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Is Dick a Bad Word?

January 29, 2017
(image via wikimedia)

He wasn’t called Tricky Dick for nothing.  (image via wikimedia)

Dick has the reputation for being a bad word.  Like most bad words, dick has four letters and refers to a body part or body function.  Unlike most bad words, dick is also a name, usually the short nickname for a man named Richard.  This can be a problem, when a name becomes a derogatory term for the male body part.

Even though it’s a bad word, dick is not exclamatory.  You don’t yell out “Dick!!” after you stub your toe or hit your head on a cabinet.  You yell out other four-letter words instead.

Dick is often used as an insult to a male.  Usually a dick is synonymous with being a jerk.  Jerk is a strong word to use, but dick takes it a step further.  “Jerk!” is what you say when you’re in an environment where you could get in trouble for saying “dick!”

There usually aren’t too many adjectives used before the word dick.  The most somebody might say is “What a dick!” but you usually don’t get the string of profane adjectives like “That sh**-eating motherf***ing dick!”  Dick is best used a stand alone.

Everybody knew dick was a bad word back when I was a kid because if you called somebody a dick, he would want to fight you, and parents would punish you if they heard you say it.  The only time you could use the word dick was if it was somebody’s name, and even then, you had to be careful.  You had to be very clear with your parents that Dick was really that guy’s name.

There were a lot of famous Dicks when I was growing up.  A guy named Dick Clark hosted a show called American Bandstand.  A syndicated comedy called The Dick Van Dyke show was on TV every afternoon.  Even the U. S. President Richard Nixon was nicknamed Dick.  So you could be named Dick and still be successful… if you were an adult.

In my elementary school, the entire 1st grade mocked a boy named Dick.  He might have gotten away with being named Dick, but he had a funny last name too, so it was impossible to resist.  If you’re named Dick and you have a funny last name, you’re screwed.  Looking back, I feel bad. Dick with the funny last name, I’m sorry for making fun of you in 1st grade.

Today, even adults laugh at the name Dick.  The latest movie based on the classic novel Moby Dick wasn’t called Moby Dick because everybody laughs at Moby Dick.  In a moment of irony, a co-worker of mine named Peter laughed at the name Dick.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him what Peter means.

Like most profanity, dick has been around longer than some people realize.  According to the dictionary, dick has been slang for the male appendage since at least the early 1800’s, so calling somebody a dick is nothing new.  If anything, dick has shown great endurance by lasting this long as a bad word.

Dick isn’t the only male name that comes with a negative connotation.  Jack is a car thief, and John is a guy who pays for prostitutes. The only reason John and Jack aren’t thought of as bad words is because they don’t refer to a private part.  Society seems to think that being called a male appendage is worse than being called a thief or guy who pays for sex.  Otherwise, we would consider John and Jack bad words too.

It’s okay to name your kids John and Jack now.  If you’re a kid, it’s okay to randomly say “John” or “Jack” without getting punished.  Adults can talk about a John or a Jack without anybody trying to suppress immature giggling.

But dick?  If you’re a polite person, you probably don’t want to say “dick” in public.  And you probably don’t want to name your kid Dick either, unless you expect him to be a jerk.  In that case, Dick would be the perfect name.

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From → Etymology

9 Comments
  1. Wow! I liked your post very much. It was funny to think about… I’ve never stop to reflect that… It’s awesome!

  2. Ah….just wonderful. Thanks for another fantastic post! I thoroughly enjoy reading each and every one and this most certainly is no exception.
    I know someone who goes by the short name of Gabriel…and it isn’t Gabe. You should see the looks I get when I say Hello to him. That’s what was used back in the “old” days when that same name also meant happy or cheerful and there was no problem using it. In fact, just recently I found the my childhood copies of The Faraway Tree and The Enchanted Wood use it quite regularly too. Ah…in fact, Dick is also a character in the one book of those two (Faraway Tree, I think). I’ve noticed it has been changed in the new editions…can’t remember what the replacement name is. The one girl’s name has likewise been change to Fran (If I remember correctly…)

  3. This made me laugh. Haha

  4. You’re not just dickin’ with us, are ya?

  5. “Jerk!” is what you say when you’re in an environment where you could get in trouble for saying “dick!” Hilarious and true!

  6. What do you think of the name this German artist has given himself? http://kingsizedick.de/

  7. “suck a dick” is probably the newer version of calling someone dick nowadays between teenagers, I’d think.

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