On the Etymology of Ejaculation – “I’m Cumming” vs. “I’m Coming”

Am I the only one that hiccups to a brief, awkward stop when I read the word “come” in a sexual description?

C-O-M-E come, like in “come here boy.” Or, more perplexing to me, like in “and in that moment, sweaty-handed, I felt her coming beneath me,” etc.

We have a word for getting off, the ejaculatory part of it. Actually we have a lot of words for it. But “come” and its variant forms is not a good one.

I want to know why people are still using this. (I most recently saw it in the pages of an Esquire magazine masquerading as something other than porn, badly, but I know I have seen it before and will see it again, more times than I could efficiently footnote).

It smacks of that same Puritanical urge that makes you ask the store clerk “do you have a washroom?” instead of “where is the bathroom?” You might as well say garderobe.

I find myself wanting scientific studies. I want control groups, I want gender and age brackets; I want to know if people who use the internet more frequently are more likely to default to the properly-differentiated cum instead of its mincing cousin. I want to know why people who are actively describing the moment of sexual climax feel the need to be fucking discreet about it. I want to know whether the OED has added “var. cumming” to its definition yet.

“I’m coming” is what I used to shout from the backyard when Mom called us in for suppertime. Its associations with the orgasmic moment are ominous at best. Think on that one for a while.

And what about the illiterate? If you don’t know how to spell, or even if you do know how to spell but you have never seen a dirty book or a naughty movie cover or a salacious banner ad, does it even cross your mind that using c-o-m-ing versus c-u-m-ming is a really weird thing to do, or is that purely a bedevilment of people who think too hard about words?

Vidi, vici, veni.

I suppose there are real, practical considerations here for the romance/erotica writers among us. For me it’s purely an abstract bedevilment, albeit one that rears its head at awkward moments. It is a difficult conclusion to come to.

Bloggers always say “leave a comment.” But I’m genuinely interested in knowing how you all spell cumming/coming, and whether you’ve ever thought about it before. And, for that matter, whether you always will think about it from here on out, damn my soul.

So leave a comment.

  1. Actually, I prefer “coming” to “cumming” for the act and other words entirely for the by-product of the act. Interestingly, the erotica writers I hang out with generally feel the same, but not all erotica writers do. “Cumming” is, to me, a made up word that makes me cringe. English is a language filled with words that have a multitude of, often entirely dis-similar, meanings. As such, I have no difficulty with switching gears between “I’m coming” cried out in passion, and “I’m coming” said as a reply to someone calling your name.

    • I’m not desperately in love with the word “cumming,” I just find it less jarring than the “proper” spelling in sexy situations…most of the time I’d prefer something selected from the long list of other options, when it comes to it. We have so many choices for that particular moment…

  2. I prefer ‘come’ too. It’s not a matter of Puritanism; more like aesthetics. ‘Cum’ is for porn, ‘come’ is for erotica and romance.

    When it comes to “I’m coming,” I see no problem, like Bookewyrme, with the switch. There are plenty of words in the English language which are spelled the same, but have meanings which change dependent on context.

    The word ‘cum’ sometimes appears in my books. I think. If you see it there, it’s not down to me. It’s an editorial change down to each publisher’s house style. I would NEVER write it, but if my editor makes that change, I just have to (and I apologise for saying this) suck it up.

    • Oh, don’t apologize — I sprinkled the whole thing liberally with dirty wordplay, mostly for my own amusement.

      Still and all, though, we do say “cunt” these days, and say it cautiously, which is a far cry from Chauser’s casually-used and varyingly-spelled “queynte.” I think there is room for evolution in the English language, and that dirty words often end up at the forefront of that evolution.

      Or perhaps I just read too much porn. I’m open to either explanation.

    • Faranae
    • March 30th, 2012

    I prefer “cumming”, but that’s at least in part because I like the invention of new words, and I was also led to believe that was the correct spelling. I like it when English changes the spelling to indicate different meanings.

    Incidentally, in Japanese they literally say the equivalent of “going” (verb “iku”) and conjugate accordingly.

    • Ljót
    • July 19th, 2012

    I spent a pretty long time feeling pretty sure that “come” (in the sexual sense) was a verb and “cum” was a noun. I thought I’d changed my mind to “come” for everything, but now that I think about it I haven’t quite beaten that impulse completely out of myself and I still have a little more cum in me. Hmm.

