Call it by its name

In the 9/24/19 One Big Happy, both Ruthie and her mother name fingers, but in different ways:


Ruthie gives them (descriptive) nicknames — the proper names Hitchy, Pointy, Big Girl, Wiggles, Wee One — while her mother Ellen provides the common nouns referring to the five fingers: the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger, the ring finger, and the pinkie / pinky (aka the little finger).

Despite Ellen’s actually, these two systems of naming are in no way inconsistent. It is true that Ruthie’s system is (apparently) private, used only by her, while Ellen’s system is communal, in general use among speakers of modern English — but the (proper) nickname / common-noun distinction doesn’t generally line up with the private / communal distinction.

Some nicknames are very widely known and used (sports fans know basketball player Earvin Johnson as Magic, and linguists know syntactician John Robert Ross as Haj); and some common nouns are the property of a small family group or of just one person — some of these collected in Paul Dickson’s 2007 book Family Words: A Dictionary of the Secret Language of Families. From Dickson’s site:

Every family has them. The words that only you use, your own secret language. For instance, one family has coined the word “Lurkin” for any sock that has lost its mate because “you know the other one is ‘lurkin’ around somewhere.” This book is packed with these words, contributed from families from all across the country.

In any case, Ruthie offers private (proper) nicknames, while Ellen offers communal common names, which are moreover both standard and non-technical (they’re the everyday terms in modern English). To my knowledge, there are no widely shared schemes of finger nicknames; there may well be schemes of private common nouns referring to the fingers, though I haven’t encountered any; but there are alternative schemes of communal common names, especially technical ones (as in the ordinal numbering scheme of first finger through fifth finger, symbolically 1 through 5).

For other bodyparts, in particular the sexual bodyparts, the array of names is very rich.

Bodypart names. Assembled from various sources, on women’s names for their breasts:

referential: boobs, tits, melons, girls, boys, etc.

proper: Mary-Kate and Ashley [Olsen, actors and models, both female], Minnie and Mickey [Mouse, cartoon characters, one female and one male], Luigi and Mario [arcade game characters, both male]

For their vaginas, women seem to use only referential terms, though I would be entertained to hear about proper names in actual use.

Men’s names for their testicles are both referential (nuts, balls, nads, etc.) and proper (apparently, always male names): Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Lewis Carroll characters, with rounded bellies), Lenny and Squiggy (characters from the tv sitcom Laverne & Shirley).

Men’s names for their penises make a vast world, comprising a gigantic number of referential names (extensively covered already on this blog) and a considerable collection of proper ones. On to the nicknames…

From the KBAT (rock music radio) site on 7/7/15:

According to Daily Mirror, a new survey revealed that 73% of men have given their penis a nickname.

That took me to a 7/3/15 HuffPo piece, “Most Popular Penis Names Revealed (And They’re A Bit Weird)”:

Troy, Jerry and Russell the Muscle are just some of the hilarious names that gents are giving to their bits.

A new survey by retailer Jacamo revealed that seven out of ten men have named their manhood.

And that took me to a JOE piece (JOE is a distributed social media publisher aimed at young people in Ireland and the UK), which announced:

(#2) Superman’s crotch (photo fron the JOE site)

What do Troy, Hercules and The Rock have in common? They are the top three nicknames for men’s private parts according to a new survey by the retailer Jacamo. Based on the research, it seems seven out of ten men have a name for their manhood … The top three names are masculine men names …, where most of the other names are very normal, friendly names such as Wilfred, Dave, Gerry and Johnny.

(The top 10, from 1 on down: Troy, Hercules, The Rock, Russell the Muscle, Wilfred, Dave, Jerry, Johnny, Randolph, Wendell.)

This news was repeated on the Mirror site on 7/2/15, in “The most popular nicknames men call their manhoods revealed in survey”:

With the sexiest film of the summer [Magic Mike XXL] launching this Friday, a survey has found that seven out of ten men (73%) have a special nickname for their bits.

The tongue in cheek survey by men’s retailer Jacamo has revealed the top ten names given to the private parts of UK men with Troy, Hercules and The Rock topping the list.

There was no real survey conducted here; the Jacamo staff seem to have just asked guys they came across if they had a nickname for their penis, and if so, what it was. None of the statistics or the ordering of names mean anything at all. It’s all silly fluff. All that press attention meant nothing at all.

(For the record, I have never named my penis, any more than I have named my nose. It has served me well, for its purposes, for 80 years, and I value it highly. But, yes, I realize that for many men their penis represents their masculinity, and so the very core of their being.)

A note on Jacomo. From the UK company’s site:

At Jacamo, style that doesn’t compromise on great fit or comfort is at the forefront of what we do. We’re proud to deliver men’s fashion that fits, no matter your build or size. Covering sizes S – 5XL (and we’ve now introduced some 6XL options too), you’ll find large men’s clothing, tall men’s clothing and exclusive brands in sizes not found elsewhere.

It’s aimed at big guys.

In 2018 the company enlisted British soap opera actor Jamie Lomas (who is seriously hunky, but well within standard body-size ranges) to provide their image:

(#3) From the Female First site, “Jamie Lomas is the new face of Jacamo: The ‘Hollyoaks’ actor, Jamie Lomas, is set to launch his first fashion campaign as the face of Jacamo” from 7/4/18

(It now — in 2020 — appears that Jacomo, and much of its parent company, has been closed down, or soon will be. Because coronavirus.)

One more penis-naming note. Gay porn writer Samuel Steward had his male-hustler character Phil Andros call his penis “old Betsy”. Background in my 1/6/11 posting “Pseudonyms 2: Samuel Steward”.

The figure depends on men naming their firearms with female names — old Betsy is not uncommon as a name for a rifle — because the firearms are their constant and supportive companions. From there, it’s a straight metaphorical shot to these names as nicknames for penises.

One Response to “Call it by its name”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    There was someone on soc.motss — I cannot remember his name, or much else about him — who called his penis “Mr. Happy”.

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