Monday, September 21, 2009

'Mitch Mitch bo-bitch...'

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Sorry I've been away for a while. I've been trying to post interesting stuff, but time keeps slipping away from me. Won't happen again. Who am I kidding? Of course it'll happen again! If I post again before the year is out, it'll be a miracle.

Anyhoo, what lured me back was a story about spotted dick that I read recently (and talked about on a little bizarre-news podcast I co-host). You know spotted dick, right? It's a kind of British suet and raisin pudding they keep in the foreign-food aisle of the grocery store. It's usually right next to the Cadbury chocolate fingers. A spotted dick is always accompanied by a chocolate finger, in fact.

The Daily Mail et al. have reported that a council in north Wales has renamed spotted dick "spotted Richard" because of "childish comments." The nerve!

This story struck me because I've long suggested that people and things with goofy names should change them. Either that or don't complain when people make jokes.

Consider the spotted dick. According to several stories I read, the "dick" in the name isn't eponymous. No one named Dick invented it, and it's not named after a polka-dotted cock. It's probably a bastardization of the word "dough." How the English got "dick" from "dough" is tantalizingly unclear and fascinating -- because it's not as if they use the word "dick" to describe any other dough. Pizza recipes don't call for the dick to be rolled out flat on an oiled board. Bread makers don't suggest adding a sprinkling of extra flour if your dick has gone mushy. But somehow it's come to pass. We're dealing with a culture, the English, where "tea" is a meal and "apples" means "stairs."

However "dough" became "dick," it's dick we're left with nonetheless when spotted and in pudding form. And for years it was fine because the dick didn't ring any alarm bells -- people just ate spotted dick after spotted dick thinking, innocent as lambs, "I like pudding." Fine. Years went by and it became weirder and weirder, until today, on 21st century planet Earth -- here, the term "spotted dick" means the fleshy bit that swings between a male leopard's hind legs. Or perhaps "spotted dick" is a phrase used by horrified ladies to explain to police that they've just seen a flasher.

My point is, I think it's wonderful the council changed the name to "spotted Richard." Sorry, but the rest of society thinks of a penis when they hear the word "dick." Suggesting the overwhelming majority people with a sense of humor not make jokes about the name is being unreasonably uptight. And continuing to name the product "spotted dick" in the face of overwhelming social consensus that "dick" means "penis" and not "dough" is being willfully contrary. If you develop a new variety of apple and on a whim decide to call it "ass fruit," expect people to think it has something to do with ass. That's life.

I don't stop there. Anyone with any weird, profane, or doubly-entendre'd name should change it or not complain. Anyone named Dick, actually. Either understand that you're going to be the target of penis jokes or go with Rich, Rick, Richard, Richie, Ritchie, Ricky, Ricardo, Ri-Ri, or any of the myriad other variations on the theme. If you're fine with the jokes, you don't really care, then you're a strong person emotionally. You also have a name that means "penis." You OK with that? Learn to be.

I used to know someone with the last name that was a slang word for prostitute. This person changed it. Smart move! You know how tiresome it must be to be saddled with that name? The jokes, the sniggering, the innuendo? It sucks but you get one shot at life. Them's the breaks. You can either shake your fist at society for decades, or go down to City Hall, fill out a form, and be done with it. Easy-peasy.

It sounds harsh, but what if your name was Lil Johnson? Mike Hocklicker? Barney Crapo? Harry Butts? Maya Balz? Zowie Bowie? Adolf Hitler Campbell? Tits McGee? City Hall is your friend. Go there and they'll sort it out for a few minutes of paperwork and a small fee. Don't worry about not carrying on the proud and noble Balz family name. It's not proud and noble. It's Balz. As in testicles. If the word "balls" suddenly stops being known to millions of English-speaking people the world over as another word for testicles, fine. Go be a Balz. Until then, when I hear Balz, I think testicles and I'm not wrong.

The English language evolves -- and as with any evolution, sometimes traits become unnecessary, rendered vestigial or even harmful. That's life. Look at this street name that used to be in England: Butt Hole Road. "Butt Hole Road is believed to have been named after a communal water butt that was originally in the area." Dandy -- now it means anus. It used to be something else, and English evolved to the point where it's now the hilarious opening where your body excretes solid waste. They complained and changed it. I think that's marvelous. Why be stuck on Butt Hole Road if you don't have to be? This is what separates human beings from lower forms of life. Celebrate it!

If you do take my advice and change your asinine name to something that can't be joked about, you must be aware that sometimes names don't seem awful at first but they can be. Let's say your name seems perfectly unfunny (Theresa Watley, let's say) but you work in an office where your computer username is rendered as "twatley." This is now a problem. Talk to an IT manager in this case.
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