I’ve said before that I work in magazines. I’m currently on a home and garden title that doesn’t really get much in the way of reader complaints about dirty language, seeing as how stories on how to hang wallpaper and lay (gasp!) paving don’t really get people hot and bothered.
The gardening on the other hand can get pretty smutty and the DIY offers endless sniggering to those of a juvenile mindset, what with all the screwing and drilling that goes on. But still, we don’t get outraged emails. Until this week, that is, when we were accused of lewd and rude behaviour on an epic scale.
A reader took offence at a caption in a story about fish tanks as a design element. That’s right. Fish tanks. Here are the highlights of her letter:
I was highly incensed at the inappropriate use of a profane slang word that has been slipped into your magazine. Obviously missed by spell check, (although I don’t know how), or missed by the proof reader who thought it was funny or too young to know better. Either way they should be held accountable, it is offensive … the use of the word CUM is offensive instead of the appropriate word COME.
Let’s skip over the bit where the staff are accused of either negligence, ignorance or having the sense of humour of a porn-addled teenage boy and get right to the root of the matter (sorry, that pun was begging to be used).
The fact of the matter is, the reader is wrong. When we captioned the picture with the words ‘an aquarium-cum-coffee table’ we were completely right. Cum is a preposition. And it also means ‘in combination’. It doesn’t mean what people think it means when they use it in sex texts.
It’s not the first time we’ve used it either. As the Chief subeditor said when she saw the letter, ‘What! That’s my favourite thing. I do it all the time’. And she does cum, a lot. We all do. Whether it’s a sofa-cum-guest bed or a study-cum-spare room or a garage-cum-workshop we can’t get through a month without one of us inserting cum somewhere in the magazine.
And just in case you don’t believe me, check out this screen grab from the Macquarie Dictionary.