it, so I don't think my version requires correction. Could be considered a snowclone...

Re 'pulling': I have done this one before.

empty said...

I think that A little X is a dangerous thing does sometimes function as a snowclone. But I also think that there is a widespread belief that the original X was knowledge.

Stephen Jones said...

I love to say Bugger as a swear word, because although it's pretty bad in Br/E

Only in Southern British English. In Northern British English it's somewhat of an affectionate term.

Because the majority of non-commissioned officers in the British Army were Northern or Scottish the word entered Indian English as a normal term ('the bugger's absconding' is Indian legal speak for 'the accused has jumped bail'). As the other source of English vocabulary was the minor public school teacher the result could be a somewhat bizarre clash of registers. One Sri Lankan student introduced his father to his teacher at parents day with the words 'This is pater bugger.'

Ginger Yellow said...

In my experience, the use of "piss" in the sense of "being pissed" [angry] is fairly acceptable in most AmE contexts, while as a reference to urine it's only just less taboo than "shit."

This rings true for me as well. I'm pretty sure I've heard "pissed" (angry) several times on American network TV, whereas you'd never hear "shit", or for that matter "piss" as a verb.

Anonymous said...

I learned the word "snog" from the radio sitcom "The Clitheroe Kid" around 1960. The Kid's big sister and her dopey boyfriend used to sit in the front parlour alone together, which was as far as teenagers were allowed to go in those days, and the Kid called it "the snogging room".
Kate (Derby, UK)

Robbie said...

In an article about prisoners in California, I was stunned to read: "...a scheme to let inmates pick grapes at a winery and shag golf balls at a local driving range."

The prisoners must be more deprived than I thought.

Is this a misprint (for "snag", perhaps)? Or is it a standard US term for picking up golf balls?

Brian said...

@Robbie "Is this a misprint (for "snag", perhaps)? Or is it a standard US term for picking up golf balls?"

It's the latter, although in this case, a specific golf term for picking up the ball.

Practice golf balls can also be called shag balls. And in the same way, when baseball players practice catching balls that have been hit in the air, it's known as "shagging fly balls," which I understand causes no end of amusement to some Britons.

lynneguist said...

FWIW, my mother doesn't allow 'pissed off' in polite company. But she doesn't allow 'puke' either, "because it's such a horrible word".

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

(Brit living in the US)

I now realise that the quest to "Shag Dad's Balls" in a Tony Hawk game was not intended to be rude. I guess you live and learn.

"Chuffed" seems to be a word that a lot of my American friends get confused with. Chuffed means to A) Pass Gas or B) be very pleased. But for some reason they take it as being a negative and then misuse it until I hear them do so. No idea why, but it's happened a few times.

Hearing that "Snog" is a middle-aged word makes me feel extremely old - my Brother was using it in his teens, and he's only just turned 30 :/

Also, why can't I just edit my crucial speelong mistook? Curse you Blogger!

Anonymous said...

@James don't worry, "snog" is still in plenty of use, at least round my neck of the woods! I'm twenty and I use it and I'm pretty sure I've heard my ten-year-old cousin say it too.

Dot said...

My mother (as BrE as they come; grew up in Cheshire, now in Norfolk) uses 'snog' as a term for an affectionate cuddle or time of non-sexual physical closeness, as in 'the cat and I had a lovely snog'. I've found this a bit odd for most of my life. I wonder if anybody else has come across this usage?

lynneguist said...

@James: I don't want to get into this in the comments here, really, but 'chuffed' also has a negative meaning, which has been largely overshadowed by the positive meaning (Oxford-published dictionaries probably cover this--the OED does). Perhaps this'll be the next blog post. So--please, let's not get into it here!

mollymooly said...

I was struck by the use of "eek". I would have expected "ick" or "ew" (the latter has no agreed spelling yet AFAIK). To me "eek" is a squeak of mild cartoonish terror ("eek! there's a live mouse in the corner!") rather than of disgust ("eew! there's a dead mouse in the soup!").

lynneguist said...

I was expressing alarm, rather than disgust.

bill said...

Not that I am in any way an expert on this...but I know that I have heard a young person use the word Snog fairly recently...
About a year ago, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" finally aired over here on BBC America, and on one episode John Barrowman basically tricked all of the Marias into kissing him...I still remember this because we laughed at how she said it...and one of the girls, the youngest at the time (Siobhan I think...and I am probably butchering that spelling) said "I just snogged John Barrowman"

Of course this is probably not new or interesting news to anyone in the UK...

