‘Dick’ in the sense ‘penis’
Posted: 29 August 2014 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1173
Joined  2007-03-01

The entry in the online OED has not yet been fully updated, and the earliest citation it give for this sense is from 1891. Does anyone know of an earlier sighting of it?

I ask because I picked up from a barrow a copy of Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England by Roger Sales, and flipping through it I note that he refers to another critic, Margaret Kirkham as arguing [with reference to Austen’s comic treatment in Persuasion of Mrs Musgrove’s grief for her midshipman son, known to his family in life as ‘Dick’ but referred to her to Captain Wentworth as ‘Richard’ ’that Austen’s obsession with the comic possibilities of the name Richard/Dick got the better of her on this occasion‘.

I followed up the reference in Google Books, and what Kirkham actually said was that the character of Mrs Musgrove was not ‘a proper target for such burlesque as attaches to her whenever ‘poor Richard’ is mentioned. It all seems to have had something to do with Jane Austen’s finding the name ‘Richard’ irresistibly comic...’

Unless Kirkham and Sales are implying that Austen was suffering from an adolescent fit of the giggles on account of ‘Dick’ meaning ‘penis’, I really can’t make out what they are implying. Is there any evidence of that meaning’s existence as early Austen’s time?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 August 2014 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6323
Joined  2007-01-03

Green’s Dictionary of Slang pushes it back to 1836:

1836 ‘Do As Father And Mother Do’ in Cockchafer 44: Says Dick, ‘it’s true, a dagger long, / I have got, my sweet delight.’

I haven’t seen the context of the quotation, so I’ll take Green’s word for that the description refers to “Dick.” (The description is obviously that of a penis, but the connection to the use of Dick is not obvious in this clip.) This citation is a bit late for Austen, who died in 1817, but it’s not inconceivable, albeit still rather unlikely, that she heard the slang usage.

It could just be a reference to Dick being a general term of reference for a man. The phrase Tom, Dick, and Harry dates to the eighteenth century. Dick also appears in a lot of slang and dialectal terms, everything from names of birds to food, so that may also be what he’s referring to.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 August 2014 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4514
Joined  2007-01-29

Yeah, I seriously doubt this involves the modern slang sense.  The struggle against presentism requires eternal vigilance!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 September 2014 11:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2654
Joined  2007-02-19

There’s an English suet pudding, studded with raisins, which is traditionally called “Spotted Dick”.  Anyone who’s ever seen one will understand why. It’s been around since long before Jane Austen’s time (O’Brian, a stickler for avoiding anachronisms, mentions it a number of times in the Aubrey/Maturin novels).  Austen may very well have been familiar with the pudding, and with the obvious ambiguity of its name. I’m pretty sure that (like millions of other maidens throughout history) Austen was a lot more knowing, and a lot less innocent, than maidens are (against all nature) commonly supposed to be. Austen’s naval connections lend additional plausibility to the notion that she was perfectly aware of the double entendre associated with “Dick” --- which very possibly goes back a long, long, way before any overt, printed reference. “Off-colour” expressions, after all, rarely made it into mainstream print before the twentieth century.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 September 2014 03:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6323
Joined  2007-01-03

The OED only has spotted dick from 1849. It’s an older entry and antedatings may be found, but a quick search of my usual databases turns up nothing earlier. And even if it did, that doesn’t indicate that there would have been anything off-colour in the term’s use.

And O’Brian isn’t the stickler you think he is. His research is pretty good, but quite a few anachronisms slip through, which is almost inevitable given the volume of text he produced.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 September 2014 04:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3986
Joined  2007-02-26

There’s an English suet pudding, studded with raisins, which is traditionally called “Spotted Dick”.  Anyone who’s ever seen one will understand why.

Well I’ve seen it, and I can understand the “spotted” part but there is nothing penis-like about it, so I am not sure what you mean.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 September 2014 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4514
Joined  2007-01-29

I’m with OP; I think you’re assuming something based on your awareness of the current use.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 September 2014 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2654
Joined  2007-02-19

Well I’ve seen it, and I can understand the “spotted” part but there is nothing penis-like about it, so I am not sure what you mean.

You’ve probably seen the common, domestic, roughly spherical version, which indeed doesn’t even vaguely resemble any ordinary dick. But the shape of a pudding depends on the shape of the bag it’s cooked in. Large suet puddings, such as those prepared in institutions, are sometimes cooked in bags not spherical, but elongated --- sausage-shaped (this presumably would help to keep the heart of a large pudding from remaining only partially cooked). At one English school in whose refectory I ate as a child, the boys’ alternative name for suet pudding with raisins was “Peggy’s Leg with Measles”. Not “Peggy’s Butt”, nor “Peggy’s Belly”, nor any other near-spherical part of Peggy.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 September 2014 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1173
Joined  2007-03-01

I often ate that shape of spotted dick at school, and I can’t see any resemblance either. It was just cylindrical, no more penis-shaped than a Swiss roll.

I was surprised that the penis sense of dick was even as early as the late 19th century in Britain. I never heard it in my 1960s/70s London childhood, and when I began hearing it as an adult I vaguely assumed it was an American import. (I’m certain the teachers at my rather prissy primary school had never heard it either; they insisted on our referring to the pudding as ‘spotted dick’ as being the proper genteel name, as opposed to ‘spotted dog’, which they felt was vulgar!)

Going back to Roger Sales’s book, I find that he has a settled determination to find word play where I’m convinced Jane Austen never intended any. Consider this discussion of Persuasion:

Anne gives her father a brief description of Croft’s distinguished career; he fought at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) and was stationed in the East Indies.  Sir Walter is more interested in complexion than courage:  ‘Then I take it for granted, observed Sir Walter, that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery’. This wordplay makes Sir Walter appear unpatriotic as well as ridiculous. Trafalgar is the name of the cape near to which the great naval battle was fought. A battle sometimes retained the word cape in its name, as for instance it does in the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797). Admiral Croft spent the war years fighting, or cuffing, the enemy at various capes. Sir Walter spent them admiring the ‘cuffs and capes’ of his livery.

This is utter rubbish. If Jane Austen was capable of creating a ‘wordplay’ quite so far-fetched and puerile (’Cuffs! Capes! Geddit?’) I’ll eat a Regency bonnet. Sir Walter’s remark is perfectly logical for a man of his interests; a sailor who had been stationed for several years in the East Indies was bound to have a deplorable suntan, and the cuffs and cape (= collar) of a livery coat were the parts made in a contrasting colour to the rest of the garment .

Also, FWIW, the simple information Sir Walter has just been given, “He is rear admiral of the white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and has been in the East Indies since; he has been stationed there, I believe, several years.” does not in fact necessarily imply any great heroism, distinction or activity in Admiral Croft; in the Nelsonian-period navy, to reach the rank of rear-admiral a man needed only the right friends and a modicum of luck.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 September 2014 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2654
Joined  2007-02-19

It’s true --- one has to have a low, dirty mind to see any resemblance between a Swiss Roll (or a Spotted Dick) and a penis. Some of us have such minds.

Psychiatrist (showing Rorschach card to patient): What do you see?
Patient: Two people fucking.
Psychiatrist (showing another card): What do you see here?
Patient: Two people fucking.
Psychiatrist (showing tenth card, after getting the same response every time): What about this one?
Patient: Two people fucking.
Psychiatrist (losing self-control): You keep on giving the same answer!
Patient: Well, you will keep on showing me these dirty pictures.

Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ Gawk-handed-left-handed      Genocide ››