He said “prickles”

(You can see where this is going, so use your judgment.)

So I did, in my recent postings on desert plants, as on 5/1/18 in “Stanford Arizona IV”, about:

the nasty prickles on the trunk and branches of Ceiba species

I forbore snickerfacience over prickles in that posting, but now I’m ready to revel in it:

(#2) Specifically, about pricks and dicks

My name is Arnold, and I’m an unrepentent peniphiliac.

Peniphilia. I’ll get that out of the way first. From my 7/4/15 posting “Embrace of the televised penis”, referring to:

gay porn, which is in a sense largely a hymn to the penis, a celebration of peniphilia

 the word peniphilia. It’s in the Urban Dictionary, referring to a strong positive emotional view towards, or positive emotion caused by, the penis (in either sex). But it doesn’t seem to be in standard dictionaries (including the OED), though it’s been coined several times by writers

I think of peniphilia as an enthusiasm, akin to my enthusiasms for plants and gardening, diverse food, shapenote singing, classical music, cartoons, and humor of all kinds, but short of my passion for thinking analytically about language, which is a constant in my life: I am always noticing the language around me, whether I want to or not, but I can go for hours without dwelling on dicks, even though my home decoratng scheme tends to the flagrantly homoerotic. There are hard-core Manchester United fans, devoted opera buffs, wine fanatics, Deadheads and Parrotheads, and so on … and plenty of peniphiliacs.

What’s to complain about? It gives me pleasure and it harms no one. And I enjoy talking about it, just as I enjoy talking about my other enthusiasms. If you’re bored or annoyed by talk on any of these subjects, just pass on to something else.

snickerfacience. Generating snickers, especially from middle-school boys. Yuk, yuk. Lots of things for responsible grown-ups to steer clear of:

(in U.S.) ass ( “Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious … humble and riding on an ass”), (in U.S.) booty (pirate booty), cock (cock fight; “Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew”), dick (private dick ‘private detective’), snatch (snatch and grab), pussy (pussy-cat)

And of course prick:

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” (Shylock from The Merchant of Venice); prick up one’s ears; a little prick (from an injection or a phlebotomist’s needle)

Snickerfacience can be strategically deployed. The pink pussy hats of women’s protest play deliberately on [REDACTED] grabbing women “by the pussy”. I have no pink pussy hat, but I have what I think of as a pink dick cap, from the Boar’s Head food company (their usual caps are black):

(#3) Featuring the boar, a symbol of potent masculinity, with its phallic tusk

prick. From NOAD, all of it potentially snickerfacient:

verb prick: verb [with object] 1 [a] make a small hole in (something) with a sharp point; pierce slightly: prick the potatoes with a fork. [b] [no object] feel a sensation as though a sharp point were sticking into one: she felt her scalp prick and her palms were damp. [c] (of tears) cause the sensation of imminent weeping in (a person’s eyes): tears of disappointment were pricking her eyelids. [d] cause mental or emotional discomfort to: her conscience pricked her as she told the lie. [e] arouse or provoke to action: the police were pricked into action. 2 (especially of a horse or dog) make (the ears) stand erect when on the alert: the dog’s tail was wagging and her ears were pricked.

noun prick: 1 [a] an act of piercing something with a fine, sharp point: the pin prick had produced a drop of blood. [b] a small hole or mark made by piercing something with a fine, sharp point. [c] a sharp pain caused by being pierced with a fine point. [d] a sudden feeling of distress, anxiety, or some other unpleasant emotion: she felt a prick of resentment. 2 vulgar slang [a] a penis. [b] a man regarded as stupid, unpleasant, or contemptible. 3 archaic a spiked stick used for driving oxen.

The phallic payoff is in sense 2 of the noun, almost at the end. As it turns out, sense 2 is historically a development of sense 3 (NOAD generally puts more current senses before older ones). From GDoS:

noun prick: (SE prick, a pointed weapon or implement [i.e. ‘something that pricks’]) … [first cite] 1556 J. Withals Dictionarie in Eng. and Latine‘ Parts of the bodie’ … the pricke, virga virilis, membrum genitale…

Sexual prick seems to have once been just vernacular, not especially vulgar. But those days are past. Now we get vulgar play on sense [1b] or [1c] of prick combined with the senses in [2]:


prickle. From NOAD, more snickerfacience:

noun prickle: [a] a short, slender, sharp-pointed outgrowth on the bark or epidermis of a plant; a small thorn: the prickles of the blackberry bushes. [b] a small spine or pointed outgrowth on the skin of certain animals. [c] a tingling sensation on someone’s skin, typically caused by strong emotion: Kathleen felt a prickle of excitement.

verb prickle: [a] [no object] (of a person’s skin or a part of the body) experience a tingling sensation, especially as a result of strong emotion: the sound made her skin prickle with horror.  [b] [with object] cause a tingling or mildly painful sensation in: I hate the way the fibers prickle your skin. [c] (of a person) react defensively or angrily to something: she prickled at the implication that she had led a soft and protected life.

