Writing About You-Know-What by Peggy Bird

Kissing. I mean writing about kissing.

Here’s the problem facing every writer trying to craft a decent love scene: the English language, as glorious as it is, has very few words for “kiss.” Or to be specific, very few words that I’m willing to or interested in using in place of the word “kiss.” Stop laughing. This is a serious problem. What is out there, really, other than that four letter word that begins with “k?”I have searched on-line and in my old hardback thesaurus and have come up with nothing satisfactory. The choices are dreadful.

For example, I refuse to even consider the word “osculate.” It sounds more like something a doctor would do in a yearly physical. It’s clinical. Cold. Sterile. It calls up images of metal examining tables and paper gowns. Not the warmth of a candle-lit room with Andrea Bocelli singing in the background. Even a doctor in the throes of a passionate embrace with the woman he’s proposing to doesn’t osculate. (Don’t ask how I know. Let’s just say I’ve been there and done that.)

No, the only way “osculate” would get into something I was writing would be if I were to describe two people bringing into contact the flesh covering their orbicular oris muscles. Then it might work. But I’m not aware of a great demand for that type of anatomically correct love scenes.

“Neck,” which Mr. Gates’s prompt tells me is a synonym, gives me a different image–a warm summer night, a cute teen-age guy and the gearshift getting in the way. Or, with the whole vampire thing that’s going around, it calls up images of fangs and blood. Neither is what I write.

“Canoodle” is what celebrities do in the back booth of a restaurant in Beverly Hills so they can get caught by some reporter and make it on the entertainment shows on TV. “Peck” is what one does on the cheek of a friend to greet her. “Smooch” is loud and rude. “Smack” has too many other meanings, none of them good.

And “buss?” My least favorite after “osculate.” How in the world did a word that sounds like public transportation become synonymous with something emotional, passionate, loving, sweet, tender, sexy? I mean, “he bussed her.” Really? Was she on a school field trip? Run over by a Greyhound vehicle? Ridden out of town on a Trailways?

Janet Evanovich is supposed to have switched from romance writing to mysteries because she ran out of ways to describe the love scenes. I’m beginning to have some idea of what she meant and I’m just on the kissing. Oh, wait. I have an idea. I’ll use my translation program to find out what the word is in other languages. I bet the French have a ton of words for “kiss.” I mean, they’re French, after all.

And maybe, along the way, I can find out if they call it French kissing, too.

Peggy Bird is the author of “Beginning Again,” which will be released by Crimson Romance June 4th in e-book format. In her debut novel there is a lot of kissing. Two other novels, “Running Scores” and “Closing Arguments,” have been accepted for release by Crimson. In addition to her writing, Bird is a glass artist and her novels always include an artist or two. Sometimes three. She lives in Vancouver, Washington. Her writing website is http://www.peggybirdwrites.com. Her glass website is http://www.peggybird.com.


  1. And I’m only trying to write a love scene for my mystery novel! good grief! I think I’ll go with osculate. That’ll be a mystery for my readers! jk. I’m with you, Peggy, throw in some French, Spanish, Italian … the romance languages …

    • Oh, please use osculate, Sandra. I’d love to read something with that word in it!

  2. Maybe it’s still kiss, but variety in where the kiss lands, her lip, her cheek, her neck….

    Great post.

    • Keep going, Lynn, you’re getting warmer.

  3. Fun post! I vote for canoodle…;-)

    • I’ll watch for you on Entertainment Tonight.

  4. LMAO – Peggy – so true! I find the prose in love scenes to be some of the most challenging. Aside from the scarcity of ‘kiss’ synonyms, there are so many words that are hot-buttons for different people. Once you get past kissing. . . how do you describe *that* romantically?!?

    • Sometimes, Irene, romance seems to have little to do with it!

  5. I so agree! Great article. The other cringe-inducing part of love scenes is describing various male body parts.

    • Absolutely. I’m caught on this one between the rock of knowing correct anatomical terms and the…er…hard place of adolescent slang.

  6. There’s the ever-popular “he pressed his lips against hers…”

    • Thanks. I forgot that one. It even works, assuming I can get the image of an iron out of my head.

  7. So clever! Oh, but I love the English language for all its variations. What a fun search this will be.

    Thank you for such a fun post!
    All the Best,
    Rionna Morgan

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