Thursday, 8 November 2012

It's a Cock, It's a Cock, It's a Cock (AKA fun with animals)


I was asked to teach seven-year-olds animal names in English, using the format "What's this? It's a bear". We usually make it into a little chant: I ask "What's this? What's this? What's this?" and the kids chant back "it's a cat, it's a cat, it's a cat!" On this memorable day the home room teacher handed me a deck of flash cards that I hadn't seen before (I think she downloaded them from some EFL site and laminated them herself). The class started off well, and then this happened...
Cock
Not the actual image, this is from http://openclipart.org/detail/104659
... and I had to look at their adorable little smiling faces chanting enthusiastically "it's a cock, it's a cock, it's a COCK!" I suppose I should just be grateful that we weren't doing "I like ~" sentences.
After the class I suggested that the HRTs leave that card out next time, and they explained that they had chosen cock because they'd heard "chicken" was a rude word. I had no idea what they were talking about until they explained that they were told it is an insult to call someone a chicken, and they asked if cock was the same sort of thing. It's hard to explain just how foul (see what I did there?) the English language is to people who are generally not dirty-minded, so I just said "yeah, it's like that."
I'm not sure if this tops the experience (at the same school) of having my students chant "dolphin and whale, dolphin and whale", but it was definitely close. Who would have thought that animals were such a rich source of entertaining vocabulary.
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2 comments:

  1. But it IS a cock.
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/cock_1

    And there's also no denying that a female dog is a bitch.

    It doesn't matter if the word „cock“ has acquired a second meaning describing the male copulatory organ.

    In Italy people could tell you that they don't like to „sweep“ using the word „scopare“. But a fellow Italian could also understand that their compatriot dislikes copulating (with the nuance of „to fuck“).
    Luckily Italians have another word for this cleaning activity - „spazzare“. So they can avoid the „foul language“. But the broom is still called „scopa“.

    In the German language there's the word „Schwanz“ meaning „tail“ in English, but it can also mean „penis”.
    So usually if in an English porn film the word „cock“ was used then it would be dubbed „Schwanz“ in the German version of the film as it has the same connotation.
    But there is no other word for „tail”, so we HAVE to use it.
    (Actually there are some lesser-known words but only for certain types of animals and almost all from hunter's jargon.)

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    1. Thank you, it's interesting to hear about similar slang from other languages. My mother used to talk about "the pretty pussy next door", much to the amusement of my high school friends.
      Of course a cock could be the bird (much the the disappointment of the many googlers who have been directed to this page after searching for "cock picture"), but it's largely fallen out of the language with that meaning. Most young people would say "rooster" rather than "cock". How many people could identify all the meanings of "faggot" over the years I wonder? That isn't the real reason I didn't want to teach the word at that school though. It's a pretty rough area (low SES, high unemployment/teen-pregnancy etc). The kids leap on any English word they think is naughty with relish. Favourites (I assume they get them from American music and TV shows) include "a-hole", "penis" and "fuck you". I really didn't want to add to their arsenal (note to self: also avoid teaching "arsenal" just in case!).
      Anyway, thanks again for the international perspective :)

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