Finding America

Me and Tarah

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Whether uttered jovially or derogatorily, euphemisms for sex have played a key role in the history of the English lexicon on both sides of the Pond for centuries. While many terms—passed from one country to the other—are the same in both the UK and U.S., each place nonetheless has its own separate—and often quite wonderful—list of sexpressions. It is these I will be focusing on throughout the article.

Sexual intercourse
British English probably has somewhere in the region of 142 billion euphemisms for the act of lovemaking alone; the more light-hearted among these include verbs such as bonk, shag, bed, roger and the nouns a bit of how's your father and rumpy pumpy. In American English, you have home run (which, like many U.S. sex words, derives from baseball), get some booty, tap that ass and pound the punanni pavement.

If those weren't themselves outlandish enough, just take a look at the terms each nation employs to describe human genitalia. If they're not in the mood to keep their euphemisms light (as in bits and bobs and/or meat and two veg), Brits will turn to phrases such as cock and bollocks to describe the combo of penis and testicles, while the Americans keep it short (no pun intended) with package (note: this can often mean just penis). 

On the subject of penises (certainly not a clause I thought I'd ever write), Britain has an appallingly high number of words for this particular reproductive organ. Brits know it invariably as schlong, willie, thingy, knob, tadger, John Thomas, and tool. Aside from package, Americans call it meat popsicle, johnson, wiener, and even—drum roll—Mr. Happy

And in the interest of equality, female genitalia has also been putting itself about (yep, awful choice of words). In British English, the vagina is famously referred to as fanny, but we'd be remiss to forget the following rather questionable euphemisms: minge, muff, lady passage, flange andI can't believe I'm typing thisBrian May's plughole.

Oral sex
Terms for oral sex that are exclusive to one country over the other are hard to come by (the puns write themselves these days, don't they?). That said, I was able to findcunning linguist that I amthe following gems: bob on a knob, have a nosh, gobble and garden (from Cockney rhyming slang: garden gate; fellate) are all native to British English, while the Americans return to baseball for inspiration with third base.

Because no article about sexual euphemisms would be complete without it, here's a comparison of terms for masturbation. The most famous British term for this is wanking off, though tossing off is perfectly permissible as well. In America, one might say beating off, passing math and, yes, dating Rosie Palm and her five friends.

What other sexual euphemisms are exclusive to either the UK or U.S.? Also, what are some of your favo(u)rite and least favo(u)rite terms? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was written by Laurence Brown. Laurence is a British expat living in Indianapolis, Indiana, and has written for BBC America and Anglotopia. He is Editor-in-chief of Lost in the Pond and loves nothing more than to share these articles with anglophiles, expats, and other interested parties on social media. Follow Lost in the Pond on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.


  1. Brian May's plughole?!! Oh how that made me laugh!! Not heard that one before; very...erm...descriptive!

  2. Haha. He's the lead guitarist in Queen. The one with the big hair.

  3. Twig and berries probably deserved a mention

  4. You forgot the best one for a mans package; bell end! Lol ;)

  5. You forgot one of the most common expressions in America for sexual intercourse which is "getting laid". As for masturbation, another really common one here is "getting (one's) rocks off". This article just made me laugh and laugh! How funny! I'm not even going to touch the male/female anatomy (LOL).

  6. NOT what third base means...

  7. I truly laughed out loud when I read Brian May's plughole.
    Here are a few more from the U.S.
    Masturbation - Female: Shucking the bearded clam. Flicking the bean. Paddling the pink canoe. Beat around the bush.
    Masturbation - Male: Jerking, or jacking, off. Choke the chicken. Pocket pool.
    Oral: Muff diving. Playing the flesh flute.
    Lately I've heard quite a few of my male friends refer to men's balls as "yam sacks".
    For the ladies - we have Tacos.

  8. Rosie Palm and her five friends is not remotely exclusive to America. I don't know if I hear it used a lot here, but it's certainly known.

    I'm pretty sure schlong is not Brit-exclusive, either.


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