The other day, as I entered the kitchen, my roommate was already standing there scowling. Apparently, a carton of old milk was excavated from the fridge’s further reaches, which in turn, in her words, made her “barf.” I had so many questions. Namely: Why is she opening old milk cartons? And: Isn’t that what expiration dates are for? But it was the word “barf” that really caught my ear. By my accounting, at her age, shouldn’t her word for “barf” be a more mature, updated euphemism? Who says “barf” in 2018? She’s 25. Did she pick this up from a Full House rerun?
You don’t need a charm school tutorial to know that, in polite society, bodily fluids and money matters are off limits. But the way all of us unsophisticated yokels get around this directive is to talk in code about it amongst ourselves. It starts when you’re a teenager, but some of us never outgrow the slang. Why one person’s puke is another person’s upchuck may seem like a mystery, but I have a theory: It’s a maturity-to-clinical ratio. That is, the greater distance between your term of choice and its medical or official expression, the more stunted you probably are.
I posted this idea online, and within minutes, I had an 80-plus comment thread of everyone’s terms for puke, cash and cum.
“Gurge, greentools, hoe-gurt,” one guy offered.
“Barf, cash and jizz,” wrote another.
“Awwwwww, me too,” a friend of his replied. “We are BCJs.”
“Spew, foundation credits, also foundation credits,” wrote another.
Hilarious, but what does it all mean?
A 2014 study by Wells Fargo found that 44 percent of Americans considered personal finances to be the most difficult topic of conversation there is. Let’s be real, there’s only two reasons to bring up money with others: Either you’re bragging about having a lot of it, or you’re bemoaning insufficient funds — both complicated by the likelihood that you’re lying about your bottom line.
Similarly real: Hip-hop’s immeasurable influence on our everyday vernacular is easily most prominent in the way we reference personal finances. “Benjis,” “ends,” “bands,” “racks” and “stacks” only scratch the surface of how rap music has, for better or worse, changed the way we both regard and talk about our currency — particularly among those attempting to glorify their bank balance beyond its perceived fiscal limits.
Edible analogies like “cheddar,” “cabbage” and “cake” in addition to noxious phrases like “guap” and “stacking paper” are all red flags that someone is trying way too hard either way. The only way to really play it safe then, is to reach way back. “Bones,” “clams,” “smackers” and anything you’ve never heard outside a Looney Tunes cartoon is the safest bet, because chances are, if you start talking about “funds,” “dollars” and “debits,” you’re likely asking for some, and no one is trying to hear any of that.
Considering how much more of the population would rather be voluntarily splashed with semen than vomit, puke is definitely the more disgusting of bodily fluids. Yet, it’s still considerably less taboo in any situation outside of a dinner table. Maybe because it’s the only one of the two you can pull off in public without having to register as a sex offender, and of course, almost entirely thanks to alcohol. Drinking culture has normalized this unfortunate side effect into a rite of passage and a symbol of stamina.
However, between the lines, the way one broaches the subject belies two factors: age and couth. The mere mention of “upchuck” is enough to make some folks themselves involuntarily participate.
One BuzzFeed article ranks 20 of these terms in a balance of clarity, grossness and creativity — the trouble is, more than half the ways to sugarcoat this heinous uprising fell out of favor somewhere around Wayne’s World 2. “Toss your cookies,” “barf, “ralph,” “blow chunks” and even — or especially — “pray to the porcelain god” are clear indicators the vomiter to which you’re speaking are not only older than they look, they’re not much concerned with grossing you out.
If you want to stay classy and relevant: “Puke” and “vomit” have never gone out of style (I think the kids are even still using the abbreviated “vom.”) However, if your partner is sticking with “acid chowder,” “chow shower” or “reverse diarrhea,” reconsider that marriage proposal. They’re not ready.
Last and certainly least in terms of family-friendly/mixed-company appropriateness, the difference between “baby batter” and “seminal fluid” is probably the most contingent on context here. Outside of a fertility clinic or sperm bank, the dynamic between the clinical and grotesque are at peak potential and context is more or less everything.
If we’re talking intimate conversations between partners or even some light presidential locker room talk, I’m going on record and setting the standard of casual decency with “cum.” Quirkier words like “spunk,” “splooge” and “skeet” work if you’re under 25, with “jizz” being a bit more fluid (no pun intended this time). Beyond that, I’d seriously advise reconsidering exchanging fluids with a user of lingual atrocities like “ball barf,” “erectoplasm,” “cock snot” and “high-fructose porn syrup.”
Hopefully, there’s a lot of self-reflection going down at this point. Are you a cash/puke/cum guy? A bread/throw-up/skeet type? Worse, are you or someone you love slumming it in the realm of Benjis/3-D burp/daddy sauce?
However, outside their utilitarian functions, the opportunity to broach each presents an opportunity itself to impress, gross out or even tantalize your audience — and therein lies the meta data. If my new guy friend needs to borrow a “C-note” so he can go out, get drunk till he “hoarks” during an evening that hopefully results in an “explosion at the yogurt factory” onto the face of a new acquaintance, I’m keeping my distance.