My stuff and your stuff: I write books, produce music, rant a bit, and in the meantime review things other people have done. With words.

The Dick Problem


There’s a lot of madness in this world. We all know that. From the third-world problems of famine and disease that their governments seem to do little about, to first world problems like dealing with Dick.


Being both an abbreviation of the name Richard and slang for a p*nis, poor Dick is in a strange situation. If you wanted to get his attention in the street, you might shout ‘Dick!’ Parents would cover the sensitive ears of their offspring. If you had read a novel by Philip K. Dick, several review sites wouldn’t allow you to use his name. He’d be called D*ck. Or worse, ****.


Poor ****. There’s a veterinary school in Edinburgh called The Royal (Dick). The giant whale, Moby Dick. The pudding, spotted dick. And then there’s a d*ck.


I wonder how many search engines and email spam filters disallow Sc*nthorpe or reference to the football team Ars*nal. Nigerian footballer Nw*nkwo Kanu used to play for Ars*nal.


Where one is inoffensive – for example, introducing a friend called Dick, another is considered unacceptable – I’ve got a massive throbbing d*ck. Same word.


Is feck as bad as f*ck? They might as well both be f*ck. So is f*ck as bad as f*ck? If I tell someone to go fark themselves, have I invented a word of no meaning or uttered something wildly offensive?


As we all know, there are various species of tit in the bird world, but if I were to exclaim ‘I love tits!’, even in an aviary, even if I was standing right next to one and wearing a T-shirt with a tit on it, I’d be skating on thin ice with the management, regardless of my patronage and appreciation for those little tits.


I could probably get away with walking around saying ‘minge’ a lot. Now minge is a sort of icky sounding word, isn’t it, and the older generations probably have little idea of what it means so there’s no need to censor it with the all-important asterisk that deflects all offensive meaning like a shiny shield of morality. Try it out for yourself and see if anything happens. Put it on your Christmas list.


A friend of mine always grins when he points out that the Danish word for shaving foam is barberskum. Now I for one am not going to walk into the barber’s asking for any of that. But perhaps a Danish chap might. Gosh.


Recently my son was rhyming to himself, and eventually happened on the sound ‘wank’. He proceeded to chant ‘wanking, wanking, everybody’s wanking’. Then he looked up at me, then to his mother, and carried on: ‘daddy’s wanking!’


Of course that’s OK. Why wouldn’t it be? He’s a child, just five years old when he blurted out that stream of expletives. So it’s OK for a child because he doesn’t know what w*nking is, but if he was 16 that’d be considered wilfully wrong.


In the USA it’s OK to say you’re p*ssed off. Not here in morally superior England, where it’s wee or nothing. You could say you’re micturated off, I suppose, but hardly anyone knows that micturating is another word for pissing and it lacks the same impact. Yet it’s probably more acceptable to say you’re going for a poo than to say you’re off for a dump, or to drop the kids off at the swimming pool. Likewise, one could announce they were off to ‘drain the lizard’ rather than micturate into the bowl and still trigger gasps of unbidden shock.


But it’s probably best not to ever refer to trips to the toilet because it’s just so shocking, isn’t it? Although we are essentially walking bags of excrement, carrying food around until it is brown enough to expel forcefully out of our wrinkly airlocks, we shouldn’t ever talk about it. Heavens, no.


What’s the most offensive: p*o, t*rd, c*ck, b*m cigar, sh*te, ars* candy, l*g…? It depends who you say it to. If you were talking to the Pope and he’d just fallen over into a massive pile of p*o, then he stood up and his bodyguards attempted to wipe it all off but missed a bit, how would you deal with the situation? ‘Hey Pope, you’ve got a few flakes of sh*t hanging off your eyelid.’ Or ‘Hey Pope, you’ve got a massive dollop of excr*ment stuck in your nostril. It looks like you’ve been snorting ar*e candy.’ Either way you’ve delivered some helpful information, so would he, a holy man, rebuke you for your choice of language?


Does it even matter? No. We live in a f*cked-up society where words are given negative impact because someone said they should. Dastard is, historically, much worse than b*stard. Considering the proportion of kids who actually are b*stards these days, born out of wedlock, it’s still considered a dirty word. Yet it’s OK to say something has been bastardised.


So back to poor Dick, a child growing up innocently amid the burden of filth that rests on his name. Friends of his parents innocently observe: ‘My, how your Dick’s grown. He was a really small Dick the last time I saw him. Oh, we just love your Dick. We’ve got a box at home I bet Dick would love to get in. Would you bring your big Dick round and put him in my box?’


‘Oi Dick, stop playing with your d*ck!’