Peckertrace: Little Boys Will Be Little Boys

Yet Another Case of a Certain Kind of Story (which I usually ignore, rather than feature in True) has led to a new This is True word:

peckertrace (pĕk′ər trās)

n.: an image created by a little boy man who thinks making a giant outline of a phallus is some sort of proof of manhood — a “mine is so huge that…” boast that actually reveals his fear of “mine is so tiny that…”.

In other words, he’s kind of a dick, and hasn’t grasped the well-worn and excellent advice, “Don’t be a dick.”

You’ve seen them before: now there’s a word for them.

The Triggering Example


Investigators say the Ever Given, which is still completely blocking the Suez Canal, was a freak accident due to heavy winds jamming it into the sand, not an error by its captain. But its captain may still be reprimanded: Internet users have tracked just about everything to do with the voyage, and discovered that before it went into the canal, it navigated a peckertrace — a phallic shape picked up by course-tracking software. The ship has so far resisted being freed by a fleet of tugboats, and once it’s unstuck it could take “weeks” to clear the backlog of ships waiting in the Gulf of Suez to go through the canal. (RC/Sydney Telegraph) …No matter how big they make it, it still means “embarrassingly tiny.”

The illustration for that story, from True’s 28 March 2021 issue (click if you really feel the need to see it …bigger!):

The Ever Given’s peckertrace, discovered by

(Update: the day after the story was written, the Ever Given was finally freed from its predicament.)

In Case You Didn’t Already guess, it’s that story that made me think there had to be a word for the phenomenon, and peckertrace is the first word that popped into my head. (It was not a shock that was available. It isn’t anymore!)

Such tracings certainly don’t have to be on the surface of the ocean. Here’s another example, from the 19 November 2017 issue:

This Kind of Exhibition Too

The U.S. Navy has grounded the two-man crew of a jet which traced out a design in the sky over Okanogan in central Washington, about 125 miles from the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island. The giant outline of a phallus was so obvious in the clear daytime sky that social media instantly lit up with photos posted by people on the ground. “The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable,” a NAS spokesman said. “We are holding the crew accountable.” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker promised an investigation. “Sophomoric and immature antics of a sexual nature have no place in Naval aviation today,” he declared. The jet was identified as an EA-18G Growler, a carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft used to thwart enemy radar and communications. (RC/Spokane Spokesman-Review, Washington Post, AP) …And the Navy was mighty embarrassed to learn it could easily be thwarted by social media.

An official United States Navy peckertrace, via Twitter.

There have been other examples, such as this one from my Randy’s Random site lampooning the ridiculous advertising concept, “_____ trusts our product, shouldn’t you?”:

Originally published 2 February 2017. Illustration created by the author.

A Long Cultural Phenomenon

Can there be positive uses of peckertraces? You bet! Like this one, part of a testicular cancer awareness campaign in New Zealand — where the creator had a particularly good sense of humor in choice of place:

Image of the Cox’s Bay Reserve by scottfromnz on Instagram in 2017 with the caption, “Just gone balls out for Testicular Cancer. Now I wanna see yours!”

And yes, it was a “real” thing, with another example from that year:

Image by taufooz (popular rugby forward Jordan Taufua) on Instagram: “lets get behind Testicular Awareness Month. #GoBallsOut You can walk/jog/run. Using any excersise app Take a photo of your cock&balls map and post it on your social media to raise awareness.”

But More Often…

It’s usually silliness, like the effort of this pilot in Adelaide, S.A., Australia, who included his specific reasoning right right within the dual peckertrace:

“Young instructors, what can you do?” noted Flight Training Adelaide’s Pine Pienaar, who admitted the pilot was one of his flight instructors. The instructor, he said in 2019, was told to fly for two hours at a specific throttle setting to break in a new engine on a Diamond DA40, a 4-seat light plane built in Austria and Canada that’s popular for training (via

And despite the U.S. Navy pilots’ punishment in 2017 noted above, a military crew from southern California’s Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 couldn’t resist making their own peckertrace:

A 2018 peckertrace from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in a T-34C trainer (via AircraftSpots).

In 2016, Emilian Sava made this icy peckertrace with a snow blower as an apology for destroying an earlier (and much smaller) effort in Gothenburg, Sweden:

Photo: Emilian Sava’s peckertrace via CBC, which has the full story.

Peckertraces Go Back Centuries

Last, the concept is certainly not new! They’ve discovered many from the ancient world. The Cerne Abbas Giant chalk figure in Dorset, England, is a remarkably well preserved peckertrace dated to the late 17th century:

Why is the site fenced? This peckertrace is protected by Britain’s National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. (Really!) The Cerne Abbas Giant is so famous that the Royal Mail exempted picture postcards with the image from its prohibition of “obscene” post cards. (Image CC 3.0 by Pete Harlow, cropped.)

So… anything else that needs a new word? My keyboard is already warmed up!

