What’s In a Name?
Few people remember that Warren G. Harding was ever President of the United States; those that do, could care less. The obscure early 20th-century president died two years into office after achieving little that was worth remembering. Count him among the worst of our nation’s chief executives who was best known for the scandals and corruption that marked his tenure in office. But that was until a few days ago when we got a sneak preview of the racy love letters between President Harding and his mistress, Carrie Fulton who also happened to be the wife of one of his best friends.
The Library of Congress this month will release more than 100 of these breathlessly passionate notes written by Harding to his mistress of 15 years… and they are “hot.”
Check out this one: “I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing breasts.”
Most interesting of all was Harding’s on-going reference to his upright member as “Jerry”, describing it like an insistent friend who would arrive without warning and stay beyond his welcome. “Jerry came and will not go, says he loves you, that you are the only, only love worthwhile in all this world,” Harding wrote. “He is so utterly devoted that he only exists to give you all. I fear you would find a fierce enthusiast today.” In one letter penned just before the end of the First World War, Harding said simply: “Wish I could take you to Mount Jerry”.
Harding’s namesake, however, is pretty small pickings compared to a later chief executive, Lyndon Johnson who nicknamed his member “Jumbo” and was fond of showing it to other members of Congress; though it was a quite gratuitous gesture given how everyone already knew what a prick the President was.
It’s not unusual for men to name their organ, a fact I have recorded already in Bawdy Language, marking the special relationship men appear to have with their organ.
Isn’t it time you too got a whiff of the truth? Check out the brief history of the penis from “Bawdy Language.”
You Can Call Me…
On a first-name basis, Peter, Dick, and John stand out. Peter began as St. Peter, who held the keys to heaven, but after he had used them regularly for a few hundred years, and clearly was no longer a saint, he was reduced to just plain Peter, a long-time favorite name for the prick.
But Peter is nowhere as popular as he once was, having hit his stride among America’s teenagers in the 1940s and ’50s. In the Ozarks, however, he’s still the word for the family organ. Vance Randolph, the noted folklore specialist, tells the story of a novice minister who both embarrassed and flabbergasted his congregation by innocently inquiring as to how many Peters were out there. It was a real gaffe. In that part of the country, one never refers to Peter in mixed company. A son is never named Peter. And nothing, but nothing, ever peters out.
John, the commonest name in the English language, has often given his name to the commonest organ, as has Johnnie, a favorite of “cultured” nineteenth-century females. We are told that women have also been hot for a man’s Jones (20thC, U.S.), John’s family name. But our featured performer is John Thomas (c. 1840), an old pet name for a flunky or a servant, an important figure in world literature who was also the hero of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and without whom there would not have been a story.
“Ay,” said the man stretching his body almost painfully. “He’s got his root in my soul has that gentleman! An’ some- times I don’t know what ter do wi’ him. Ay, he’s got a will of his own, an’ it’s hard to suit him. Yet, I wouldn’t have him killed.”
“No wonder men have always been afraid of him!” she said. “He’s rather terrible.”
Jack (19thC), a nickname for John, has also stood for the penis and its erection, as has Jock (before 1790), from which we got the jockstrap by which today’s male supports his hanging Johnny. Nothing—well, almost nothing—could contain a roaring jack. A jack-in-the-box (19thC) was your pop-up surprise, the box being the likeliest place in which a man might place it.
There’s something in the air today, marking a scientific breakthrough of sorts. Scientists out of the University of Exeter insist that smelling farts could actually prevent cancer, among other diseases. Uh, okay.
“Although hydrogen sulfide gas”—produced when bacteria breaks down food—”is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,” Dr. Mark Wood said in a university release.
Although the stinky gas can be noxious in large doses, the researchers seem to think that a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria. Researchers are even coming up with their own compound to emulate the stinky smell’s health benefits.
“‘We have exploited this natural process by making a compound, called AP39, which slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria,” Professor Matt Whiteman, who worked on the study to be published in the Medicinal Chemistry Communications journal, said.
Isn’t it time you too got a whiff of the truth? Check out the brief history of the much-maligned fart from “Bawdy Language.”
Gone With the Wind
The fart’s fine lineage not withstanding, other reference works have been more standoffish. The esteemed Oxford English Dictionary unequivocally declared fart “not fit for proper use.” Nobody knows why the OED chose to close down this innocuous form of personal expression or how the decision was made. One can only imagine a group of eminent scholars gathered in their ivory tower, deliberating upon the fate of words, having a beer or two, and shooting the breeze.
“No, no! I much prefer an anal escape of wind.”
“Really gentlemen, it’s hard to top voiding wind from the bowels.”
