Innuendos are a common part of everyday conversations, which has led to them being widely used in literary works, especially in dialogue segments. In both real life and literature alike, an innuendo signifies a hint, a veiled comment, or an oblique remark. Typically, innuendos imply something unpleasant, impolite, or inappropriate in order to present those things in a more innocent and polite way. 

However, even though an innuendo may look harmless when considered literally, it oftentimes may insinuate an unsavory meaning. Innuendos are generally critical or socially inappropriate in nature and are oftentimes linked to certain observations about people or situations. 

The term derives from the Latin word “innuere”, which may be translated as “to nod”, “to make a sign”. It can be traced back to approximately 1678 when it was used in order to make a phrase or a word that hinted or signaled about something. However, the term has acquired a more negative connotation with time.

Innuendos, being rather indirect in their nature, might oftentimes be confused with other linguistic tools like euphemisms and double entendre. However, there are clear differences between them, which may help readers distinguish these literary devices from one another.

A double entendre is typically employed intentionally in order to make an expression sound more polite or to add an interesting twist to the narration. Moreover, a double entendre may be used in a humorous way. At the same time, innuendos are oftentimes employed to make a critical remark less obvious or to target someone or something in an indirect way. Therefore, a double entendre has a more positive nature.

As for euphemisms, they are also introduced in literary works to mask something impolite or socially inappropriate. However, unlike innuendos, euphemisms aren’t employed to add criticism or present a somewhat offensive idea. Actually, innuendos always imply a hint, an indirect suggestion, which means the readers might not always know what exactly a certain innuendo means. At the same time, euphemisms are typically known phrases and words that are not perceived as hints and don’t leave the reader guessing.

Innuendos are widely used in various literary works, especially in novels, poetry, and dramatic pieces. Even though this linguistic tool is oftentimes considered as an entertaining component of the narration, it may come off as a passive-aggressive device that is typically employed to attack or criticize society, people, or situations.

The most common and basic reason behind employing innuendos in literary works is to express certain thoughts and ideas without actually presenting them directly and talking about them aloud. In such a case, an innuendo may help the author speak about something potentially offensive, humorous, socially unacceptable or inappropriate, or even illegal. This linguistic tool allows writers to mock at society or governments in a veiled way, potentially saving them from trouble. It may also be employed in order to attack and criticize people without breaking the rules of the socially accepted etiquette. In other words, innuendos allow authors to get around social rules and limitations.

Another reason why some writers introduce innuendos in their works is to add a subtle meaning to the narration. This way, authors add an interesting sub-level to the narration, which may help their readers think critically and make their experience more interesting and pleasurable. 

Examples of innuendo can be spotted in numerous literary works that may date back centuries. Shakespeare, being a prominent author who didn’t hesitate to employ a wordplay with oftentimes sexual context, introduced innuendos in a large number of his works. For instance, in the play called “All’s Well That Ends Well”, the author employs innuendos in the dialogue between the Countess and the Clown, where they use a wordplay referring to a sexual subtext. Phrases like “monstrous size that fit all demands” are freely used in the play to veil the sexual meaning of the characters’ words.

Other bright examples of innuendo may be found in the poem “Putting in the Seed”. Here, the author (Robert Frost) employs a number of veiled expressions to hide the sexual subtext under the surface of the narration. When perceived literally, the poem seems innocent and implies strictly gardening. However, phrases like “sturdy seedling with arched body” and “how love burns through putting in the seed” insinuate a completely different subtext.

In “1984”, George Orwell introduces innuendos in a less playful manner. Here, the writer indirectly mocks at and criticizes the society using this linguistic technique. For instance, in a segment where Winston is considering rewriting the history in order for it to be “more accurate”, the innuendos hide his true aim: to edit out the past “errors”, “slips”, and “misprints” so that they would fit the characters’ current worldview. In this case, the innuendos used by the author have a more sinister role and feeling to them, which perfectly reflects the overall idea and the atmosphere of the narration.

The Summary

Innuendos are widely employed in both literary pieces and everyday conversations. Typically, this linguistic tool signifies a veiled comment or an indirect remark concerning a certain person, event, or situation. In the majority of cases, innuendos have a criticizing or even offensive nature.

The term derives from the word “innuere” (Latin), which means “to make a sign”, “to nod”. It was first mentioned in 1678 and served to signify certain words and phrases that implied hints and signaled about something. However, the term acquired a more negative connotation within time.

As a linguistic tool, innuendos are oftentimes introduced in the literary works to allow the authors to express potentially offensive or socially inappropriate ideas without actually sounding inappropriate. In numerous cases, innuendos serve as a subtle way to criticize someone or something. However, there are cases when authors employ this device to interest the readers and give them something to think about, making the reading experience more intriguing and interesting.