50 Shades Of "Argh"

When you read the 50 Shades Of Grey trilogy you will come across, along with your scenes of light BDSM, some baffling word choices. One telling count: “Moist” appears three times; “explodes,” nine times; and “sweatpants,” 14 times. Yesterday, at New York‘s Vulture blog, Patti Greco listed the trilogy’s 50 worst uses of synonyms. But there’s another weird word that crops up in the books, and that’s “argh.” It’s not that the word itself is weird. It’s that E L James uses it only for sex scenes, and it has to be most unsexy word you could ever possibly yell during sex. Right? I dare you to try it. In terms of sexiness it’s probably somewhere between repeatedly saying the name of a former British Prime Minister and yelling out types of sexually transmitted diseases.

As far as I can tell, before 50 Shades, “argh” had never been used in a sex scene. What follows is a brief history of its painfully unsexy usage, courtesy of the OED.

1800 – M. Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent, Gloss. p. xix
When they [sc. the bearers at a funeral] come near any houses, they begin to cry—Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Agh! Agh!

1919 – G. B. Shaw, Great Catherine iv. 154
Agh! Ooh! Stop! Oh Lord!

1948 – Wanted by Police May (front cover)
Aaagh!

1976 – Beano 12/2
Aarghh! A monster—throw it back!

1986 – J.M. Dillard, Demons x. 181
Argh. What a hangover.

1992 – Smithsonian Jan. 42/2 (caption)
Aghhh! A Sante Fe chilehead tries to will his right hand to reach for habanero remedy—tortillas and salt.

1996 – H. Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary (1997) 148
Aargh aargh. Have reached the age when men of my own age no longer find their contemporaries attractive.

2003 – Chicago Tribune (Midwest ed.) 13 Apr. iii. 1/1
Aaargh, seven bogeys and three double bogeys.

The OED defines “argh” as “expressing anguish, disappointment, or frustration,” as in, “Argh, why is he citing the dictionary when I just wanted to read out-of-context sex scenes?” or “Argh, a character is being finger-banged while suspended over a muddy ravine!” Yet for whatever reason, “argh” appears at climactic moments (pun intended!) in all three books. In the first book it’s spelled “aargh,” but in the second and third books, it’s spelled “argh.” I can only assume this was unintentional but who knows?

Of course, there are instances when “argh” is a perfectly acceptable word, like when Batman is rabbit-punched by a hired goon (Argh!), or a sea pirate loses his entire savings in an elaborate pyramid scheme (Argh!), or when the main character in a Serbian knockoff of Cathy, named Gathy, finds out she’s scheduled a date on the same night as an old flame’s funeral (Argh, argh, argh!). But during sex? Argh:

50 Shades of Grey
Page 84

“Pull your knees up,” he orders softly, and I’m quick to obey. “I’m going to fuck you now, Miss Steele,” he murmurs as he positions the head of his erection at the entrance of my sex. “Hard,” he whispers, and he slams into me.

“Aargh!” I cry as I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity.

Page 101

“Tit for tat is not my usual style, Miss Steele,” he whispers as he gently blows up and down me. “But you’ve pleased me today, and you should be rewarded.” I hear the wicked grin in his voice, and while my body is singing from his words, his tongue starts to slowly circle my clitoris as his hands hold down my thighs.

“Aargh!” I moan as my body bows and convulses at the touch of his tongue.

Page 193

He’s rubbing me now, and the blow follows. A rhythmic pattern emerges, caress, fondle, slap hard. I have to concentrate to handle this pain. My mind empties as I endeavor to absorb the grueling sensation. He doesn’t hit me in the same place twice in succession—he’s spreading the pain.

“Aargh!” I cry out on the tenth slap—and I’m unaware that I have been mentally counting the blows.

Fifty Shades Darker
Page 244

He groans deep and low in his throat as he moves inside me, pushing me onward and upward, but I can’t find my release. My head is too cloudy, cloudy with issues. I am too wrapped up in him.

“Let go, Ana,” he urges me.

“No.”

“Yes,” he snarls. He shifts slightly and gyrates his hips, again and again.

Jeez . . . argh!

Page 346

I’m suspended high—high above a wide, wide ravine, and I’m soaring then falling giddily at the same time, plunging to the Earth. I can hold on no more, and I scream as my body convulses and climaxes at the overwhelming fullness. As my body explodes, I’m nothing but sensation—everywhere. Christian releases first one and then the other clamp, causing my nipples to sing with a surge of sweet, sweet painful feeling, but it’s oh-so-good and causing my orgasm, this orgasm, to go on and on. His finger stays where it is, gently easing in and out.

“Argh!” I cry out, and Christian wraps himself around me, holding me, as my body continues to pulse mercilessly inside.

Fifty Shades Freed
Page 41

“Ah,” I sigh. This is going to be tough . . . I had no idea. He traces soft kisses and little bites up to my breasts.

“Shhh . . . ,” he soothes. “You are so beautiful, Ana.”

I groan, frustrated. Normally I’d be grinding my hips, responding to his touch with a rhythm of my own, but I cannot move. I moan, pulling on my restraints. The metal bites into my skin.

“Argh!” I cry. But I really don’t care.


Joe Veix is a Brooklyn-based writer and comedian who has also written for McSweeney’s and Splitsider, and is suspended high over a wide, wide ravine.