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!):
(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 peckertrace.com 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.
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?”:
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:
And yes, it was a “real” thing, with another example from that year:
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:
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:
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:
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:
April 2021 Update
The following is the illustration to go with the comment below from Jim, Texas:
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:
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?
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