December 03, 2006

Does anybody have a word for this? We do now.

I wouldn't have thought that there was a great call for such a word in most people's lives, but then came my first sighting, in an Advocate interview (9/26/06) with Julian McMahon, one of the stars of the television show "Nip/Tuck" (and, before it, "Charmed").  McMahon is talking about his sexual adventures, when the interviewer asks about three-way sex (McMahon, a woman, and a buddy), which turns out not to be McMahon's thing:

I'm not good with the other-guy thing. I don't want to see my buddy's come face.

This is come face 'facial expression during orgasm'.  It turns out that this is not the only word that's been coined for this meaning; we now have O-face as well.

There is a Robert Mapplethorpe come-face photograph -- of an ecstatic Larry Desmedt (1979) -- that serves as the frontispiece to the collection Certain People: A Book of Portraits, and you can of course see the expression in pornographic photography and film, but probably most people get most of their chances to observe it on their partner's face during sex, an occasion when their attention is likely to be elsewhere.  I can't recall anybody's discussing come faces until recently, except in connection with my xxx-rated collages, where come faces are something of a theme -- and then no one seemed to have a word for them.  Things have changed.

Googling on "come face" pulls up some cites, though you get a lot of irrelevant hits, including many involving "come face to face with".  When we discussed the expression on the ADS-L back in October, Charlie Doyle suggested that searching on "cum face" would be easier.  This turns out to be true, but you pull up a lot of references to cum face in a different sense, 'face with cum/semen on it', as a result of "facials" or "bukkake" (you can google up images, even, though I find many of them dismaying).  What we have here is a partial differentiation in spelling between the verb denoting orgasm and the noun denoting ejaculated semen.  This is a topic of some interest in itself, and I'll get to it, but first some words about O-face.

You'll get tons of webhits for "O face"/"o face"/"O-face"/"o-face", somewhat fewer for the variant spellings with "oh" instead of "o".  As Matthew Gordon noted back in October, the expression goes back to the 1999 movie Office Space; imdb offers this quote:

Drew: I'm thinking I might take that new chick from Logistics.  If things go well I might be showing her my O-face. "Oh... Oh... Oh!" You know what I'm talkin' about. "Oh!"

The movie might well not have been the source of the expression, but it certainly was the vector for its spread.  It now beats come face all hollow.

For your entertainment: Details magazine has been printing O-face quizzes, with a display of twenty faces (of both sexes).  In the October issue (p. 180) it's "Game Face or O-Face?", in which your task is to distinguish "an ace tennis player's expression of exertion and a porn star's look of ecstasy."  In the November issue (p. 104) it's "Idol Face or O-Face?", which provides some "contorted expressions of an aspiring pop idol" and some "of a seasoned porn star." Now in the December issue (p. 132) it's "Guitar Face or O-Face?":

The disheveled mane and squeezed-shut eyes.  The sweaty brows and parted lips.  Without the audio cues, some emotive rockers bear an uncanny resemblance to porn stars.  Take a closer look at these facial acrobatics and see if you can tell who's nailing a solo and who's straining to deliver a big finish...

(Answers available on the Details site.)

Back to come vs. cum.  For lots of people (of whom I am one), differentiating in spelling between the verb come and the noun cum gives you a verb with the past form came (which is what I say), and a noun that clearly looks like a noun, and (since it it has a non-standard spelling, an ear spelling) looks "dirtier" than the spelling come would for the noun.

Meanwhile, from the noun cum there's a (zero-)derived verb cum 'ejaculate on, shoot cum on', apparently seen mostly in the past participle: someone gets their face/ass/boobs/whatever cummed.

But the V-come/N-cum pattern isn't the only one around (though I suspect it's the dominant one, and it allows you to distinguish come face from cum face).  Some people have cum for both, giving a past form cummed, as in

The other day i cummed for the first time. My male friends told me that i should have only cummed a droplet, but i cummed and it ran all down my penis. (link)

And some people have come for both.  No doubt there are people with variation for one or both of these items, with the spellings belonging to different stylistic levels (with come as a bit more refined than cum, if you can talk about refinement on this topic).  Someone should investigate this.

For all I know, there are people who have cum only as the verb and come only as the noun, though that looks bizarre to me.

In any case, it seems that there was a time, not long ago, when English had no expression of any currency for 'facial expression during orgasm'.  Now we have two, both of them easily understandable in context on first hearing, so at least one of them is likely to endure -- unless, of course, our culture enters a phase of visual and linguistic modesty in sexual matters.

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 3, 2006 01:58 PM