Other Examples

The following is the illustration to go with the comment below from Jim, Texas:

Half of a panoramic mosaic made by NASA/JPL’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in 2004, showing its tracks made when getting to this position. “It’s not a purposeful design,” NBC news noted in 2013, but rather the result of turning the rover around which, of course, “has been left on Mars many times, not only by Spirit (which gave up the ghost in 2010 or so), but also by Opportunity (which is still going strong more than nine years after landing on Mars),” the report said. (Image made in 2004: NASA PIA07342).

British pilot Amy Whitewick upped the ante. (“Two Navy aviators outraged some and delighted others when they drew a big ol’ contrail sky phallus over an expanse of Washington state in 2017,” wrote Navy Times. “But recently, some Brits said, ‘hold my warm beer’.”)

Which led to this, in True’s 24 July 2022 issue:

Sky Sketch

Whitewick’s result.

Twelve pilots from Henstridge, Somerset, England, joined together in operation “Art Force 1”. The team leader, Amy Whitewick, gave each team of two a path to fly. “None of them had any idea what the final image would look like,” Whitewick said. “Each team was given a small, unrecognizable chunk which, when flown, recorded on SkyDemon and sent back would be stitched together digitally to form the final image.” The effort was an apparent one-up on U.S. Navy pilots who drew a giant phallus in the sky in 2017. Over a period of six months, the SkyDemon GPS software recorded the paths of the six planes, which Whitewick combined to form a portrait of …Queen Elizabeth II. “I must thank the team members for their extraordinary courage to push the boundaries of aviation forward, to try something new to them and air sports as a whole,” Whitewick said. “Their unwavering trust in following a somewhat crazy artist, and their unrivaled strength and tenacity of spirit is of considerable merit.” (MS/Newsweek) …Who needs a peckertrace when you can have a potentatetrace?


An Armed Forces of Malta’s AW139 helicopter made this peckertrace in January 2023. The AFM insisted was not deliberate, as “The flight tracking shown was segmented as the helicopter was flying low altitude and did not show the completed flight path.”
In August 2023, a Lufthansa pilot was diverted to Malta by Sicily’s Catania airport since wind shear made it too dangerous. The pilot drew this peckertrace on his way to Malta. Lufthansa officials said that the path was “not intentional.” Riiiiiight.

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11 Comments on “Peckertrace: Little Boys Will Be Little Boys

  1. I like the new word peckertrace. Regrettably I foresee a continued need for such a word.

    Congrats to the crew who freed up the Ever Given, and boo on her captain for the peckertrace.

  2. “Peckertrace” is an ingenious (and somewhat elegant!) word for this practice. Now we need a word for those who create them. I was thinking “peckertracer” but it seems a bit clumsy to me. My next thought was a modified version of a famous fictional character’s moniker. Do you think “dicktracer” would work or could it potentially lead to legal/copyright issues?

    I don’t think there would be legal issues, but I’m not sure there needs to be a word for it when “dumbass” or “adult little boy” would suffice. 🙂 -rc

  3. When gyms were closed during the pandemic, I started walking around my neighborhood for exercise. Naturally I decided to download a smartphone app that allowed me to track my activity. One of the app’s features is the ability to see suggested walking and running routes that other people have done. You can probably guess where this is going: apparently back in 2014, someone did a 1.8 mile run through my area in the shape of a giant penis. Glad there’s now a word for such a thing. 🙂

    Now that’s funny! -rc

  4. OMG Randy, I’m a couple days late reading True this week, and I have to tell you that I saw the word peckertrace already. Sadly I cannot remember where! But it was obviously not the newsletter, and definitely not your blog, and I really don’t think it was on Facebook (where perhaps I might have seen it if you made any references). And I don’t follow any of your other social media. So I thought you’d like to know about this (admittedly circumstantial) evidence that it may be gaining a little traction.

    It is a genius neologism.

    Before I published this post I googled the word: zero hits. But after seeing your note I googled it again, and (in addition to what was on this site) found two references, both in the wildlands of the .xyz domain space, slipped in haphazardly in pages that appear to be “adult” in nature. They moved fast! But weirdly, today’s goog search didn’t find my posts yesterday on Twitter or Facebook pointing to this page. They’re falling behind on their indexing! -rc

  5. Randy — you come from the world of JPL and NASA, yet not a single mention of the most otherwordly peckertrace of all time? When the Mars rovers Spirit and/or Opportunity created their masterpiece on the red planet?

    I think there’s a vast difference between purposefully drawing a pecketrace and the natural result of a spin maneuver from a multi-wheeled vehicle, even if if the result is a peckertrace, but I’ve added a photo and explanation above. -rc

  6. Great new word! The first time I saw the picture from Whidbey, I thought it was supposed to be a 10 gallon cowboy hat. Just sayin’!

    “Is that a ten-gallon hat or are you just enjoying the show?” —Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles. -rc

  7. I’ve often heard how difficult it is for an ocean liner to change course, and the Ever Given is even bigger. So I find it hard to believe the skipper would have both the time and space to make such a manouver.

    Probably depends entirely on the speed they’re going, and it’s difficult to tell the scale on that “map” to know how tight those turns really are. But the bottom line is, they did sail that route. -rc

  8. I have half my left forearm (birth). I find these funny and love there is a real term for them now.

    (Keep in mind I can outdo most guys: I can pass *two* short-arm inspections.)


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