“All in favor of the fart…”
Having to give us something to do, they finally agreed to let us have the vapors (16thC–19thC), “supposed emanations from internal organs or from substances within the body.”
Does the Australian gurk sound any better? Yet etymologist Richard Spears, in his classic dictionary of slang and euphemism, organized his synonyms (all 76 of them) for breaking wind under that particular obscurity, defining the category as “to release intestinal gas audibly.” Anything to avoid giving the fart its proper due.
And so the fart fell from grace—expelled from polite society and relegated to second-class status. Farting around (c. 1900) came to signify purposelessness; anything overly pretentious was arty- farty.” Farting off (c.1968) made you inattentive and neglectful, leading to one blunder after another, causing you to fart away (c.1928) or squander your opportunities.
The F-word is an amazingly versatile piece of our four-letter Anglo-Saxon heritage. It can express surprise, outrage, anger, humor, or delight. And it can stand in for several parts of speech: noun, verb, gerund, particular, imperative, interrogative, interjection.
Let’s not forget use of the f-word as one of the rarest of language forms, the infix. A prefix comes before a word. A suffix comes after. An infix appears in the middle of a normal word or phrase, as in “You are damn f—ing right.” Or “un-f—ing-believable.” Or as they like to moan in Boston when thinking of the New York Yankees victory in the 1978 playoff game: “Bucky F—ing Dent!” It was the light-hitting Dent’s timely home run that ruined the Red Sox season.
by Roy Peter Clark, writing techer
A Many-splendored Thing
Most people are familiar only with fuck’s violent side; few appreci- ate its complex character. Fuck is nature’s all-purpose word, able to express every mood and capture the tenor of every occasion.
The only thing it isn’t is simple, as with this fuckin’ business.
Given the proper inflection, the word can express an entire range of sentiments:
Confusion: What the fuck?
Despair and dismay: Fucked again, or truly fucked.
Liberation: What the fuck!
Helplessness: Fucked by the fickle finger of fate.
Concern: Doesn’t anyone give a fuck?
From Bawdy Language
It’s a cavern of joy you are thinking of now
A warm, tender field just awaiting the plow.
It’s a quivering pigeon caressing your hand
Or that sweet little pussy that makes a man stand
Or perhaps it’s a flower, a grotto, a well,
The hope of the world, or a velvety hell.
But friend, heed this warning, beware the affront
Of aping a Saxon: don’t call it a cunt.
—“Ode to Those Four-Letter Words”
Let’s play! Welcome to Toys ‘R Us (X-rated version) — they’re for you and me and everyone else as well — kids of all ages (18 and up). In the last few decades, they’ve gone from taboo to commonplace.
Everyone’s pushing them (pushing is m-m-m- good!): Celebrities, media and books (Fifty Shades, anyone), helping make them as acceptable and even positive forms of sexual accomplices.
The cool thing about sex toys is that they are toys. No need to take them seriously. And they’re safe too. When was the last time you heard of anyone getting pregnant by one?
Read more from Dr. Bawdy’s likes
A Biblical Fable
I’ll tell you a little story,
Just a story I have heard;
And you’ll swear it’s all a fable
But it’s gospel, every word.
When the Lord made father Adam,
They said He laughed and sang;
And sewed him up the belly
With a little piece of whang.
But when the Lord was finished
He found He’s measured wrong;
For when the whang was knotted
‘Twas several inches long.
Said He, “’Tis but eight inches
So I guess I’ll let it hang.”
So He left on Adam’s belly
That little piece of whang.
But when the Lord made mother Eve
I imagine He did snort,
When He found the whang He sewed her with
Was several inches short.
“Twill leave an awful gap,” said He,
“But I should give a damn,
She can fight it out with Adam
For that little piece of whang.”
So ever since that day
When human life began,
There’s been a constant struggle
‘Twixt the woman and the man.
—Anon., “Whang,” 20thC
Looks can be deceiving. Though the cock appears jaunty and confident, he’s anything but cocksure. He may think of himself as a strictly all-male bird, but a close look at his history shows quite the contrary. Not only does this most masculine of birds have a feminine side to him, but, according to the lexicographer of black English J. Dillard, he once denoted exclusively the female organ in the black community of the Southern United States and the Caribbean.
This usage originated in nineteenth-century England where women oft times used cock as a verb in a passive sense, as to want cocking or to get cocked. From there, it was a natural transition to refer to the female pudendum as a cock. The male cock’s stature has further been diminished by invidious comparisons with other birds, treating its appearance and character with even less respect.
“Esther, have you ever seen a man?”…
“No,” I said. “Only statues.”…
I stared at Buddy while he unzipped his chino pants…
He just stood there in front of me and I kept staring at him.
The only thing I could think of was
turkey neck and turkey gizzards,
and I felt very depressed.
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, 1963