Possibly unfortunate names

It started a few days ago when Ron Butters asked ADS-L about three possibly unfortunate names: Plumed Serpent for a gay bar; Pink Taco for a restaurant; and Tube Steak for a hot-dog stand.

The run-down:

1. The Plumed Serpent begins as the title of A D.H. Lawrence novel set in Mexico. The title is a reference to the cult of Quetzalcoatl, the plumed (feathered) serpent.

Then we get to snake as a slang metaphor for the penis (notably in one-eyed trouser snake), and what appears to be a low-level use of the more elegant variant serpent for this purpose.

Then someone hit on adopting the Lawrence title with serpent understood as a phallic reference, and plumed deployed as a reference to the uncircumcised penis (with the foreskin serving as the plumage). No one on ADS-L has found an attested slang use for plumed serpent ‘uncut dick’.

Clever as a name for a gay bar, and certainly unobjectionable in that context.

2. Pink Taco. This one at least has an Urban Dictionary entry as (metaphorical) slang for ‘vagina’, but precious few attestations in this sense. Still, as Garson O’Toole reported on ADS-L on December 2:

One or more people consider the name offensive as revealed by then controversy about the [Mexican] restaurant in 2006. There is a Pink Taco Restaurant in the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, and it opened a branch in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Arizona Republic reported that a resident was offended:

Resident Mary Beth Hollman said she objected to the name because “it is offensive to women.” (link)

Scottsdale mayor Mary Manross also objected to the name (the Scottsdale restaurant has since closed). And on ADS-L, Alice Faber pronounced it “definitely problematic”.

3. Tube Steak. Here the problem is yet another metaphorical extension of a word referring to a hot dog to use in reference to the penis; see the wiener discussion here.

From Doug Wilson on ADS-L on December 2:

“Tube steak” meaning “hot dog” or “wiener” has been around as long as I can remember, and a glance at Newspaperarchive shows many examples in the papers, back to 1939.

[Barry Popik on tube steak in the hot dog sense here.]

I suppose it was probably originally a jocular coinage, modeled on “cube steak”. I don’t recall hearing/seeing it applied to a sex organ, but then I haven’t heard it much recently at all. No doubt it lends itself to a sex-organ reference, just like “hot dog”, “wiener”, etc., etc.

Urban Dictionary has several sex-organ entries under “tube steak” (here)

1. Army lingo for the male sexual organ; the penis. Typically used in the phrase “tube steak & white gravy,” a reference to an ejaulating penis, inserted into one of the drill/platoon/top sergeants’ numerous gay slurs directed at subordinates.

“You’re going to love the main course at the chow hall,” the D.I. told the raw-ass recruit. “It’s tube steak & white gravy and you can have all you want!”

3. the main course in a mock meal that you might offer to a hungry friend
Hungry friend: “I’m awfully hungry.”

You: “Really? How’d you like a nice tube steak, smothered in underwear?”

4. the main course in a mock meal that you might offer to a hungry friend
Hungry friend: “I’m awfully hungry.”

You: “Really? How’d you like a nice tube steak, smothered in underwear?”

5. A erect penis that is closely proportional to the size of a steak.

Wow, look at that big @$$ tube steak!

6. What a gay guy gets off on.

Tube steak after tube steak was poked through the glory hole, and Rock made gravy out of all of them with his saliva filled sucking machine mouth

The Online Slang Dictionary also has it with the ‘penis’ sense.

(Then there’s some on-line discussion about the ZZ Top song “Tube Snake Boogie”, often heard as “Tube Steak Boogie”)

From Garson O’Toole on December 3:

Tube steak as sexual slang appears in: The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang (Google Books preview); American Slang by Barbara Ann Kipfer and Robert L. Chapman (Google Books preview); HDAS may have it but the publicly accessible volumes end at the letter O.

The non-sexual meaning [frankfurter, hot dog] is dated 1963 in both references but Barry Popik’s entry gives a 1939 date (as noted by Arnold Zwicky).

The sexual meaning is dated 1980 in both references. I personally heard it used as sexual slang in 1976. Google Books contains a work that it dates to 1972 containing an instance: Hawks & Harriers by Page Stegner, GB Page 25, Dial Press, New York. (Google Books snippet; data may be inaccurate; not verified on paper)

What was the old joke? Eating out at the Y. Oh, but you must try the bearded clams, the tube steak, the rolled roast. Terrific wits, my high school cronies.

The gay connection is strong.  In particular, from Raging Stallion Studios, a gay porn flick “Ten Pound Tube Steak”, featuring a collection of large and thick cocks. And tube steak referring to the penis in many descriptions of gay porn flicks.  Also in gay porn writing, which is given to endless variations on words for the penis, I suppose in the belief that you should vary your vocabulary rather than sticking to the ordinary vernacular terms dick and cock (though for me expressions like tube steak, trouser snake, and manmeat are giggle- rather than erection-inducing).

Back to Garson O’Toole, now about the Vancouver hot-dog stand Mr. Tube Steak:

There may be one husband who is offended by the name.

Whenever my husband and I come to BC I always say I want to find one of those Tube Steak stands, or I need a Tube Steak. They have since changed it to Hot Dog stands. I just get a kick out of annoying him saying Tube Steak. (link)

There is at least one consumer in Vancouver who was not offended.

Mr. tube steak, wow doesn’t that sound  dirty??? well it’s not..
It’s a freaking hot dog stand, and a delicious one at that!!! you think Seattle has hot dog stands that has aroma for days.. well Mr. tube steak will kick it’s ass! (link)

O’Toole also supplied a link to a photo:

Caption: This kid was not happy about posing in front of the Mr. Tube Steak hot dog stand

8 Responses to “Possibly unfortunate names”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Now from Jon Lighter, who edited HDAS:

    HDAS has sexual “tube steak” in print from 1973.

    And yes, it does appear in _The Short-Timers_, which is based on Gustav
    Hasford’s experiences as a Marine in Vietnam in 1968.

  2. Sol Says:

    And of course, more famously in a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, based on Hasford’s novel.

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  8. Possibly unfortunate names | Arnold Zwicky Says:

    Clair Depaula

    It started a few days ago when Ron Butters asked ADS-L about three possibly unfortunate names: Plumed Serpent for a gay bar; Pink Taco for a restaurant; and Tube Steak for a hot-dog stand. The run-down: 1. The Plumed Serpent begins as the title of A D.…

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