Euphemisms?

When I collected the remarkable “Royal wedding porn sale” offer on Michael Lucas’s blog, I came across a poll there, asking “What is your favorite euphemism for penis?” (poll announcement here, actual poll here; note that both sites are X-rated).

From the actual poll, it seems that some people take euphemism for to mean ‘word for’ (well, ‘expression for’), taking in a number of things that aren’t euphemisms as I understand them (and treating euphemism for as a relationship between an expression and a thing — “euphemism for (the) penis” — rather than, as I see it, a relationship between expressions — “euphemism for penis“).

Dictionaries generally get that right. From NOAD2:

a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing

The Wikipedia entry amplifies on this, allowing for jocular and playful euphemisms and for coded substitutions designed to conceal the nature of the referent from some listeners while revealing it to others:

a substitution for an expression that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receiver, using instead an agreeable or less offensive expression, or to make it less troublesome for the speaker. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others are created to mislead.

In the world of phallic reference, there are some euphemisms that are carefully indirect: it, thing, member, possibly manhood. And some that are baby words: pee-pee, wee-wee, and possibly willie.

But there are also many slang terms that are not concealments at all and so occasion almost as much offense as the common vernacular terms dick and cock: prickpecker, peterwang, schlong, wiener, manmeat, etc. And there are flagrantly “dirty” alternatives, like fuck stick and pisser, and many more that are ostentatious, from the relatively conventionalized tube steak, pocket rocket, and (one-eyed) trouser snake to fresh inventions, like Lewinsky lunch, the pun Napoleon Bonerparte, one-eyed night crawler in the turtle-neck sweater, and the wonderful double double trochee purple helmet yoghurt slinger. In the midst of all this, there is just about every expression you can think of for a phallic object: pen, pencil, piston, dipstick, banana, eel, knobsausage, salami, baloney, wand, hammer, lollipop, and on and on: euphemism or just language play?

(You can find any number of “N words for penis” sites on the net; people love to collect this stuff, and people love to invent new ones.)

Back to the Lucas poll. The site offers you only ten expressions as “euphemisms for penis”, and it’s a forced-choice poll; you can vote for only one. It’s a truly mixed bag. Here’s the list, with the response percentages as of a few days ago, with some notes from me:

cock 49.83 [not a euphemism, but, as NOAD2 has it, “vulgar slang” — so, one of the words that euphemisms are intended to replace]

dick 22.68 [ditto; the greater popularity of cock over dick in this sample of responses from gay men — since it was a forced-choice poll, I voted for cock myself, with misgivings — is probably not an accident, but that’s a topic for another posting]

man meat 6.53 [alliterative and entertaining, but scarcely an avoidance]

junk 6.19 [really ‘genitals in general’ rather than the penis in particular]

lollipop 5.5 [inventive, but only marginally euphemistic]

bologna pony 3.09 [well, the rhyming baloney pony; definitely ostentatious]

woody 2.75 [really ‘hard-on, stiffy’, rather than penis in general]

weiner [note the spelling] 2.06

chubby 0.69 [really ‘half hard-on’, rather than penis in general]

ding-a-ling 0.69 [a reference to “My Ding-a-Ling”, a 1972 novelty hit by Chuck Berry, with deliberate double entendre]

Absent from the list are prickpeckerpeter, dongwangschlong, shvantz [in various spellings], willie, and weenie, all of which probably have more currency, in certain circles, than several of the expressions above, which are clearly there for entertainment.

One Response to “Euphemisms?”

  1. Dinosaur snowclone « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] relationship between an expression X and a referent (or class of referents) Y: words for the penis (here), words for colors, words for snow. But meh is itself an expression; what would a word for it be? […]

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