A Penis for Your Thoughts
Nowadays they teach little kids to say penis instead of euphenisms like weewee or Little Joey. When I was growing up and had to mention mine to my parents, I used a grown-up word – thing. Not that I had to mention it very often. Actually just once – the day I had to dress in the same room with a very sneaky, mean duck.
By the time I got to high school, I’d learned some grown-up words for it. Those were so grown-up that I’d never dare use them in front of my parents, teachers, or other grown-ups. The only people I could say those grown-up words to were my teenage friends. Lord knows I couldn’t say "weewee" to them. "Penis" would have been worse.
As I grew older and older, the rules I’d learned as a teenager continued to apply. Certain words – the childish, the grown-up, or the scientific – were not to be used in talking with anyone who was a close friend of the same sex. But the words I could use with friends were to be abandoned when talking with anyone who might report me, slap me, or pray for me.
You could always tell what was okay and what was no-way by watching network television. If they said it on Friends or Seinfeld, you could say it to your minister.
Then one night I was watching Drew Carey and he said "penis"! The audience roared. Before the program ended, he said penis thirty-four times.
I don’t think Carey was the first to say "penis" on network TV, but he was in the vangard. As they say in France, "Apres vous la deluge de penis!" From that first "penis" on Carey, it got so you couldn’t turn on the TV without someone blathering about a penis. And I’m not counting Bob Dole. For a couple of months, television had more penis-talk than commercials. Well, almost more.
Eventually the excitement over "penis" wore off. Audiences stopped laughing at its mention and simply accepted it as another word in a conversation. For shock laughs, comedy writers dredged up "vagina." Sometimes "penis" and "vagina" were together on the same program.
I haven’t been watching much television lately, so I’m not certain what the latest shockword is. Recently, while channel-surfing, I swear I heard someone say "fellatio." Of course I may have hit a cable channel.
Sometimes I speculate about what words will be common on television in ten years if things keep going the way they are. Naturally I don’t speculate out loud if there are grown-ups around.