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Wednesday, 10 May 2017


Definition of bonking

I once had a book by a pair of American educationalists called Curtis Jay Bonk and Kira S. King. Students used to call it the bonking book. The surnames of the two authors were juxtaposed on the spine in such a way as to make it look as if it was a book about bonking: “a bonking good read” perhaps.

The cover shows the first author’s name in full, but elsewhere in the book and in his professional life he prefers to go by the shorter Curt Bonk. Does he know how that sounds to English ears? Perhaps he does. It might be his come on line.

Bonk and King: Electronic Collaborators
I’m not sure when I first encountered the euphemism. It wasn’t at school in Yorkshire. Bonk would then have meant hitting someone on the top of the head, or perhaps the percussive knock made by a large piece of wood. Runners and cyclists also now use it to mean running out of energy. I don’t think it emerged in the sexual sense until the nineteen-seventies. I imagine I can hear it in Jo Kendall’s elegant but naughty voice in “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again”, but perhaps she never actually said it. It would have amused me if she had.

The alternatives would have been completely unacceptable on broadcast media in the seventies, despite the efforts of Brendan Behan and Kenneth Tynan who came out with the F word on live television, or even the music hall comedian Hector Thaxter who is said to have got away with “arse” on the radio in 1936.

Most of the time we don’t notice now. Swearing has little effect. I preferred it when it was the exception rather than the rule. The world was kinder when broadcasters went no further than “naff off” and “bonk”.

I like this well-researched article in the Scotsman in 2008: Swearing - does anyone give a f@#k anymore?


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