Friday, June 1st, 2012

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)

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.


“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.

41 Comments / Post A Comment

rj77 (#210)

See, the original version was all about pirate sex. The remaining argh!s are simply an editing error.

KenWheaton (#401)

Would have been better if it was "AACK!" And the character's name was Cathy.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I'm imagining the Wilhelm Scream for all of these.

Tyrantanic (#13,751)

@DoctorDisaster if they dub over the audiobook with that, i'd probably listen out of morbid curiosity

melis (#1,854)


BirdNerd (#4,196)

@DoctorDisaster ME TOO!

Matt (#26)

What have I been telling you people; don't read.

melis (#1,854)

The first person to complain about the word "moist" is going to get an index card reading "MOIST" mailed to their place of employment every day from now until forever, so think very carefully before you say anything.

roboloki (#1,724)

@melis i think you just made me moist. i love it when you're so forceful.

deepomega (#1,720)

@roboloki Arrghuhghgh.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@melis Ugh, the word "moist" is the WORST!

(not really, but I just like getting mail)

Mr. B (#10,093)

@melis "I'm Moist — at my most badass all I can do is make people feel like they need to take a shower."

@melis Saying, "The word moist is so gross!" is a good way to let people know you have no problems.

Argh curation!

Joe Veix@twitter (#234,259)

@Margaret Crandall Argh-gregation?

Maybe it's meant to connote that noise that Homer Simpson makes when he sees bacon?

SuperMargie (#1,263)

To me, "Argh!" means Charlie Brown's kite got stuck in the tree again. This alone gives me the best excuse ever for not reading these books! "See, I got this Charlie Brown association going on and…well".

melis (#1,854)

@SuperMargie I thought he usually "ARGH"ed when Lucy pulled the football away and saved "RATS" for the kite-eating tree.

deepomega (#1,720)

@melis 50 Shades Of Rats.

hockeymom (#143)

So, if someone hasn't read this book…has no plans to read the book, let alone the trilogy…is someone making a mistake?

It sounds ridic.
What am I missing?

BirdNerd (#4,196)

@hockeymom A terrible book, yes. But the curiosity (and all her friends incessantly chatting) got the best of my wife and although she laughs at the prose and scoffs at the overall theme (she's an English prof) she can't deny the steaminess and desire it creates with middle-aged, mostly married women.
We have a perfectly healthy sex life and have no reservations about pleasing e/o but simply reading this crap before bed has made her friskier than ever. I really can't complain.

Sorry if this crosses the barrier of awl commentating etiquette.

Dave Bry (#422)

Huh. Weird. I would have never thought to use "argh" in such a matey context.

laurel (#4,035)

Wait, is the third book really called, "Fifty Shades Freed"? And it's not Alan Freed's autobiography?

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

So, George Bernard Shaw and I are the only ones who regularly get "Agh! Ooh! Stop! Oh Lord!" as a reaction during sex?

jfruh (#713)

I'm actually more miffed that the OED treats "agh" and its variants ("aagh," "aaaagh") as the same word as "argh", when it CLEARLY IS NOT, ONE HAS AN R IN IT FOR FUCK'S SAKE. Is this like a non-rhotic British thing where they think "ass" and "arse" are the same word? And re: melis above, both are different from "AUGH", which is what Charlie Brown says when sexually frustrated by Lucy (the "pulling away the football" business being a fairly obvious metaphor).

melis (#1,854)

@jfruh "AUGH," that's the one.

Pop Socket (#187)

She lost me at "the entrance of my sex." That phrase should never ever appear in porn, even porn aimed at soccer moms.

bluebears (#5,902)

@Pop Socket That's when I stopped reading and just skipped to the comments. I was swamped with second hand embarrassment for the author and anyone who gets off on reading that.

riotnrrd (#840)

@Pop Socket Well, it's better than the author's first choice: "the entrance of my mommy-hole."

Needs more quivering

laurel (#4,035)

@Brooklyn Battery And heaving.

ejcsanfran (#489)

I don't get all this "Miss Steele" stuff. I thought her last name was "Everdeen."

purefog (#999)

I used to have a g.f. who would sometimes yell "aarghh" during sex. In her case, it was a good thing. (It was sometimes hard to keep a straight face, though.)

cherrispryte (#444)

If only there were a Pirate Lady around you could ask about all this ….

I'm suprised she hasn't been sued for plagerism by like anyone who's submitted a letter to Penthouse… So very unoriginal.

mattcornell (#3,429)

In the first book, the word "crap" appears 104 times. The word "consent" and variations on it appear 4 times.

In the trilogy, I did a search for "rope." There is no use of rope in the book. But the words "property" and "Europe" come up frequently, suggesting that the real fantasy in this book, is that of extreme wealth.

gtrachel (#216,738)

I'm sorry, but I can't get past "blows up and down me" — since when do we split verbs from their direct objects like that?

It's because it started out as fanfiction. People on the internet use "argh" a lot, because typed out, it's a good way to express frustration. I have no idea why she uses it in sex scenes though. Also why it ever got published. (But maybe that last one is just me.)

raincoaster (#628)

This is didactic, I know, but "argh" is actually an okay word in British English, where it is pronounced like an emphatic "ah." You begin to see where it fits?

It's like "er," which also occurs a lot in books, but which people in North America never say unless they learned to talk from books, like a fucking wolf in the forest or something. In Amercia and Canuckistan, we say "uh" like intelligent people.

shostakobitch (#1,692)

Cathy Guisewite says "ack" when she masturbates, and then holds up a wet finger when she's done.

I mean moist finger.

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