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11 Cringeworthy Euphemisms in Romance Novels

If you've ever read a romance novel, you've most likely come across a word or two that made you cringe. For this post, the Sheila and the Swede dive into the murky waters of euphemisms and bring you our 11 top picks.

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The Swede

Would you like to take a ride down the love canal? Did you just throw up a little in your mouth? If so, you too may have read one too many romance novels where a certain part of a woman’s body is described this way. Today, we’re talking about euphemisms. Be warned, there may be some inappropriate language involved – and most assuredly some cringe-worthy descriptions.

The last thing you want when writing a love scene is for the reader to cringe while reading it. Anything that takes the reader out of the moment is bad. I have a tendency to drop some humor into my love scenes, and the Sheila will gently remind me that as funny as I am, the jokes take the reader out of the moment.

With that, I present my Top 5 picks of cringeworthy euphemisms/descriptions

  1. Turgid [anything]. It’s just a yucky word, and I’ve had enough swollen ankles from twisting them (I’m a total klutz) to make “swollen” unsexy.

  2. Love canal. It’s a ride at an amusement park with swans and hearts. ‘Nuff said.

  3. Love stick. No. Just no.

  4. Love button. You press buttons once to get a result. That ain’t gonna be enough for this kind of “button”.

  5. Pearl. Old rich ladies and Lisa Simpson wear pearls around their necks. And I know oysters are supposed to be aphrodisiacs, but do you know how a pearl is formed? An irritant, like a parasite, is encased in a pearl sac to protect the mollusk. What makes the pearl hard? Feces. Sexy, huh?

Now, let's see what the Sheila has to say on this topic...

The Sheila

I personally love the words ‘turgid’ and ‘swollen’, Swede. I think they really put you in the moment. But I totally agree with you about love button and love canal. And the bit about the pearl? Totally cracked me up. I never knew that! I’m never going to look at a pearl the same way again.

Here are my least favorite euphemisms. I will preface my list by saying that there are times I’ve used these words for lack of better descriptions at the time – any romance writer will tell you love scenes require a variety of names for the one part. Also, there are some writers who can use these words without making me grimace every time I read them. But as a general rule, these are my least favorite:

  1. Groin. Perturbingly, I may have used this one for the sake of diversity in a scene, but you know that game where you say the first thing that pops into your head when someone says a word? When I hear groin, I think of injuries, pulled muscles and pain. Yeah, it’s definitely not sexy. Loins is a better word, but not by much.

  2. Slit. This is a semi-popular term for the female genitals, but again, it doesn’t bring to mind good things. The idea of language is to evoke imagery. First thing that comes to mind when I hear slit? Slit someone’s throat. At the very least, I think of someone taking a knife or scissors and cutting something. I consider it to be one of the more gruesome euphemisms in romance.

  3. Crevice. Did someone just fall off a cliff and into a narrow hole? I have images right now of being swallowed up by two large rock walls. Scary!

  4. Scrotum. No one could argue that it’s not anatomically correct, but it takes me right back to health class in school and makes me giggle. Scrotum. There, I said it again just because it’s funny.

  5. Rod. It makes me think of cars and lightning rods, divining rods, none of which I associate with romance. It’s also an older man’s name, short for Rodney. If I said he touched his Harold, would you find that sexy?

  6. Yoni and Lingam. Too flowery, and they remind me of a book I read when the main characters were making fun of these words.

(Hey Sheila, I wholly agree with your picks, except for the last ones on the list – I didn’t even know those words and might have thought they were character names if you hadn’t told me otherwise. Also, I feel remiss not to point out that “Rod” is also a character on the Simpsons. Sensing a theme here with pearls and rods?)

We both agree there aren’t enough good euphemisms for female genitals. Disagree with us or want to add to the euphemisms already here, please leave us a comment!


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