The Definition of "Dork" Has Nothing to Do with Whales!

Whale
What's the definition of dork?. Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Attention, Internet!

Despite what you're apt to read on any of over 10,000 (and counting) web pages, the word dork does not mean, and has never meant, whale penis.

I defy anyone who claims it does to show it defined as such in any respectable dictionary, past or present, or used as such in any reference book or literary work about whales or whaling published since, well, the dawn of publishing.

(Please note that this article was originally posted in May 2009 and no such evidence has been produced to date.)

There's no shortage of documents online discussing the finer points of whale reproduction and cetacean sexual anatomy, yet not one of them makes use of the word dork. You won't find it in Moby-Dick, or any other novels about whaling, nor in any historical accounts of the whaling industries in North America, Japan or anywhere else in the world.

Origins

Though its precise origins remain somewhat obscure, etymologists do generally agree that dork — typically defined as "a stupid, foolish, or inept person" — has only been in common usage since the 1960s, and is most likely a variant of dick — which is, in fact, a slang term for penis, but not specifically that of a whale.

The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2007), for example, defines it thus:

dork noun 1 the penis US, 1961. 2 a socially inept, unfashionable, harmless person US, 1964.

As in every other source I've checked — including the ultimate authority on English word origins, the Oxford English Dictionary — there is no mention of whales.

None.

The earliest known use of the word in print occurs in the 1961 novel Valhalla by Jere Peacock, in which a character says, "You satisfy many women with that dorque?" It's clear from the context that dorque (interesting spelling, no?) refers to the male sexual organ, but, again, the reference pertains to humans, not whales.

The experts speak

For good measure, I queried several whale experts — Professor C. Scott Baker of the OSU Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, John Calambokidis, senior research biologist and co-founder of Cascadia Research, Phillip Clapham of the National Marine Mammal Laboratory and author Richard Ellis (The Book of Whales, Men and Whales, Encyclopedia of the Sea, etc.) — all of whom told me they had never seen nor heard the word dork used in reference to a whale's reproductive anatomy — ever.

Lastly, in answer to those who have tried to rebut these findings by arguing that if enough people use the word dork to mean "whale penis" then it's a valid definition, here's what's wrong with that argument. The phenomenon we're discussing isn't people using the word that way — nobody really does! — the phenomenon is people claiming that dork means "whale penis" on the basis of no empirical evidence whatsoever.

People also claim that the word fuck originated as the acronym of "Fornication Under Consent of the King," and that shit was originally the acronym of "Ship High in Transit." Does that mean it's true?

I think you already know the answer to that question.

Sources and further reading:

Dork
WordOrigins.org, 11 June 2006

Definition of "Dork"
Merriam-Webster.com

Definition of "Dork"
OxfordDictionaries.com

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Urban Legends, 24 October 2013