bodice-ripper (1978), bodice-ripping (1979)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu May 8 00:56:51 UTC 2014

A few random memories of a sample issue of the romance-fiction fan magazine
Romantic Times.  I was struck by an an for a magazine specifically for fans
of romantic spanking fiction; the book reviews of wholesome romances -- I
suppose they should be called -- featured an array of smoochie lips, 1 to
5, while the reviews of spicy romances featured an array of red peppers,
just like the menus in Chinese restaurants did.   Meanwhile, in the same
era, Al Goldberg's reviews in Screw of spicy porn featured an array of
erections.  (Actually, I think I never looked at an issue of Screw, and so
I'm not sure whether he summarized his approval or otherwise with an array,
1 to 5, or a single organ at some stage of arousal, from flaccid to
tumescent.  Perhaps the latter.)


On Tue, May 6, 2014 at 7:47 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:

> Re explicitness: we have to remember that the "bodice" entry was
> first published in the Victorian era (1887) and "has not yet been
> fully uplifted."
> Joel
> At 5/6/2014 10:49 AM, Charles C Doyle wrote:
>> I question the descriptor "sexually explicit" in the OED's definition!
>> Of course, such explicitness would be a matter of degree.  But
>> aren't bodice rippers typically aimed at "proper" women who enjoy a
>> bit of oblique spiciness?  Such novels, sold at airport newsstands,
>> are a far cry from porn!
>> Well, maybe to the sensibility of English women, they do count as porn?
>> --Charlie
>> ________________________________________
>> Poster:       Ben
>> Zimmer------------------------------------------------------
>> -------------------------
>> OED has "bodice-ripper" = 'a sexually explicit romantic novel' from
>> Sept. 1979. Slightly earlier:
>> ---
>> Charitey Simmons, "Dizzying Passion Ruffles the Pages of 'Hot'
>> Historical Novel"
>> Chicago Tribune, Feb. 8, 1978, Section 2, p. 4, col. 1
>> Publishers call them hot historicals as opposed to either the virginal
>> variety Barbara Cartland writes or to the bodice rippers "because
>> that's usually what happens to the heroines," Price [sc. Linda Price
>> of Bantam Books] explained.
>> ---
>> And here's the verbal noun "bodice-ripping":
>> ---
>> Suzanne Dolezal, "Sizzling Formula for Selling Books"
>> Boston Globe, Feb. 21, 1979, p. 59, col. 1
>> [Barbara Alpert of Ballantine Books:] "The books are geared to women's
>> sensitivities -- ideal love with a little bodice-ripping. You don't
>> take them seriously."
>> ---
>> --bgz
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998..

The American Dialect Society -

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