The Language of Sadomasochism
A Glossary and Linguistic Analysis
by Thomas E. Murray, Thomas R. Murrell
February 1989, 208pp, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-26481-8
$44, £34, 39€, A61
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-38783-8
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The Language of Sadomasochism contains vocabulary and defines activities that many will find offensive. It has been published to aid linguists, folklorists, sociologists, psychologists, and other adult researchers develop a better understanding of this subculture.

The Language of Sadomasochism represents the first systematic, comprehensive account ever attempted of the specialized terminology used by sadomasochists. The work is divided into three distinct sections. Part one provides a thorough introduction to the subculture of sadomasochism, its history in the Western world, and its place in American culture, in literature, and in the work of non-linguist social scientists. Part two is a comprehensive glossary of more than 800 terms currently in use among sadomasochists. For each term the authors provide part-of-speech labels, etymologies, definitions, citations illustrating actual usage, related forms of the word, cross references to semantically and conceptually related terms, and special notes on usage. Part three contains a linguistic analysis of the terminology and illustrates how the language of sadomasochism is related both to the English language as a whole and to the sadomasochists who use the specialized language. The book concludes with a complete bibliography of all references cited, a list of difficult-to-find sadomasochism-related periodicals, and an index providing easy access to groups of semantically and conceptually related terms.


"First, this is a serious pioneering work of linguistic scholarship. It is inspired by the work of David W. Maurer (Language of the Underworld, CH, Mar' 82), who believed that the study of underworld argot provided valuable information on the relationship of language and culture. In this instance, a most singular subgroup employing a highly unique set of special terms is being recorded. Sadomasochism has been called the last taboo and is rarely the conversation topic of choice at most polite gatherings; there is, however, considerable evidence that it too is beginning to edge out of the shadows. The authors in their detailed preface define sadomasochism and indicate their methodology. The core of the study is the glossary of terms specifically used in practicing the various forms of SM. The entries are succinct and blunt; many if not most of the implied activities are almost beyond close consideration unless one is an initiate. Since this information is derived directly from personal ads or speciality publications there is no reason to doubt the authenticity. From time to time in the glossary the authors seem to be reaching; it is likely that both stewardess and travel mean nothing more in this context than the standard meaning. As a pioneering study, this has to rank with the remarkable work by Roger D. Abrahams on black urban culture, Deep Down in the Jungle (1964), which formally recorded the street rhymes popularly known as the dirty dozens. As a reference book this will be useful to advanced students of abnormal psychology, law enforcement, linguistics, medicine, and sociology."—Choice, 00/00/00
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