The Bald-Headed Hermit & The Artichoke: An Erotic
compiled by A.D. Peterkin
Arsenal Pulp Press, 1999
Review by Michael Bryson
Where would we be without sex? Nonexistant, obviously. More importantly,
however, we would be without many of the words which make everyday speech
poetic and ripe with extra-linguistic possibilities. A.D. Peterkin, therefore,
has provided a most essential service by compiling a garden's full of
literary delights, a listing of all the dirty words you've ever heard
of - and dozens more you can add to your vocabulary.
even includes an invitation to send in your own submissions to be included
in subsequent editions, since "erotic slang, like sexuality itself,
is in constant, frenetic, celebratory evolution, limited not by technology
or actual practice but by sheer imagination." (To add your word(s),
The first word in the collection is "Abdomen": "A muscular
abdomen has become a sexual status symbol and a source of obsession for
millions of body-conscious men and women today." Alternatives include:
"abs, alvus, Aunt Nelly, bay window, bazoo, front porch and gizzard."
The last word in the collection is "Wife": "Man of
the terms for wife listed here show a playful ambivalence about married
life - i.e., struggle and strife, awful-wedded wife." Alternatives
include: "ball and chain, best piece, better half, block and tackle,
chief of staff, lawful blanket, old bubble and partner."
Randomly selected from the middle of the collection (honestly!) is
"Masturbation": "The 'hidden vice' is no longer hidden,
as this rather lengthy list reveals." Alternatives include: "abuse,
arm breaker, auto pilot, bachelor's delight, bananas and cream, blue-vein
shuffle, cheesy rollback, cunt-cuddling, finger painting and four sisters
on Thumb Street."
Many of the definitions are illustrated with photographs, most of
which appear to have been taken in the early 1900s, thus adding a somewhat
archaic, lost-in-time tone to the book - which is at odds with the "celebratory"
tone of the introduction - suggesting any discussion of sexuality needs
to be displaced into "history" before it can be safe, codified,
But then, is this a book about sexuality, or a book about language,
or a book about the marriage of the two? From the above list, the latter
must be the choice, though other interpretations are possible - and perhaps
more interesting. From Dr. Johnson's first English dictionary in the 18th
century down to the current day, every listing of words and definitions
includes an implied ideology. The Bald-Headed Hermit is no exception.
What is its ideology? It is something more than celebrating sexuality
as normal, natural and complex. It is something more than revealing the
abundance of human creativity in relation to sex words. Upon closer inspection
it is perhaps an argument about the central role sexuality plays as inspiration
for creative acts. Sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar;
at other times, however, a pen is more than just a pen. Words more than
words. And the bedroom is the location of elaborate cultural productions....
Michael Bryson is the editor of The