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Saturday, 1 May 2021

New Month Old Post: Bonking

(First posted 10th May, 2017)

Definition of bonking

I used to have 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 in the rest of the book and on his web site he goes 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 word “bonk”. 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 can imagine Jo Kendall’s elegant but naughty voice saying it in “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again”, but perhaps she never actually did. It would have amused me if she had.

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

Most of us don’t seem to notice swearing now. It was better when it was the exception rather than the rule. It was kinder when the worst we heard was “naff off” and “bonk”.

56 comments:

  1. Before I met Steve, my English was largely school English with a mix of Oxford-studied teachers and textbooks leaning more towards American than British English, due to the omnipresence of US military in my area. From Steve, I quickly picked up words such as knackered, and he used the term ‚bonkers‘ in connection with our cat who would sometimes run around the flat like mad, slipping on the smooth floor around corners taken too fast and hitting the shoe cabinet.
    As for swearing, I notice it and I usually do not find it appropriate.

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    1. Bonkers is entirely different from bonking, so much so that I didn't even think of it when writing this. Knackered is slightly rude, although I believe it derives from dead horse sense. You hear it all the time now.

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  2. Swearing and blue language is a funny old thing. I used to work in Copenhagen with a Faroese chef who swore (in Danish) like the proverbial trooper. Danish colleagues were running for cover. I knew he was turning the air blue but it had absolutely no effect on me, they weren't my swear words. However in the same kitchen they used to listen to a lot of American garage 'music'. The language used in that really wore me down and made the whole place feel oppressive - something to which they, in turn, were totally immune.

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    1. "oppressive" is a good way to describe it. Constantly hearing strong swear words does wear you down.

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  3. I find the use of swearing in real life more acceptable and meaningful than in tv drama or films where it can easily fail in effect, because it is put in too often, in the wrong place, or said with the wrong emphasis or all three and would be better not there at all.

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    1. It has its place, and I say 'f' when something goes very wrong. If it's not reserved for such uses then there's nothing much else when you really need it.

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  4. I never swear, nor do my siblings.

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  5. I like euphemisms, but there is no point in swearing unless the word really does offend. It looks as though the C word is beginning to be reclaimed by polite society, and I don't know what we are going to do without it.

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    1. To add to what I said to Rachel above, 'c' is for when something goes very very very wrong - e.g. if I cracked a piece of stone I'd been working on for weeks. But I'd rarely call anyone else that.

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    2. You obviously mix with nicer people than I do.

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    3. P.S. I think it may have been Jilly Cooper who popularised the term bonking. Funnily enough, my friend Colin (from my last post) used to go out with her.

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    4. Lucky Colin. Didn't she write "bonkbusters"? Was he the model for any of the characters in her books?

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  6. I never used to swear at all however these days the odd mild expletive may escape from time to time.
    Did Messrs Bonk and King make up those names for a joke?

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    1. The right word for the right purpose.
      JayCee they really are called that - follow the link to Curt Bonk's web site and you can see him in the flesh.

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  7. Those were more innocent times in many ways.

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    1. Innocent, kinder. I think I'm saying we don't have to be so nasty to each other, and that as entertainment it is rarely funny.

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  8. I've no doubt Mr Bonk knows how close his name is to the American term "boink" which is the equivalent.

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    1. I didn't know that, nor it seems is goofle very clear about it.

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  9. Apparently the Irish taught the world to swear. I can well believe it after living here twenty years. I don't mind swearing but I don't like Jesus being used in an expletive.

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    1. They did - the above mentioned Brendan behan for one.
      I agree. A friend I used to have, a Church of Scotland Minister, also made me sensitive to how often and how needlessly 'god' and 'good god' etc are used, and how offensive they can be, so I try to avoid it.

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  10. The word bonking never caught on here, but I expect even young people would here would know what it meant. I can no longer be bothered with bonking but what a great word.

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    1. It's more acceptable than some of the alternatives. Has a slightly amused air to it.

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  11. There was a noisy nasty pub in the Central Station in Glasgow called Bonkers: I am glad it is gone. Drunkenness abounded.
    Long before Bonkers there had been a fancy restaurant in which, according to legend, Tony Bennett was refused entry for not wearing a tie.
    Glasgow was classy once: Sauchiehall and Argyll Streets are sad today.

    Northsider's experience of the Irish reminded me of John Henry Newman.
    He observed that profanity was worse in Catholic countries than Protestant ones: horrid things were said about the mother of the Lord.

    On YouTube I saw a street preacher in Sydney. He said: *None of you believe in Jesus but his name is never out of your lips in the form of a curse.*
    Haggerty

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    1. That use of Bonkers doesn't sound as if it was sexual - or else they would have called it 'Get Bonked'

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    2. No, the usage of Bonkers was not sexual: the joint was full of libidinous men who held only football in higher esteem than carnal pleasures. Vulgar pub names marked how low our culture had fallen. The English working class read The Sun and voted Tory.

