I’ve been researching the c–k term since I mentioned on Facebook that I’d included a joke around it in Farewell to Kindness. (Anne’s sister has a pet rooster which the heroine brings with her to stay at the hero’s house, allowing the heroine’s cousin to make jokes about the hero needing a prize-winning c–k).
One of the commenters said that the term in England was cockerel, and that the term c–k wouldn’t be used.
The same conversation came up on a Goodread’s thread, where another novelist asked about acceptable and time-appropriate terms.
It turns out that the one I wanted to use was in common use for both male birds and male members, and was not considered unfit for polite company (even when referring to male domestic fowl) until Victorian times, about 25 years after the setting for my book.
And a cockerel was, until Victorian times, a young male chicken – under 12 months old. The Victorian English applied the junior bird term to all male chickens of any age, while the Puritan Americans reacted to the double entendre a 150 years earlier, and adopted the term rooster.
So I can keep my joke and remain historically accurate, though Alex’s pun would have had him banned from the dinner table if the more innocent ladies at the table had understood his double meaning.
I could go for man Thomas, though there are a number of other possibilities. Calling it a battering piece might break the mood of my love scene, don’t you think? And shaft of delight, while authentic, is rather too congratulatory. Tickle tail is funny, and gay instrument might be misunderstood by today’s readers.
Here, by the way, is the equivalent timeline diagram for female anatomy terms.