I'm looking for a word or phrase that means something along the lines of "the exhilaration of taboo".

Here's the context for what I'm looking for: "It was strange and [blank] to walk around and see everyone's age so blatantly public."

  • Do you mean that their ages were displayed in a blatantly public manner? What is taboo about that? At first glance, thrilling might be a fit. Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 19:40
  • I agree with @coleopterist ~ can you provide another example? Or at least explain how people see "everyone's age," and what's so taboo about it?
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 20:36
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    Erm... taboo/tabu is an adjective (as well as a noun). I'm having trouble thinking of how the concept could be used adverbially. By and large, an action is either taboo or it's not - I don't really see how you can do something "in a taboo manner". Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 20:40
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    @coleopterist Yes their ages were evidently displayed in a blatantly public manner. See what is apparently the OP's blog post in which this context appears: kennysong.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/triathlon
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 7:15
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    @ΜετάEd: Great detective work there! I do wish posters would stop extracting sentences and pasting them on EL&U without their surrounding content; so often, the preceding sentences are absolutely vital in correctly interpreting a word or phrase. In this case, I think "titillating" and "guilty pleasure" both fit the title of this question just fine, but, unless I had some strange age fetish, I'd hardly use those words to describe the feelings I'd have at a triathlon starting line, seeing the ages of my fellow racers.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 9:49

6 Answers 6


Collins defines titillating as

of or relating to something that arouses, teases, interests, or excites someone pleasurably and often superficially He writes deliberately titillating lyrics.

Merriam-Websters offers

pleasantly stimulating or exciting , such as titillating reading; also: erotic

  • This word flashed right into my gutter-ridden mind. Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 1:27

"Guilty pleasure" is a common phrase. Also consider hedonic, which while it denotes no more than pleasure or pursuit thereof, often connotes breaking taboos. (In noun form, hedonism.)

Edit: In the example sentence, one might replace [blank] with "gave us a frisson of Schadenfreude" or "... of superiority". Knowing others' ages is not taboo, I think, and no age is to be looked down upon, but one imagines some do.

  • Hm, it's not exactly what I'm looking for -- I added some context for the question if you want to take a look.
    – kennysong
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 19:16
  • Is Mercozy a variant of Merkozy ("(slang, politics) ... unified position of France and Germany ... Blend of Merkel ... and Sarkozy")? Anyway, I agree the phrase is a mix, I should have written "a peccant piquancy" instead. Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 19:43
  • I don't think hedonistic has any real connection with taboo. Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 20:42

I wonder if our BE phrase felt a bit naughty would fill the bill in the context you give.


How about: "it was strange and transgressive"?


Since what is breached here appears to be a norm or convention rather than a taboo, how about 'provocative', which is often used in a positive sense: it is not only base or improper sentiments which may be provoked but also serious matters like political opinions or aesthetic judgments. At the very least using 'provocative' leaves room for some ambiguity which is itself, well, provocative.


Check out Julia Kristeva's theory on abjection and the abject. I would use abject in this sentence.

The abject is a disturbance in identity and order that threatens the collapse of meaning, causing abjection, in which the viewer is rapidly and cyclically compelled and repelled. The abject blurs the distinction between "other" and "I." Kristeva identifies the corpse as the ultimate abject.

In your context, the blatant display of age evokes impending mortality, one that transcends the "other" elderly lives into the life of "I," a reminder that all bodies are biologically destined for failure. This evokes an existential breakdown in meaning, but as you described, there's a sense of exhilaration. That's the boomerang effect of the abject, it attracts (the exhilaration) and repulses (the taboo).

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