The role of the military in adding to the English language should never be underestimated. There are three areas in which I suggest it excels; acronyms, euphemisms, and profanities. From ATACS (Army/Airforce Tactical Systems) to ZODIAC (Zone Defense Integrated Active Capability) there’s enough alphabet soup to run the entire kitchen. And how gentle phrases such as “non-operative personnel” and “collateral damage” sound in comparison to “dead soldiers” and “dead civilians.”
But it is in the area of profanity that new words and new meanings can blossom – as is evidenced by a recent query from my son-in-law who is in the army and was recently accused on being “a fucking chode” by one of his superiors. Not knowing what the word meant, he was able – for maybe the first time ever – to make use of the fact that his father-in-law is a linguist! Usually you want your relatives to have useful jobs, like doctor, attorney, surgeon, car mechanic, drug lord, or at least something that can either help you make money or save it. Sadly, “my father-in-law is a linguist carries no weight whatsoever.
Except on this one occasion.
My first port of call was the OED, although I was pretty sure that because this was said in the context of an army insult, either the word or its meaning was unlikely to be there. And sure enough, it wasn’t. The OED has chode as a “strong past tense” of the word chide, and the form choad doesn’t even appear. So this was clearly more likely to be found in the Urban Dictionary.
Both chode and choad appear as variants of the one word. More importantly, the word has TWO meanings. The first is “a penis thicker than it is long,” and the second is “the area of skin between the anus and the base of the scrotum.” The latter is referred to technically as the perineum. And as to the former definition, I didn’t try to verify its anatomical accuracy – feel free to do your own Google image search.
The more common spelling is chode, with 2,2oo,ooo ghits; the choad spelling only gets some 233,000. I propose that the choad option came about because of the similarity with the word toad and the physical similarity between the said amphibian and a penis – especially a small, fat one.
As an aside, on Peter Gabriel’s 1992 Us album, he has a track called “Kiss That Frog,” which is a not-so-subtle reference to oral sex: “Kiss that frog, and he’s going to be your prince.” And if you’ve never read Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment – a Freudian analysis of fairy stories, including The Frog Prince – you really do owe it to yourself to order a copy right now. Trust me, it’s well worth the read!
But wait, there’s more!
Some folks have suggested that the word is related to the Gujurati verb chodana meaning to fuck, with choda being the past participle form, fucked. There’s also the Persian word choda meaning god, although this is probably just coincidental. However, I thought it was worth pointing this out if only because I find it funny.
Suffice to say that as far as my son-in-law goes, I opted for simply telling him that the chances are his sergeant was calling him a dick.
And who say linguistics is boring!