There are two words I keep running into in romances, and I have to talk about them.
First: when a heroine is barefoot and she's ambulating from one location to another, what verb will be used to describe her movement?
All barefoot people pad. Count on it.
I searched “padded” on all books on my Kindle, and came up with 20+ examples referring to people walking barefoot. Because it's new, I have a total of 10 books on this device, so granted this is a very limited sample. But when I search my archive of books online, I get a similar flash flood of people paddling around. These are some of the results – sound familiar?
- “She padded into the kitchen.”
- “She padded into the living room.”
- “Her bare feet padded against the hardwood floor.”
- “She tossed the covers off, padded naked to the table…”
- “I changed into my sweatpants and padded out to the living room in my bare feet.”
- “He padded back to the bedroom.”
- “She kicked off her heels and padded toward the kitchen barefoot.”
Perhaps I'm unconsciously drawn to books wherein someone will be barefoot, but that's a lot of padding.
This is starting to remind me of when I found references to “scudding clouds” in the sky in about six different historical romances within a two month period. It's like words go through surges in popularity within a subgenre. So with contemporary romance, there's a higher likelihood of small towns with aspirational names, baked goods and pastries, irascible secondary characters, and barefoot people padding all over the place.
It's not as if “pad” isn't a verb. It totally is and it's been around for awhile:
And now that I've been thinking about it, I admit to having a difficult time coming up with an alternate word. The only thing better would be if there were a specific word for those who walk around in the shoes with toes, like Bikram Five Fingers.
“She five fingered her way through the living room.”
Well, no, that doesn't work, does it?
It's not as if there's a better word, or that the usage is wrong – it's not. It's one of those words that read more than said aloud – have you ever said to someone, “I padded my way to the kitchen,” or “Pad your way up the stairs right now, young man”? I have not. And it seems as if that word is in so many books of late, I'm adding it to my cliche bingo card.
And while I'm on the subject of letters beginning with the letter 'P,' I do need to ask WHY all the nipples are PERT. We've talked about how nipples are fruity (and nipples on men are (a) flat and (b) male) but we haven't really examined the use (or overuse, depending on whether or not you're me) of pert.
Have you noticed how many pert nipples there are? THERE ARE SO MANY.
Her already pert nipples crinkled into tight buds. He grinned.
Her pert nipples were enlivened and visible against the bodice of her gown. He vividly recollected how those nipples had been pressed to his chest after he'd rescued her from the stream.
Then with a light shaking movement I'd ease my red semi-see-through bra over my breasts and down across my nipples.'
'Wait do your nipples feel like?'
'They're haaaard,' I panted. 'And they're pert.'
He couldn't resist the invitation and licked at onepert nipple, stroking his tongue over it and then tugging gently with his teeth.
He tweaked her pert nipple and she moaned.
…his head had dropped lower, and suddenly his mouth closed over one pert nipple, teeth biting gently, then lips suckling hard, as his long fingers tangled in the soft curls at the juncture of her thighs.
Untamed Italian, Blackmailed Innocent
Her thumbs smoothed over her pert nipples, bringing them into even more prominent life.
Celia M. Hart
Made for Sin
She arched her back and her breasts pushed forward, the pert nipples standing up like little pebbles set in a round of pale caramel.
Now honestly, who does that to caramel dessert?!
Those pert nipples are not just in romance either:
“I would love to tease your pert nipples with my tongue.”
“You don't have a tongue.”
“Yes, all right, but if I did have a tongue, I would love to tease your pert nipples with it.”
Dean R. Koontz
And this example which just made me laugh:
It is a cliche to say “pert nipples”. What does “pert” mean? Pert; fucking stupit word. Now she was leaving. Nay wonder.
You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free
Aside from Pert 2-in1 shampoo, is there anything else that is so frequently described as pert?! I've seen a handful of pert noses, but mostly, it's nipples. Why are nipples always pert? Is there no other word, aside from fruity references?
I pondered “pert” WAY too much and had to learn more about it. Much like “pad” as a verb, “pert” is an adjective with a long history:
So nipples are trim and stylish and jaunty? Or are they high spirited, vivacious, bold and saucy? Or saucily free and forward? For God's sake, it's a nipple, not hired entertainment leaping out of a giant cake.
“Pert” can also mean “attractive due of neatness,” “jaunty,” or “lively.” I do not want lively nipples. I have enough trouble with pokey nipples when wearing sheer shirts.
Perhaps the reason the almost ubiquitous usage bothers me is within the etymology: “pert” comes from Middle English meaning “unconcealed, bold” and traces back to the Latin word “apertus,” for “open.” So basically the nipples are much like the hero's dick-as-divining rod, and the erect nipple is a signal that she's bold, unconcealed, and open for, ahem, plundering. They're the equivalent of an erection in signaling arousal, or signaling piquant stimulation. Even if she says no, her pert nipples say yes.
The usage in romance sex scenes seems to have more in common with the older definitions of “pert,” particular the Middle English one, and not the contemporary definitions I've found. But the word “pert” in romance has become almost exclusively connected with “nipple,” to the point where looking too closely at the meaning conjures up some very alarming nipples indeed.
Pert is ubiquitous, much to my dismay. Unfortunately, if one is looking for a different word (and not raspberry-like fruit references), the listed synonyms at merriam.com aren't much help: active, airy, animate, animated, bouncing,brisk, energetic, frisky, gay, jaunty, jazzy, kinetic,mettlesome, peppy, perky, lively, pizzazzy,racy, snappy, spanking, sparky, spirited, sprightly, springy,vital, vivacious, zippy.
Frisky nipples! Mettlesome nipples! ZIPPY NIPPLES. Oh, I cannot wait for the zippy nipples.
Have you noticed people padding with pert nipples in your romances? Or is there another word you see all the time? Does it bother you?