How many times have you stopped short in a sexting session, longing for a more elaborate euphemism for your man's penis? I know, it's so common it's frustrating. "Cock" and "dick" are so harsh-sounding, "penis" is clinical — and that's where the common options really run out. And that's also where, historically, things take a turn for the weird, wonderful, lewd, and frankly, strange. Remember the scene in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, where Kate Hudson names Matthew McConaughey's member "Princess Sophia"? It's a joke, but euphemisms for the male genitalia have definitely been worse — and more peculiar.
The study of euphemisms for genitalia (and yes, it's a genuine area of academic study) has yielded some pretty spectacular results. Jonathan Green's Dictionary Of Slang, which tracks slang from the 1300s and was this article's source, runs to a monumental three volumes; and dude parts form a large part of that enterprise.
But why do we like penis euphemisms so much? The overwhelming idea doesn't seem like an attempt to talk about sex without frightening the ladies (though that was likely part of it) — these euphemisms (which are mostly British) are daft, boastful, highly metaphorical, and fun. It looks like dudes through history just liked talking about their weiners. What a surprise!
But if you're stuck for something to say next time you want to praise your partner's thrusting skills, may I suggest not using one of these 29 selections from antiquated English? Unless, of course, you want a blank face and a rapidly shrinking dingwallace.
First Appearance In Print: 1927
Origin: Because it arrives before you do and makes peaceable negotiations with the enemy, I suppose? And also because it looks good in epaulettes.
Sample sentence: "My ambassador would very much like to make overtures of peace to your queen."
2. Arbor Vitae
First Appearance: 1732
Origin: Literally, the tree of life. Which is both technically correct and slightly boastful.
Sample sentence: "Alas, your arbor vitae appears to have wilted a bit."
3. Bald-Pate Friar
First Appearance In Print: 1656
Origin: Friars had a specific haircut called a "tonsure," which involved shaving the very tops of their heads. For some reason "bald" is a common adjective in penis euphemisms. We get it. They look like a little hairless dude.
Sample sentence: "I'm no priest, but I have a bald-pate friar you can confess to, hurr hurr."
4. Best Leg Of Three
First Appearance In Print: 1890
Sample sentence: "It's the best leg of three, baby, and not just because I have pigeon toes."
5. Buttonhole Worker
First Appearance In Print: 1850
Origins: A buttonhole worker is a piece of sewing kit used to sew the sides of buttonholes, and is, yes, long and thin, and in and out of holes a lot.
Sample sentence: "Would your buttonhole worker like to try to fix this fastening?"
First Appearance In Print: 1928
Origins: This one is so obvious it barely seems worth explaining. Candy sticks, incidentally, date back over 350 years.
Sample sentence: "This candystick's far better for your teeth than those ones that cause cavities, girl."
First Appearance In Print: 1891
Origins: If this is what you use to get yourself a job, you are seriously doing it wrong. Or right, I suppose, if you're in an adult film.
Sample sentence: "Check my credentials. I think you'll find they're fully referenced."
First Appearance In Print: 1935
Origin: Doodle didn't mean a small scrawled drawing, originally: It evolved from a German word meaning "an idiot."
Sample sentence: "A quick ride on my doodle-dasher and I fancy we'll be all set for the evening!"
First Appearance In Print: 1951
Origin: Your guess, ladies and gentlemen, is as good as mine — but "dong," and its variations, appear to have a long history.
Sample sentence: "His dingwallace was ever so peculiar, Gladys."
10. Gentleman Usher
First Appearance In Print: 1719
Origin: No, not that Usher. An usher that shows people to the correct location in buildings. I suppose it shows you where to go?
Sample sentence: "My gentleman usher was far more excited by the play than my brain, I'm afraid. Could you fetch me some new trousers?"
First Appearance In Print: 1944
Origin: OK, this one is kind of adorable, if a little patronizing. Hopefully it refers to causing giggles in its use, not by its appearance.
Sample sentence: "If I don't get any action soon, my gigglestick is going to turn into a sad, faded chuckle."
First Appearance In Print: 1916
Origin: This seems to be a joke about oral sex, or about the propensity to prompt women to yell "Oh God!" Yeah, the standard of humor isn't high, here.
Sample sentence: "No, I do not want to blow on your gospel-pipe, Benedict, and do stop asking me that in church."
13. Holy Poker
First Appearance In Print: 1860
Origin: It's not actually about the kind of poker you can win; this is in reference to the poker made out of metal that's used to stoke a fire.
Sample sentence: "This holy poker's going to heat your coals! Except, not in a diseased sort of way."
