By Any Other Name

posted by Anthony Fusco, cast member of Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo
In Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, my character, Peter, has a complicated relationship with his penis. In fact, he can hardly utter the word.

The same is true of me. Not because of shyness, but because the word itself is so . . . flaccid.

Penis. Pee-niss. Go ahead and say it out loud a few times right now.

It starts off okay, with that nice firm “p” sound. Lips pressed together, gathering energy behind them until that first sound just erupts. Then—sadly, disappointingly—the rapid decline into “niss.” The poor vowel, short and clipped as it is, rendered even weaker by the intrusive nasality of the “n” as the poor little word dies out in sibilance.

A name that sounds like a mild rebuke, a name invented by a disappointed assistant principal or the department of public health.

A name too meager for something so important. Important to ME anyway.

Not that the other names are much better: dick, cock, thing, wiener, weenie, doodle, joint, shaft, rod, trouser trout, peter (!) pocket mouse, blind cave snake, member, the list goes on and on—most of them sounding like guy’s names, inanimate objects, or small pets.

I’m going to suggest a new one: penax (or maybe peMAX!). Still in the ballpark, but at least with a bit of oomph at the finish.

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