    Spanish has “correrse” (lit. “to run oneself”).

    • Sounds…messy. Which I suppose is appropriate.

      • IdeaTraverser
      • December 15th, 2012

      I too, consider “cum” a noun, and hence “cumming” seems to me a bastardization of that noun. Am not much exposed to porn proper, mostly erotica.

    • SpanishGuy
    • August 25th, 2012

    xD xD “to run oneself”… I’m spanish, and that’s true, but I didn’t noticed the literal meaning until now.
    By the way, here we say “me voy”(I’m coming) or “me corro” (I’m cumming). I guess it depends on each one…

    • Dennis
    • November 26th, 2012

    I definitely agree with you on this and I have definitely pondered the same myself. But I’ve also wondered about the past tense, so here’s a new one to get your gears going.
    Cum’d vs cummed. Which shall it be?

    • “Came” versus “cummed” would be the choice, to my mind, and that is a hard one (hur hur hur). I think most of the time I’ve seen it rendered “came,” e.g. “he came all over the front of his pants.”

      Inconvenient word altogether, isn’t it?

  3. “Cumming” just looks nastier than “coming.” I look at the word in general as a great word because I am a happily married man. Who cares how it’s spelled as long as your doing in within a happy+healthy marriage. UH oh. I just started a debate on that statement. HMMM.

    • Eh, substitute “relationship” (or even just “agreement”) for “marriage” and I don’t think anyone around here is likely to disagree. Mine tends to be a live-and-let-live sort of readership. Happy and healthy are good things, no matter what form they take — just like the word in question!

  4. I’m disappointed that this post had nothing to do with Alan Cumming.

    • KD
    • May 17th, 2013

    It’s cumming… A man does not ejaculate COME…just ask any expert, (porno star), we discharge sea men “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of…well, you know.
    It’s cum-

      • Jessica
      • April 20th, 2014

      I completely agree. Most people here are on the side of “come” versus “cum,” but I just can’t see “come” as a noun. I see less of a difference between coming and cumming, mostly because I can see both of them as meaning coming to an orgasm. So if you say “I’m going to come” or “I’m going to cum” that I see as interchangeable, but “there are cum stains on this motel bed” I wouldn’t use “come” in that sentence

    • F.Goffy
    • May 23rd, 2013

    This comment made me chuckle – surely ‘washroom’ is more accurate (you can wash in there but I doubt you can take a bath)?

    “It smacks of that same Puritanical urge that makes you ask the store clerk “do you have a washroom?” instead of “where is the bathroom?””

    We Brits tend to ask, “Where’s the bog/loo/toilet?” which I guess is fairly to the point.

  5. Rather than concentrating on our differences, I would like to find common ground. We can all hate people that try to make wordplay by substituting the word cum for come in non-sexual situations. For example: “Would you like cum to dinner?” It never fails to give me that chilling feeling we get when someone else is making an idiot of themselves.

    • alexx harrow
    • June 8th, 2013

    cumming or cum is not a new word, it was heavily in use from the earliest written English. However, may I point out that ‘bathroom’ is just as much of a mincing circumlocution as ‘washroom’? (And, for that matter, ‘toilet’)

    • C.
    • June 10th, 2013

    I hate when people say, “cum”, it looks so silly. I wonder if any of the people that use that word even know that it’s pretty much illiterate. Some person misspelt a simple word, eventually everybody began misspelling it because they thought that it meant something different, or sexual,if it was being spelt that. Are they aware that it isn’t spelt that way? That it is the sex vocabulary?

      • Eielef
      • June 11th, 2013

      Ahaha, Would you be more pleased if they say “I’m ejaculating!” ? xD

    • jack
    • August 7th, 2013

    I really, honestly, completely disagree with you on all counts (perhaps especially ‘bathroom.’)

    the verb ‘come’/’came’ has extant erotic usage back hundreds of years. I’ve only seen usage for ‘cum’ from the past century, in porn.

    for the noun (which seems clearly derivative) ‘come’ is awkward, but no less so than ‘cum.’ What makes a mispelling of a verb a good and clever noun? At least ‘spunk’ or ‘cream’ are descriptive, evocative, and sound somewhat sexy… ‘cum’ is at best a harsh, dissonant, made-up neologism. Sure, it’s commonly used in porn… so if you’re writing porn, I won’t complain. And if you’re trying to draw connections between other writing and porn, it would have the intended effect when I read it. But when I reach orgasm, I do not ‘cum’ any more than I would ejaculate in my wife’s hair and laugh at her.

