First published December 2011
After my post pooh and shite, tits and funbags, it just makes sense to tackle, well the “tackle”.
Long story short, the Etymology Dictionary Online attributes the “family” bit to a play on words for testicles – how I have no idea at all – while the jewels probably comes from decoration, which through various incarnations and a trip via Yiddish, is associated with the word for penis!
Regular readers of my etymology of slang posts will be aware of my obsession with the Oxford’s distinctions. The great tome lists family jewels ( a man’s genitals) as “informal”, but has decided that wedding tackle (see below) is vulgar. Ha!
Whatever the word historians say I’m pretty sure that the origin of the terms is much more straight forwarded. The other definition of the expression is “jealously guarded secret or assets”. I’m yet to meet a bloke who isn’t protective of his “assets.”
As a noun “tackle” is defined as equipment, predominantly of the sporting variety and specifically for fishing (lure). Wedding tackle (British vulgar) is therefore thought to add to the concept: luring one’s future wife.
I prefer the 14th century verbal form though, “entangle, involved,” – it just seems more gritty. (Etymology for both is available on the Online Etymology Dictionary)
Whichever word origin spawned the term, it’s good to see that at some time or another society thought it was men who were doing the ”luring” and ”entangling”. Pity this has been turned into a derogative female-only pursuit in modern times.
As an aside: I advise reading this entry on the Urban Dictionary entry purely for the examples of usage.
Meat and two veg
Meat, as a stand in for penis, has been about since the 1590s. It also meant vagina and prostitute though. But try explaining the vegetable part …..
As with most things, the simple explanation is often the right one. Visually speaking the genitals do kind of resemble a sausage with a couple of spuds! And since meat and two veg is another way of describing a meal that is common and simple, well I think you get my point.
The Oxford is once again pretty dry on the topic citing only: British informal, a man’s genitals. It is followed quite humorously though by the proverb: One man’s meat is another man’s poison. (Let it run through your mind for a while.)
I particularly love the term lunchbox (mainly UK and Aus) because it specifically deals with genitals covered by clothing – we need to be accurate after all when identifying whether the parts in question are naked to the world. (The Online Slang Dictionary however does provide usage as: “I looked over and his lunch box was hanging out”.)
The term can also apply to someone who is vague, absentminded or just plain weird. Thought to have come from “he’s out to lunch”. Can’t but laugh that “stupid person” and “testicles” come from the same starting point. The Oxford backs me up on that perspective listing lunchbox as British humorous a man’s genitals.
Despite my best efforts I can’t find the etymology behind lunchbox, but it’s pretty logically that when carrying around your meat and two veg a lunchbox is the most sensible option.
Random details picked up during research:
- Shmuck, from Yiddish shmok, also means penis, probably coming from old polish for grass snake
- Meathead was first coined in 1945. And guess what – it comes from the words meat + head!
- Meat market “place where one looks for sex partners” is from 1896
- Vegetable as an adjective used to mean vigorous, lively, fit to live. It wasn’t until the 1850s that the term became associated with boring, dull or lifeless.
- Lunchboxing is not equivalent to brown bagging. Enough said. If you are sensitive by nature DON’T look it up.
- KISS front man Gene Simmons has a TV show called Family Jewels.
- Austin Powers scene on the subject
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