ORIGIN Old English price ‘instrument for pricking, sensation of being pricked’; related to Middle Dutch prickel, from the Germanic base of prick. The verb is partly a diminutive of the verb prick.

That’s one source of prickle. Another is as a portmanteau of prick and pickle — so doubly phallic, pickles being enduring phallic symbols, as in these postings on this blog:

on 8/24/13, “Men and their pickles”

on 2/17/16, “A passion for pickles”: cucumbers and pickles as phallic symbols

on 2/19/16, “Mid-February news for penises”: phallic pickles

on 12/26/16, “The Christmas pickle”

on 11/3/17, “On the pickle watch”

on 11/12/17, “This week’s news for pickles”

Yet another source is as a (back-formed) proper name Prickle for someone notably prickly, as in the yellow Gumby claymation dinosaur figure:

(#5) Prickly

From NOAD, more snickerfacience:

adj. prickly: 1 [a] covered in prickles: masses of prickly brambles. [b] resembling or feeling like prickles: his hair was prickly and short. [c] having or causing a tingling or itching sensation: my skin feels prickly | a dress that was prickly around the neck. 2 [a] (of a person) ready to take offense. [b] liable to cause someone to take offense: this is a prickly subject.

prickly combines easily with phallic dick, as in this photo from the Being Ron site “Does Size Really Matter” on 10/15/10:

(#6) Photo of “Dick Prickly” (could easily have been Dick Prickle, Prickly Dick, or Prickle Dick), playing on Dick as a man’s name

Then there’s a music streaming site named Pickle Prick, for resons I don’t know. Their logo:


And then characters from Rick and Morty. From Wikipedia:


(#9) Pickle Dick


Rick and Morty is an American adult animated science fiction comedy series created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Cartoon Network’s late-night programming block Adult Swim. The series follows the misadventures of cynical mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his fretful, easily influenced grandson Morty Smith, who split their time between domestic life and interdimensional adventures. The series premiered on December 2, 2013, and the third season concluded on October 1, 2017.

Mix and match: pickle, prick, dick, Dick, prickly cactuses (with prickles), prickly (easily offended) characters. Plus Rick.

And all the way to, groan, Moby Prick:

(#11) #4 from the 12/17/17 posting “Moby Chick, Moby Duck, Moby Dip”

Prickly plant bonus. One species of prickly cactus actually has prickly in its common name: Opuntia, the prickly pear (nopal in Mexican Spanish). A recurrent topic on this blog:

on 9/13/14, “Linguistic diversity among the nopalries”

on 11/23/16, “Two Stanford adventures”: section on Opuntia

on 3/1/17, “Two notable plants”: on O. microdasys

(#12) O. ovata, a stunningly prickly prickly pear

Yuk, yuk, he said “prickly”.

Footnote. I was hoping to find a photo or drawing of a guy identified as having a prickly pair — especially hairy balls. Plenty of hairy balls around, but none I could find called a prickly pair. Though from Fort Wayne IN there’s a t-shirt memorializing a former mayor of the city:

(#13) A prickly pair to honor Harry Baals: Harry pronounced locally like hairy, Baals pronounced like balls

From Wikipedia:


Harry William Baals (November 16, 1886 – May 9, 1954) was the Republican Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, from 1932–1947 and from 1951 until his death in 1954.

3 Responses to “He said “prickles””

  1. julianne taaffe Says:

    A friend in college doted on his “darling dumpling.” A little softer than “prick”?

  2. Chris Hansen Says:

    I can’t tell whether you’ve ever referred to a work of art I remember seeing but can’t locate online. It was a pickle jar filled with penises, and it was named “Prickles” There was vinegar in it too.

    Second, when I was recently hospitalised a nurse (who was not from here but whose origin I couldn’t place) came in with an injection for me–into the stomach fat. Most of the nurses would say “Sharp scratch” when making an injection, but this nurse said, “Small prick.” I waited until she was finished to tell her that, to a man it would be better to say “Sharp scratch.” I couldn’t tell whether she got the joke or not.

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