Monday, 1 June 2009

Adult Devices?

Riot Kitty sent me this story and it got me thinking.

The northbound Toutle Rest Stop on Interstate 5 was evacuated Wednesday
afternoon while the Washington State Patrol Bomb Squad came to disable a
suspicious noise-making device.

“A passer-by saw somebody throw something in the garbage and take off in
a hurry,” said Sgt. Glenn Hobbs. The witness, thinking the quick exit
seemed odd, looked in the can to see what had been thrown away — then
called 911.

“It was a black plastic shopping bag, and they could hear a vibration or
ticking sound,” Hobbs said. Troopers closed the rest area, which is near
milepost 54, for about 1 1/2 hours during the incident.

The noise didn’t come from a ticking time bomb.

“It was an adult device,” Hobbs said.

He said this is the first time he’s been involved in the investigation
of a vibrator.

“It’s a once in a career thing, I hope.”

- Leslie Slape

Ah, the wonderful world of the euphemism! When you want to talk about it, but don't want to name it, our friend the English language is there with as many pussyfooting evasions as your memory and imagination can muster. I'm all for euphemisms: anything that makes the brain work harder and the language more complex is fine by me.

Look at the Vikings: They knew how to euphemise. If they could get a complicated, riddling substitution for a real word into their sagas, they would, so you get 'Raven feeder' meaning a warrior and 'Whale road' meaning the sea. OK technically, these are what are known as kennings, and they are more of a Norse literary conceit than a way of avoiding semantic embarrassment, but I'm all about them. I think we should have them instead of euphemisms. None of this 'adult device' meaning vibrator. If you're squeamish about saying vibrator then what about 'come buzzer' or 'hoe for the ladygarden'? Let's face it, "adult device" is a rubbish euphemism. the Vikings wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.
Why is sex the only 'adult' activity anyway? A film about getting a job has 'adult content'. A TV programme about the stock exchange is for 'adult audiences'. An 'adult device' could be a car, or a Blackberry, (the kids don't have those yet, right?) or a, well, a bomb. We don't, (or shouldn't) see many kids with bombs and guns. If I saw a kid waving a vibrator I'd be amused, maybe a little shocked, and interested to know the story behind what I was seeing. If I saw a kid with a bomb, I'd be completely horrified.
So why, in this story, kindly sent to me by Riot Kitty, is the gentleman being interviewed a) squeamish about saying it's a vibrator, when he was fine about it being a bomb, b) anything other than relieved that a vibrator is all it was, (surely, finding out that terrorists aren't blowing you up trumps havig to cope with the fact that technology is helping women get sexual pleasure without men?) c)characterising the non-bomb as 'adult' - like the potential bomb was a friggin' Tonka toy?
If we had euphemisms, no. If we had KENNINGS for bombs; like city-destroyer, limb-ripper or death-dropper, we might remember that they are in fact worse than 'adult devices'.


  1. I loved your comment about it being an adult device, but a bomb perhaps not being one...btw, the author is Leslie Slape.

  2. I stumbled across this while googling myself. RK is a friend of mine.

    You've read the man very well. He certainly was squeamish about telling me what the bomb squad found.

    He: It wasn't a bomb.
    Me: What was it?
    He: (pause) Is this on the record or off the record?
    Me: It depends on how funny it is.
    He: It was pretty funny. (pause) It was (pause) an adult device.
    Me: (loud guffaw)

    My editor didn't know if the word "vibrator" would meet with the managing editor's approval. I suggested "sex toy" as an alternative. Apparently vibrator was OK.

  3. It begs to question: Would the guy have been as squeamish if you were interviewing him about porn, something with which he would have been titillated?

  4. Gasp! "Adult device!"
    Who knew a checkbook could be
    noisily mobile?!

  5. In my writing, I use "sex toy."

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