Innuendo can be defined as an indirect or a subtle observation about a thing or a person. It is generally critical, disparaging or salacious in nature, and its use is almost always derogatory. However, it must be kept in mind that it is the most thinly-veiled form of satire and when it is strong, it takes the shape of criticism.
Types of Innuendo
Innuendo can be categorized into different forms, such as:
- Innuendo in nature
- Innuendo in everyday life
- Innocent Innuendo
- Accidental Innuendo
- Sexual Innuendo
Innuendo Examples in Literature
Several literary writers consider innuendo as unbelievably gratifying experience, and they feel an urge to create pages laced with innuendo until at last they pour a stream of innuendo that saturates the texts with fun and naughtiness. Let us have a look at some examples:
Several characters in Dickens’ Hard Times get their names from the author from how he sees their realities in life. For example, the school teacher is named Mr. Choakumchild that reflects his criticism of the educational system of that time. Similarly, he names a union leader as Slackbridge which shows how he viewed dishonest workers of that time. The objective is to provide a comment to the readers according to the situation in the character is thriving and how the reader should view it. This is a mild form of innuendo.
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”
These are lines from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, by T. S. Eliot. Spoken by the speaker who is suffering from sexual frustration, and an innuendo is quite visible here. It is the reflection of impotence of the speaker.
Now look what you’ve done,
In that exquisitely girlish and
Lilting soft voice of hers.
It’s all red and swollen.…
To get bitten by a rattlesnake
Right up the crack of her ****
(“Now Look What You’ve Done” by Roderick Molasar)
Sexual innuendo has become very common in the romantic poetry and predominantly in that drama which was written at times when it was not possible to use such language openly. Just see an example from this poem.
“With this irrepressible ebullition of mirth, Master Bates laid himself flat on the floor: and kicked convulsively for five minutes, in an ecstasy of facetious joy. Then jumping to his feet…..advancing to Oliver, viewed him round and round…” … “‘It’s the worst of having to do with women,’ said the Jew, replacing his club; ‘but they’re clever, and we can’t get on, in our line, without ‘em. Charley, show Oliver to bed’.”…… “The noise of Charley’s laughter, and the voice of Miss Betsy, who opportunely arrived to throw water over her friend…..perform other feminine offices for the promotion of her recovery…”
In the novel “Oliver Twist” Charles Dickens offered interesting surprises to readers. He used a lot of innuendos that appear whenever he brings in his character named Master Bates.
Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.
(Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare)
A good example of innuendos can be seen in this poem.
Functions of Innuendos
Literature abounds with innuendos – especially romantic poetry, novel and drama. Some authors believe that innuendos are used since they can fill a void in literature and their readers consider them as uplifting and entertaining. However, they come into passive and at the same time aggressive categories of communication since they are indirect and generally used to attack or insult somebody or some section of society. They serve as oblique allusions and vague references to reputation and character. Hence, they could be the best tool for those who do not want to be direct. Innuendo can be an effective way of undermining somebody’s character in society.