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Having looked to urban dictionary, witionary, online etymology, dictionary.com, Wikipedia and wordfreaks.tribe.net, I have found a wide variance in the etymology and definition of the word snog. I believe this to be a British phrase meaning simply kissing, but several of the above references push it to the level of making out.

Does the OED, or a some specific example in common usage provide any insight or guidance to differentiate the connotation?

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Dunno if it's relevant that I'm a Brit, but I've never heard it used to mean anything other than kissing. But since fondling/feeling up will sometimes be going on at the same time, and might not be explicitly mentioned, I suppose it's possible to assume snogging covers all related activities short of full sex. I just don't happen to make that assumption, and I don't think most Brits do either. –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 3:25
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@MετάEd: Me personally, no! And I can't find any instances of "I snogged my brother/sister/father/mother/etc." in Google Books, so I guess the people who do that kind of thing maintain a discrete silence (or whatever you call it when you avoid writing, as opposed to saying something!" :) –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 4:31
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@MετάEd: Of course. I didn't mean to imply kissing and snogging are exact synonyms (a closer one might be necking). But in general, I don't think many speakers who are accustomed to using and hearing the word necessarily expect it to include petting at all. I certainly wouldn't confuse heavy petting with snogging. So, like OP, I'm not keen on TheFreeDictionary's caressing, cuddling, fondling, hugging. Maybe that's American usage, I don't know. I thought the word was basically a Briticism anyway. –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 5:00
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'Snog' is onomatopoeic for the sound Brits make when kissing. –  Mitch Dec 8 '12 at 17:54
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@Joshua: Top man. Now I see you're from US Midwest, it's worth mentioning that there are hundreds of minor changes in the US versions of Harry Potter books (jumper becomes sweater, trainers become sneakers, the US text has many more commas, etc.) So my guess is the publishers assume most US readers know what snogging is (or they'll pick it up from context). The activity can be quite risqué, but the word itself isn't really. I believe it's still fairly common among young people, particularly teenage girls, and older people for whom it's reminiscent of long-past sexual awakenings. –  FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 14:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The phonosemantics of sn-initial words includes two body-part foci, of which one is

  • Nose, Mouth, and Respiration (snooze sniff sneeze snort snore snuff)

Snog 'kiss', and its attendant courtship metaphors, like flirting, fits right into this frame. It's not a part of my idiolect, however, and I didn't include it in my database. So the numbers in the link are off by one; with the addition of snog, the page should read

  • SN- 39 out of 45 coherent assonances

    • A. Nose (20

Thank you.

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I'm up for that! Apparently the best known examples (of phonesthemes) are English initials such as fl-, which is expressive of movement and characterizes a family of words, as in: flap, flare, flee, flick, flicker, fling, flip, flit, flitter, flow, flutter, fly, flurry, flounce, flourish, flout, flail, flash, flex, flinch, flock, flop. But sn- / nose is second on their list. You might snuggle while snogging, though. –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 4:49
    
That depends on who's doing the best knowing; st-, br- and kl- are also impressive. –  John Lawler Dec 8 '12 at 15:45
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haha - I was telling a friend earlier today that I distinctly remember the lecturer in my (short) linguistics course 40 years ago telling us language was just arbitrarily-assigned symbols. Apart from a few onomatopoeic words, which he downplayed on the grounds that other languages don't usually match to our quack, moo, woof, etc. And now I've just read (some of) your WomenMen&BristlyThings, where you start off by saying sound symbolism...is one of those myths teachers in Introductory Linguistics are at pains to debunk. Onwards and upwards - to infinity and beyond! –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 17:38
    
Am I'm reading this correctly that the term would mean kiss primarily, assuming that nose touches nose? –  user14070 Dec 9 '12 at 2:35
    
As far as I know, it means 'kiss'. Talk to the native speakers. –  John Lawler Dec 9 '12 at 3:56

Eric Partridge, in his A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, offers these definitions:

snog n. A flirtation; a courting: esp. among beatniks: since ca. 1959 (Anderson.) Ex:
snog v. To flirt, or to court, esp. in be or come or go snogging: beatniks', adopted, ca. 1959, ex general s. (Anderson.)

Richard Spears, in Slang and Euphemism lists

snog to neck; to kiss and caress. For synonyms, see FIRKYTOODLE [British slang, 1900s]

He defines firkytoodle as "sexual play, sexual foreplay" and lists dozens of synonyms, including canoodle, love up, and spoon.

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The OED says of snogging:

Etymology: Origin unknown: compare snug v.

Engagement in light, amorous play, esp. kissing and cuddling.

Their earliest quotation is:

1945 C. H. Ward-Jackson Piece of Cake (ed. 2) 56 Snogging, courting, running around with the opposite sex. Comes from India. Thus, ‘On my leave I'm going up to the hills for a bit of snogging.’ Also used as a verb.

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+1 for the OED's example quotation. –  user14070 Dec 9 '12 at 2:34

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