25 Aug /15


Kiss - Word of the day - EVS Translations
Kiss – Word of the day – EVS Translations

The kiss has been around for a long time, but in English print, at least, it hasn’t been around for as long as you might think. Kiss as a noun turns up in English manuscripts dating right back to the 11th century and the verb to kiss predates this by a century. Back then, however, it was not a kiss but a cosse and when you kissed you cyssed. In the comic play Ralph Roister Doister (a1556), we find that the Middle English version of the cosse resembles more closely our modern day spelling, when Nicholas Udall writes the line: “I will not sticke for a kosse with such a man as you”, as a servant woman rebukes the petty advances of serial romancer, Ralph Roister Doister.

A kiss can be something as modest as a toothless peck on the cheek from grandma, as romantic as the passionate and noisy lip-smacking affair of new lovers, or as final as the last kiss you give the dead before the coffin is sealed. One fact is true about the kiss, however: none of us can live without it.

The kiss is rife in film and literature. For the voyeur in us, we have the movies, and most of them will indulge us in at least a bit of tonsil tennis between the good-looking hero and his leading lady. But, passionate clinches are everywhere and literature is no different.

In J.D. Salinger’s beautiful novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951), comes an equally beautiful kiss. Could it be the most beautiful kiss in literature? The protagonist of the novel is the 17-year old, Holden Caulfield and, although he never states it specifically, he is suffering acutely from the death of his dear brother, Allie (at least, this is one interpretation). Holden is angry at the world and has no patience for anyone, let alone his classmates, friends and parents. But then there is his troubled friend, Jane. Like two kindred spirits, they sit together on the porch playing checkers, until they are interrupted by Jane’s foul stepfather who demands to know where the cigarettes are. As he storms off into the house, Jane says nothing but sheds a single tear which falls on to the checkers board prompting Holden to move quickly to her side to comfort her: “I practically sat in her lap, as a matter of fact. Then she really started to cry, and the next thing I knew, I was kissing her all over – anywhere – her eyes, her nose, her forehead, her eyebrows and all, her ears – her whole face except her mouth and all”. It’s a very brief moment in the novel, but it’s breathtaking. When he saw sadness reflected back at him, he sought desperately to fix it, and in all the hopelessness of his grief, Holden found comfort in Jane.

But, of course, depending on what you’ve read, there may be a kiss to top Holden’s. What is your favourite kiss between characters?