amber & dork

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Nov 29 12:56:21 UTC 2001

At 11:24 AM -0800 11/29/01, ANNE V. GILBERT wrote:
>>  Dork once (late 19C-1930s) meant a thick slice of bread and butter but I
>>  doubt that even the most dedicated anti-foodie could call that 'risque'.
>>  What I asume is its risque meaning stems from the slang use of the word to
>>  mean a penis, which seems to have emerged in the 1960s and is cited in
>>  American Speech (39:2 p.118) as 'probably Midwestern'. It is paired with
>>  _dirk_ and is a. one of those terms in which the penis is equated with
>>  form of stabbing instrument and b. a 'penis term' that is also used to
>>  a fool. The ety. may also include the influence of another popular slang
>>  penis-synonym with a 'd' initial, _dick_.
>Tha'ts approximately when I heard it, but during that period, it never
>achieved widespread popularity, at least not among anyone of my age at the
>time(which was pretty young).  Then next time I heard "dork" was my
>daughter, describing, a somewhat foolish person.
>Anne G

Nobody's cited the RHHDAS entry yet on this.  (On "dork", that is,
not the now inextricably related item "amber".  We can all look
forward to the remake of the classic tearjerker starring contemporary
counterparts of  Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, George Sanders, and
Jessica Tandy in "Forever Dork".  The original--Forever
Amber--version is critiqued in my VideoHound Movie Retriever as
flawed by the fact that "the censorship of the 1940s hindered the
film's erotic potential", but presumably that won't be a problem with
the "Forever Dork" version.)

RHHDAS does indeed give 'the penis' as the first gloss for "dork",
with a faux-elegant orthographic variant in its first cite:

1961  Peacock _Valhalla_ [ref. to 1952] "You satisfy many women with
that dorque?"

There's also a lively cite from Portnoy's Complaint (1968), but the
dictionary also cites an Am Speech article from 1964 that maintains
"dork" and "dirk" are 'two variants [of "dick"] that are probably
Midwestern'.  The latter surfaced recently (well, fairly recently) as
the Christian [!] nom-de-porn of the protagonist of Boogie Nights.
(Dirk Diggler was the, character portrayed by Marky Mark
Wahlberg, with the help of a memorable prosthesis for the last scene.)

RHHDAS does include a second sense for "dork":  'a stupid or
obnoxious person', with the first cite from 1967.  There's also a
verb "dork", related to the first sense, and various
derivatives--"dork around", "dorkbreath", "dorkbrain", "dorkface",
"dorky", etc.--from the latter.


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