First Appearance In Print: 1890
Origin: Giblets are, technically speaking, the offal of a bird — the heart, liver and gizzards — and this appears to be a reference to both the testicles and the penis, which is "jumbled" in with the "giblets."
Sample sentence: "My jumble-giblets are becoming very itchy in this hot weather; perhaps I should acquire softer pantaloons."
First Appearance In Print: 1602
Origin: There's a bit of disagreement about this one. While slang expert Jonathan Green believes it to mean man-parts, Shakespeare used it in All's Well That Ends Well to mean a mistress or wife. And no, we don't know why in either case.
Sample sentence: "Look the other way, Lady Margaret, the vicar has his kicky-wicky waving in the wind."
First Appearance In Print: 1592
Origin: This could mean two things. It could be ladyware as in silverware or hardware — a specific type of product, like wares sold on the street — or ware as in "beware," which is the word's Old English meaning.
Sample sentence: "I am a maker of fine ladyware, and I have the hallmark of quality to prove it."
17. Love Dart
First Appearance In Print: 1890
Origin: This is clearly a Cupid reference.
Sample sentence: "Let my love dart create a bull's eye on the target of your pudendum, sweet love."
18. Master John Goodfellow
First Appearance In Print: 1653
Origin: Presenting one of the first examples of a man giving his penis a much grander name than his own.
Sample sentence: "Master John Goodfellow has been called to attention by your excellent dancing."
19. Matrimonial Peacemaker
First Appearance In Print: 1708
Origin: This just gives me the vision of a married man attempting to defuse an argument by suddenly slapping his "peacemaker" on the table. I'm not sure that would work.
Sample sentence: "The General's matrimonial peacemaker was most distinct through his trousers this morning."
First Appearance In Print: 1621
Origin: Maypoles, in case you don't know about this particular European pastime, were huge poles erected in the centre of a village, around which young women danced at midsummer. So, you wish, basically.
Sample sentence: "All the maidens have danced around young George's maypole this spring, and now five are pregnant."
21. Old Blind Bob
First Appearance In Print: 1965
Origin: The notion of the dick only having "one eye" is actually a fairly old one, but this is one of the only interpretations that suggests it's actually blind.
Sample sentence: "Come give Old Blind Bob a kiss; he won't bite."
First Appearance In Print: 1625
Origin: OK, yes, this one makes sense. Though the implication that it's "breaking in" is a slightly problematic one.
Sample sentence: "I am the picklock of your fortress of virtue, my lady."
23. Plum-Tree Shaker
First Appearance In Print: 1611
Origin: I fail to understand the real idea behind this one. Presumably you shake the tree, and ladies fall on your head? Also, splinters.
Sample sentence: "My plum-tree shaker is mightily excited by yonder serving wench."
24. Pudding Prick (1546)
First Appearance In Print: 1546
Origin: This is the origin of the word "prick" — a pudding prick was a real utensil. It was actually a long skewer used to "fasten the pudding bag" (this was in the days when puddings were boiled inside a bag made of linen).
Sample sentence: "Keep your pudding prick away from my little dish of custard."
25. Shaft Of Delight
First Appearance In Print: 1772
Origin: This is, again, simply boastful. Can you be so sure your shaft is delightful, dude? Do you refer to it under that name in company?
Sample sentence: "What, do you mean to insult my shaft of delight with your scornful expression?"
First Appearance In Print: 1925
Origin: These heavy, marrow-filled bones were, and are, frequently put in soup. They're the source of that bone broth everybody's nattering about. Interestingly, these days, soup bone has evolved to slang for a baseball pitcher's arm.
Sample sentence: "I gave her the soupbone, and the broth was delicious."
27. Stuffed Eel-Skin
First Appearance In Print: 1841
Origin: This actually has a very specific meaning: it was used to denote impotence. The eel skin, being taxidermy, would be lifeless and unable to be much help in bed. Nasty, but accurate.
Sample sentence: "He claimed he had a shaft of delight, but it turned out to be a stuffed eel-skin."
First Appearance In Print: 1675
Origin: This is an odd one: the word "tantrum" only seems to have appeared as a reference to a child's fit of temper in around 1740. So what did this 1675 euphemism really mean? We'll probably never know. Perhaps the two are linked?
Sample sentence: "Stop throwing a tantrum because I don't feel like touching your tantrum."
First Appearance In Print: 1870
Origin: This piece of genius appears to turn up in magazines from 1870 to the late 1880s. It seems to be a nonsense word rather than any distinct reference to "wagging your tool," though.
Sample sentence: "My wife has not paid good attention to my tooleywag lately. I think perhaps I will begin referring to it as Master John Goodfellow, see if that helps."
Images: Giphy; Wikimedia Commons