    • Steve
    • October 10th, 2013

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cum

    I recently found the above link and thought it might interest you.

    • It does! Much obliged. Interesting that it’s only been used as a noun since the 1920s or so. And for all I’m quibbling about the spelling here, that’s rather a modern problem…for most of the English language’s history we didn’t care enough about sticking to one strict spelling for it to be a difference anyone would notice anyway!

    • Sabrina
    • October 21st, 2013

    I feel like it depends on how you view it. Like , can she feel herself coming? (like can she feel that she’s about to ejaculate.) Or can she feel herself cumming? (like can she actually feel herself cumming up inside.) I do agree that I see cum as more of a noun than a verb to desribe what it is that’s forming in her verses what’s about to pass through her. But all of these are good points of view. I’m glad I found this article because I was really struggling against the two. The main one I see is “Coming” when I read a book. Never have a ran into “Cumming” unless it’s a childish teenage novel written by a teenage who doesn’t know the difference. But that’s just my oppinion.

  6. I’m not desperately in love with the word “cumming,” I just find it less jarring than the “proper” spelling in sexy situations…most of the time I’d prefer something selected from the long list of other options, when it comes to it. We have so many choices for that particular moment…

    • Leaf
    • April 7th, 2014

    Whoa so true, I found myself avoiding the words coming or come as well as came at school sometimes because of this. Those stupid boys or girls snickering every time ‘come’ was used in class, ugh thank god high school’s over. Yet I do feel pretty bad for e.e cummings, embarrassing.

  7. “Vidi, vici, veni.”

    – Vici, veni, VD.

    • Mike Enfield
    • May 12th, 2014

    I prefer “come” when I write erotica. “Cum” imparts a sleazy, low-rent quality to the act, which I just find unnecessary. A little dignity goes a long way.me

      • Shan Bayless
      • June 4th, 2014

      If you’re having sex with dignity, you’re doing something wrong.

  8. I prefer come. As most have mentioned, it’s the aesthetic. And yes I’m being puritanical! But, not about sex (I write some pretty filthy erotica). It’s the same way that I feel about ‘z’ replacing ‘s’ as a plural. Like “babiez” vs. “babies.” It’s just awful and wrong. And if you’re using it on a professional level, it doesn’t exude a polished quality to the overall brand. I guess that it goes back to aesthetics. Anyway, some people use that as their selling point and more power to them. But, I like to come.

    • Shan Bayless
    • June 4th, 2014

    I don’t understand why cumming is so upsetting to some people. I tried changing my cum verbs to come verbs. Now the sex scenes in my MS look weird. Come seems full of hat pins and starch. Cum seems real and confident–one might even say cocky. It doesn’t feel low or dirty to me. It feels vibrant. It’s odd that some people find it so objectionable.

    • Danny Rose
    • August 24th, 2014

    I’m currently trying my hand at erotic fiction and encountered this very dilemma, so I googled ‘cum vs. come’ – which lead me here. I concluded that ‘come’ is the way to go generally, though I do like the seedy connotations of ‘cum’ (in context). I’ve decided to use ‘cum’ to refer directly to ejaculate (so much neater then sperm, spunk, jizz, or whatever).

    I have started to ‘mix and match’ however, as in “cum with me Sue” rather than “come with me Sue”, being so much more descriptive, succinct and to the point.

    I’d value opinions on the merit of this mix and match approach…

    • El Toro
    • August 27th, 2014

    “Cum/cumming” feels like it should be left to the ignorant. It should be “come/coming,” as in, “I’m coming to orgasm,” or, “she’s going to come to orgasm.”

    • Corza
    • October 2nd, 2014

    In my writing, I personally use “cum” and almost purely out of a desire to differentiate between the two. I know a lot of other people who don’t, (generally people more than a few years older than me) and some of them can be so adamant about “how dare English evolve to fit the needs of those who use it!?!”. But it’s like saying you shouldn’t use contractions in professional writing, even when using a phrase like should not ruins the flow of your sentence. Writing is far too much about tone to let other people tell you whether or not you should use a word variant. :)

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