      Steve notes the F-word in The New Yorker: its first editor Harold Ross was a roughneck who never tolerated saloon talk in the pages of his glossy. John Cheever said that any hint of eroticism in one of his stories was immediately removed by Ross who cussed like a sailor.
      Haggerty

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  12. I am always surprised when I'm reading The New Yorker or The New York Times, two dignified publications, and I come across the f-word or some such. It IS amazing (not in a good way) how commonplace and acceptable that kind of language is nowadays.

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  13. Like the veg artist, I never swear either, and I don’t really care whether you don’t (expletive deleted) believe me. The word I say when something goes very, very, very wrong is “oops”. A neighbor once said to my mother, about me, “he wouldn’t say “s—t” if he had a mouthful. I do think swearing was around long before Brendan Behan. Angl-Saxon words for body parts and functions are repugnant to me but I suppose they would be second nature to an Angle or a Saxon. I taught my children that swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary. It should be noted, however, that although I do not curse, where I spit grass never grows again. I do not like to be around people who swear to any great extent as it makes me want to go home and take a bath.

    Your 80-year-old male American blogger friend whose mama raised him right.

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    1. I do say 'oops' a lot, but you're much better and more retsrained than me. I dislike hearing the f- and c- words, and really do try not to use them, but I do say s--t too much, and also under my breath call others prats and pill---s, especially other drivers.

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  14. I too was brought up not to swear, in a househod where nobody swore and where I was taught it was a sign of a poor vocabulary. I still think that.

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    1. Too true, although swearing can release frustration. When I grew up, and I guess you too, even words like 'knickers' would get me a telling off. The worst we used were phrases like 'oh dear'. 'Drat' was another I remember, which I haven't heard used for years now.

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  15. I can't say I never swear, but I do try to limit it because it usually just sounds rude. What really bothers me is when people swear for the sake of saying the words and then act like they are so cool for doing so. Some comedians here are like that and I think it detracts from their routine.

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    1. I agree completely. If I'm unlocky enough to catch that kind of 'comedian' on tv I switch them off.

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  16. The bonk that I know about is when two people bump heads: bumped their noggins.

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  17. Swear words, slang words are I suppose lazy ways of saying something, or grabbing attention. Best left alone written or spoken.

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    1. I used one in my last but one post, "Different Lives", but it was well considered and absolutely justified.

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  18. I swear like a trooper. My favourite is probably bollocks/pillocks which are interchangeable.
    I hate the c word, never use it and find it disgusting.
    Is prat a swear word? I know an awful lot of them (prats, that is).

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    1. I use 'prat' for someone who who messes me about but isn't aware of it, 'pillock' for someone who is aware but continues anyway, and b-----d for those who knowingly mess me about for their own gain or profit. I don't really think of the first two as swear words.

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    2. Agreed.
      B.....d has lost its true horror since marriage went out of fashion, at least in this country, but the implication is still there when the father denies responsibility or chooses to have no relationship with the child.

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  19. It's almost impossible to get an appointment with your bonk manager these days. Honestly, I am losing my faith in bonking.

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  20. No-one has mentioned the original Bonking Boris. Has the expression turned forever sour now?

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    1. It was mentioned when this piece was first posted in 2017.

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  21. I think that GROK was the BONK word used by Heinlein many years ago.

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    1. BTW May the Fourth be with you!

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    2. Having recently read The Chrysalids I am thinking of reading science fiction I would have read around the ages of 12-14, and Heinlein is among them. I'm not going to read Star Wars though.

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    3. I recommend The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossesed both classics written decades ago by Ursula K Le Guin, and the recent paperback A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine.
      Both recommended by a YouTube podcaster, Kalanadi (Rachel).
      These books gave me the fun of being 12 years old again.

      Another YouTuber *emmie* recommended a new paperback by an African sci-fi writer: Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor.
      Watch *Everything I read in March classic lit. sci-fi and 5 star reads* 8 April 2021 *emmie* YouTube.

      This week my favourite used bookstore reopened, Voltaire and Rousseau in Otago Lane.
      I found In the Days of the Comet by HG Wells which I have never read. What would Wells make of our world today?

      The old man in Saul Bellow's novel Mr Sammler's Planet remembers meeting Wells and seeing how brilliant he was in the fog-shrouded London of long ago.
      Haggerty

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    4. My wife's great grandma and her second husband used to hold dinner parties at their London house in Gloucester Terrace, Lancaster Gate. Their regular guests included Thomas Hardy, Maxim Gorky, H. G. Wells, 'Bernard' Shaw, Joseph Conrad, Richard Whiteing and others.

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    5. Ye thirsty gods this is at least a novella, Tasker.
      The Lancaster Gate Dinners: It could be a lost Penelope Fitzgerald with a cruel touch here and there of Ivy Compton Burnett.
      Lancaster Gate is quite an address.
      All those guys (I don't know about Whiteing) had those Edwardian beards: like Rossetti's sketch of Tennyson.
      I have a glossy photo of Conrad from the BBC Hulton Library.
      Mrs Dunham should think about writing something.
      Haggerty

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  22. Is there any significance in KNOB being BONK backwards?

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