1. The penis. 2. A railroad policeman. 3. A detective; any policeman. "I didn't know I was putting the prowl on (burglarizing) a dick's flat till I found the tin (badge) and biscuit (revolver)."

- american underworld dictionary - 1950
I was told this a while ago by an ex-boyfriend and it never ceases to amuse me.

It's not easy being a dick. You have a head, but you can't think; you have an eye, but you can't see; you're always hanging around with a couple of nuts; your next door neighbor is an asshole and every time you get excited, you throw up.

In some circles, dick is the proper name for any phallus, whether penis or dildo. (I'm told this is correct usage for the queer community in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I've seen similar usage in short fiction.)

In the straight world, a dick is a penis. The distinction between dick and not-dick is: Is it an actual penis?

In the broader sense I describe, the question is simply: Is it intended to be used as a dick? Its material composition doesn't matter.

To refer specifically to "real" dick, one can say "organic dick".

SOURCE: Conversation with a publisher/author whose name I will not drop, but who knows whereof sie speaks.

This surprisingly amusing comedy concerns two fifteen-year-old girls, Betsy (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams), who, through an unlikely series of events, become "Deep Throat", the secret source that broke the Watergate scandal. The apparently absurd plot works, thanks to a good script, competent direction (by Andrew Fleming), goofy acting by a slew of Saturday Night Live and Kids in the Hall comedians, and a totally retro sound and feel that transports those of us who were alive at the time right back into the seventies in all their hippie glory.

The film begins when Arlene, with Betsy in tow, sneaks out of the suite she shares with her mother (seventies icon Teri Garr) at the Watergate Hotel in the middle of the night to mail off her submission to the "Win a Date with Bobby Darin" contest. They run into Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy (Harry Shearer) in the stairway; he views them with suspicion, but they scream at the tops of their lungs and run away. (Shrieking loudly and in unison gets these giggly girls out of lots of scrapes.) The next day, the girls wander away from their high school tour of the White House and spot a man with TP stuck to his shoe. Thinking to spare him the humiliation of walking around with loo paper trailing behind him, they run after him, but it turns out to be Liddy, and the TP is a list of "creeps" (actually members of the Committee to Re-elect the President with amounts they were paid to cover up Watergate). The girls can't place Liddy, but he remembers them, so he persuades Bob Haldeman (Dave Foley) to question them. The girls end up meeting and charming the presidential pooch Checkers, and through him Nixon (Dan Hedaya), who decides to appoint them as his official dog-walkers and secret youth advisors.

The movie moves at a quick pace, interspersing well-known historical events of the time with hilarious vignettes. A recurring gag involves the girls baking "hello dollies", cookies using walnuts in which Betsy's brother keeps his pot (Betsy: "he says they're walnut leaves"); the Secret Service men can't get enough of these treats, and they cause Leonid Brezhnev to break into song and embrace detente. Arlene falls in love with the president (Arlene wails "I love Dick" to snickers from passers-by) and has a fantasy of him leaving Pat and building her a sandcastle White House.

But when the girls find a tape of Tricky Dicky kicking his dog, they realize they've seriously misjudged him. Their interaction with Bob Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Carl Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch) had started off with a crank call, but when they realize what a bad man Nixon really is, they turn over their evidence (except the "creeps" list, which Betsy's dog ate). When the president resigns and his helicopter flies over their house, they're ready, waving a giant "You suck, Dick!" sign at him.

This movie was much better than I expected it to be. It's silly, yes, but a good laugh, and a fun juxtaposition to something like "All the President's Men", a rather more serious take on the same subject. And it answers the question, "why didn't Bernstein and Woodward reveal who Deep Throat was?" As Woodward says in this movie, "it would just be too embarrassing."

Dick was once a very common nickname for people with the given names of Richard or Ricard. In 1890, for reasons unknown, Dick started to be used as a slang term for penis, and the use of Dick as a nickname thereafter became less and less common, although it is still used today, perhaps primarily in rather informal contexts. Some well known people still go by Dick -- Dick Armey and Dick Cheney, for example.

Dick first appeared in the 1220s, as a rhyming nickname for Rick, which is in turn the shortened form of Richard. Rhyming nicknames were common in those days, and the centuries from 1200 to 1600 produced hundreds of them. We still use many of them, such as Polly from Molly (which in turn comes from Mary), Bill from Will (from William), and Bob from Rob (from Robert).1 These were often used as a diminutive form to begin with, but later became more common and formalized, to the extent that we have surnames like Dickson, Dixon, and Dickens, all meaning the 'the son of Dick'.

By the 1550s Dick had come to mean everyman, used to refer to any random guy, as in 'hey, look at that fellow over there!'. At this point it had none of the negative connotations that we would assume if we heard someone speaking about 'that dick over there'. It was still a diminutive, so it was sometimes used as a synonym for 'lad', although it was also used for older men. This is the sense that it is still used in in the phrase Every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

From the 1500s through the 1800s 'dick' saw an explosion of meanings, most of which are no longer used. Quoting from the OED, dick was used to mean: 1. a kind of hard cheese eaten in Suffolk; 2. a plain pudding, as in treacle dick, groaty dick, and spotted dick; 3 a riding whip (as in 'he held a gold-headed dick'); 4 a leather apron; 5 a ditch or the bank of a ditch (perhaps a form of dike); 6 an abbreviation for dictionary, and thus a synecdoche for long and fancy words ("a man who uses fine words without much judgement is said to have 'swallowed the dick'"2); 7 an abbreviation for declaration, which in the late 1800s was not uncommon in the phrase 'to take one's dick' -- meaning to make one's declaration2; 8. and an abbreviation for detective, as in 'a private dick'. There are also some odd regional constructions, such as the dick-a-dilver, meaning a periwinkle; the dick-a-Tuesday, meaning a will-o'-the-wisp; the long-tailed-dick, meaning the long-tailed titmouse; and the dick-ass, meaning a donkey.

We do not know how dick came to have its current slang meaning, except that it originated in the ranks of the British army as a slang term among the troops, circa 1891. This suggests that it arose simply out of tradition, as the related slang term Johnson came to us from the same source, circa 1863. As did the also related term John Thomas (which never really made it across the Atlantic), in 18873.


1. Richard also gave rise to the nickname Hick. Eventually hick came to mean a random man-on-the-street, and then an innkeeper or hackneyman (i.e., someone for rent) and by the 1700s it referred to any provincial, unworldly person (a rube). We still use it in this sense today. John, Jack, and Tom, along with Richard and Dick also came to have similar meanings in various contexts.

2. Yes, really.

3. It is interesting, although completely off-topic, to note that the earliest of these British army terms that I can find is in the song Yankee Doodle, which was written in 1775 by British Army surgeon Dr. Richard Schuckburgh, and was sung to mock the American troops. It is suspected that 'doodle' was intended to be a cunning yet subtle reference to the male member, but that this meaning was lost when the Americans decided to take the song as their own.

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