Making the beast with two backs…..making it do what?

2_bulls_edit_0029When I first heard this phrase, apparently loaded with sexual euphemism, it only brought to mind my vain attempts to create animal silhouettes on a wall in the beam of a torch. As a schoolboy I was more than a little surprised to see how angry was Desdemona’s father on hearing that she was playing shadow theatre with Othello.

Quick research has revealed that the phrase is defined, at best, as “a euphemistic metaphor for two persons engaged in sexual intercourse” which description does little to conjure up the joy, let alone the fun, of fucking. That’s the problem with definitions.

In the 1980’s I was commissioned by the Sunday Times to go to Edinburgh in order to photograph two Scottish ladies who were currently editing the celebrated Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary. The dictionary was famous for it’s amusing and irreverent definitions such as “an éclair – a cake long in shape but short in duration” or  “mullet – a hairstyle that is short at the front, long at the back and ridiculous all round”. All examples of this light hearted approach were inexplicably removed by the publishers in the 1970’s . In the early 1980’s a more enlightened management had seen the folly of these omissions and had entrusted these two ladies with the task of replacing them, whilst simultaneously including a selection of more current terms. I asked one of them to give me an example and, in my mind, I can still clearly hear her Edinburgh lilt, reminiscent of Miss Jean Brodie, as, with a wicked smile, she quietly intoned “just take the words “girl friend” which, today, have nearly become a term of abuse”

I do not have a version of that dictionary, although there is no doubt that my book shelves would be the better for it, so I can only surmise as to the two gentle-ladies’ definition of “the beast with two backs”. Google has turned up several breath taking examples, happily lacking any sign of political correctness.

“Wendy and Marcus made the beast with two backs after serious foreplay” which makes it quite clear that two backed beasts can only be made heterosexually, which has not been made clear to the two bulls in the above picture.

“Your girlfriend and your best friend are making the beast with two backs” is, without doubt, the editor’s attempt to clear up any such confusion…..

However, this one may be the clearest definition, avoiding any equivocation.” The frightening, moaning creature that two people become when they engage in intercourse” although, as sexual intercourse is not clearly stated, it would be wise not to behave as a frightening, moaning creature when engaged in social intercourse which behaviour, on reflection, is not that unusual.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2013, 70's, Accents, Art photography, Childhood, Childhood memories, Digital photography, Farming, France, French countryside, Google, Humour, Language, Photography, Sex, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Making the beast with two backs…..making it do what?

  1. My college boyfriend always, always called intercourse ‘the beast with two backs.’ Perhaps, that’s why he never got lucky………..

  2. Mad Dog says:

    A nice pair (of cows). I’ll have to look out for that dictionary 😉

  3. What a fabulous dictionary and a perfect definition for the mullet!

  4. margaret21 says:

    I don’t think – no, I KNOW I’ve never heard that phrase before. How did you pick it up whilst in France? And have the French got an equivalent?

  5. Brilliant post and hours after first reading it I am still laughing at “As a schoolboy I was more than a little surprised to see how angry was Desdemona’s father on hearing that she was playing shadow theatre with Othello”. Fantastic 🙂

  6. Michelle says:

    I would love to have a copy of the dictionary. (I reckon I do have a copy of Othello. But never has it made me laugh as this post did.)

  7. Eha says:

    Oops, back to ‘Othello’ methinks! Must have been too young and innocent when last I read it 😉 ! The term sure was new to me too until a whole five minutes ago! [and off topic ~ have yet to wander over to European Weather Bureaus, but hope Vendee was in no way in the path of St. Jude!!]

  8. I immediately thought of the sexual connotation when I read your post’s title. I’m terrible.

  9. ChgoJohn says:

    I am so glad that “they” decided to restore the dictionary. It is a true unexpected pleasure to come upon a bit of whimsy when using a reference book and I would have laughed out loud had I read that definition of “mullet”. Must everything be taken so seriously all of the time?

  10. I have never heard of this expression. It doesn’t surprise me it’s another metaphor for sex, but it’s a new one nonetheless.

    Speaking of odd expressions. I recently heard “Bob’s your uncle” not too long ago and am still trying to piece that one together. It seems no one’s quite sure where that came from.

    • Good point..I’m not sure..I always thought it had something to do with Lord Roberts, a famous 19th Centurey British Field Marshal, who made his name in India and, interestingly, the 2nd Afghan War…to cut a long story short, he was known to the public as “Bobs”. Why he was “your uncle”, I have no idea.

  11. saucygander says:

    Your first anecdote made me laugh out loud! That was one of the more memorable phrases from Othello.

  12. I looked and looked: and finally I found one. An ancient heraldic beast with two backs. the Ypotryll:

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