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Don't get me wrong: I am entirely positive about octopus porn. Graphically depicted sex with our multiply-tentacled cephalopod friends is cool as far as I'm concerned.

"Octopuses are among the most intelligent and behaviorally flexible of all invertebrates," says Wikipedia. Intelligent and behaviorally flexible. If that isn't a description of exactly what you'd want in a fantasy lover, I don't know what is.

So I'm right there with Midori's praise for tentacular hentai art, which (as she notes) goes back as far as Hokusai's gorgeously erotic 1820 painting "Dream of the Fisherman's Wife". (It cannot be reproduced on this basically PG-certificate blog; click here only if you are over 21.) But look at the sad, tired piece of phrase-slinging with which Midori begins her piece:

Hentai, one of many Japanese words for pervert, also is a western reference to a genre of comic and erotic work coming out of Japan or influenced by it. The Inuit may have hundreds of words for snow, but leave it to the Japanese to come up with words expressing gradations and subtlety of perversity!

Sigh . . . Leave it to a writer on deadline to come up with the 4,286th* appearance since 2000 of the oldest snowclone in the book (*: number obtained via the methodology described here).

Midori is a travelling sexpert, sexuality educator, and sex-positive activist. Me too, basically, though I have to admit that research, lecturing, and writing for Language Log have tended to get in the way of following my true calling. It doesn't please me to nitpick the prose of a fellow sex-positive activist; but the relentless spread of my least favorite snowclone in all the world alarms me.

What repels me is the routinization of what ought to be creative and imaginative acts, of which writing is surely one. This is distinct from what I concentrated on in my essay of twenty years ago — the dumbness of the dubious cognitive and linguistic claims underlying the Eskimo snowclone. What I'm pointing to here is that the laziness of reaching for "the Inuit may have [blahblah] words for snow" is like settling for a frozen pizza, or a drunken quickie in a bus shelter, instead of a more refined and satisfying experience.

[I am sure you did not think for one moment that I would leave comments open. There is such a thing as modesty and discretion.]

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