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Definition and Examples of Innuendo

Innuendo (etymologically from Latin “innuerre” literally “to nod at,” or “pointing to”) is an employment of insinuation or indirect statement implying a derogatory demeanor of someone or something in an innocuous way, or manner that does not offend feelings.

Innuendo can be any expression that masks a bad, mean or rude idea but indirectly hints at immoral or socially offensive traits.

The figure is usually achieved by the use of allusion Opens in new window to hints at something considered rude, mean, immoral or something that connotes sexual immorality.

Notable Examples of Innuendo

    Imagine a friend is dating someone in secret. A possible use of innuendo would be to say:

  1. Mark’s been spending a lot of time with Allison, if you know what I mean.
  2. Using the phrase “if you know what I mean” is a common way to signal to people that you are using innuendo. The comment implies Mark has been doing more than simply “spending time” with Allison. In this example, the statement is used to gossip in a way that cannot be condemned offensive to moral or social standards.

    Another scenario would be when a class mate is preparing to cheat on a test with a stolen answer key. He says:

  3. I’ve found a way to get some “extra help” on the test.

The use of quotation marks to emphasize the phrase “extra help” is a common way to use innuendo. This implies that the phrase is being used in a special way here and allows your friend to boast about cheating without admitting that he is cheating; it’s a safe way to talk about doing something that is not allowed.

Benefits of Innuendo

Innuendo makes possible for writers and speakers, ways of saying things in a dissembling manner, which is especially instrumental when confronted with sensitive matters, offensive terms or immoral subjects, whereby with the use of innuendo such matters can actually be mentioned with care to innocuousness without wounding people’s feelings.

Although innuendo may be used for politeness, it is generally more insulting, humorous, or bawdy. Innuendos can be used to attack people and reputations without breaking the rules of social etiquette, to criticize governments or institutions without getting in trouble, or to humorously say something inappropriate without any consequence. In other words, innuendo is a powerful technique for getting around the limitations of polite discourse. However, you should be careful; if people understand your innuendo, it could still get you in trouble sometimes.

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