(And as an aside, I am fairly certain this particular trick would not have made it into a US version...since too many people would consider that he "forced" himself on them...)

astarhen said...

Reason #38 why I love the Internet: I, a 22-year-old Midwesterner, pick up BrE (and possibly SAE or AuE) without even trying. "Pulling" is probably my most recent acquisition, owing to the sitcom of that name--shame it was canceled! Of course, sites like this fill in the gaps when casual contact doesn't suffice.
I wonder if we young'uns are more apt to pick up and reuse words and expressions from "non-native" Englishes, given the importance of keeping up with Internet-grown neologisms. Almost certainly, our vocabularies are becoming more permeable.

Charles H said...

Regarding shagging balls, it is also commonly used in baseball. When batting practice is going on, you need people in the outfield to shag flies. And given the BrE use of shag, that sentence is suddenly very funny to me...

biochemist said...

Charles H - if you told us that you and your friend Randy were lurking in the outfield, hoping to shag some fly balls, a listening Brit would be presented with a most astonishing image!

Nigel said...

re: "pull" -- my favo(u)rite sign in the US is in the gift shop at the Lincoln Memorial in DC: "No pulling on the shelves."

Which as a native Br northerner, I thought was either (a) the result of a bad previous experience; (b) gravitationally improbable; or (c) both.

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

He he Nigel! That's great! Every time I encounter some poor, unfortunate American guy called 'Randy', I snigger. I wonder if they have any idea what the rest of the English-speaking world is laughing about.

PW said...

Amanda - Of course we know what you're thinking. That happens as words change meanings. Most of us also know men nicknamed Dick, though Rich is becoming the more common short form. I know several women named Gay who had been given that name before it's currently more common use became widespread. However, while I know what you're sniggering about, it isn't for me the first thing that springs to mind.

Cine Cynic said...

Oh! the horrors of using WordNet as a dictionary. When in college I used it for building some NLP engine, and it was alright because I used aggregation.

My most awful example is of the word "awful" to which awed, awe-inspiring, awesome are mentioned as synonyms (full of awe).

Marc Naimark said...

I have recently seen two AmE versions of the name of a silly game:
kiss-marry-kill or fuck-marry-kill. It appears that there is a BrE version: snog-marry-kill. I have not seen make out-marry-kill.

There's also this version: http://marryboffkill.blogspot.com/

Amanda said...

Well, I amazed my then husband-to-be - English - when I referred to my planned evening of babysitting a friend's children as "shagging rug-rats". He explained to me that in his idiom "shagging" was something rude Australians were often accused of doing to sheep, in jocular speech. The imagery seemed to be quite similar - walking very closely behind the individual being shagged...
This will have been the Pacific Northwest about thirty years ago.

crossrat said...

Moving back to snogging and making out: 'snogging' a very specific term only used for prolonged and intense kissing (similar: 'French kissing') vs 'making out', a much looser term which might mean almost anything according to context. It's the specificity which gives the bite when a word is misused.

Harry Campbell said...

I'm surprised no-one seems to have mentioned "smooch" as a possible translation of "snog", one which also works as a noun unlike "make out". Wouldn't that work pretty well?

lynneguist said...

No. I could give my child a smooch. I couldn't give her a snog.

Harry Campbell said...

OED's definition of snogging is frankly lazy and useless: "light, amorous play, esp. kissing and cuddling". Well maybe fifty years ago or more but certainly not today. It means full-on sexual kissing. If you're writing a historical dictionary you might as well make some attempt to show how meanings have changed overtime, rather than just writing a definition so broad as to cover everything and tell us almost nothing.

twenty six letters said...

There seems to be a strange disconnect on US TV for some words I think were picked up from the Brits.

I watch NCIS a lot, and I'm frequently amused that while they never come close to dropping f bombs, and I've only ever seen allusions to use of shit (eg a character saids, you piece of... and the scene cuts), they use bastard, bitch and bugger with impunity, and have even used wanker. It's very strange to me what is and is not considered OK, especially regarding bugger. I'd have thought US TV shows would run screaming from a word that stems from anal sex/bestiality.