Friday, 31 October 2008

Could You Handle a Slippery Dick?

The Slippery Dick is actually a fish. It comes from the Western Atlantic and can be found all the way down, from North Carolina to Bermuda and Brazil. You will find it in grass beds and shallow reefs close to the shore. Why, does it get its name? Well, the slippery bit is because it coats itself with a kind of mucus when alarmed as a form of defense strategy. So, if you were to take hold of a Slippery Dick you would have to be very careful it didn’t slip out of your grasp! Where the “Dick” part comes from is anyone’s guess. Ahem. Do you think you could – or would want to – handle a Slippery Dick?


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Your average Slippery Dick reaches about thirty centimeters or so in length. For those of you who are still using the imperial scale, that’s a whopping twelve inches. So if you were to catch one you could well exclaim that your Slippery Dick was larger than anyone else’s – if that of course were the case. Men, old and young alike, have been known to compare the size of their Slippery Dicks in public, usually at the sea shore. It is said that these men are usually angling for something.



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The Slippery Dick looks as if it is reluctant to own up to its name – or perhaps it is even ashamed! Anthropomorphism aside, the Slippery Dick swims with its tail down, as if it is dragging it along. Perhaps weighed down by is own name? Another theory might be the fact that, despite the name it is a protogynous hermaphrodite. This is when an animal begins its life as a female. Yes, it’s true! Every single Slippery Dick in existence was born female. Later, many of the population will shift sex to become male and the Slippery Dick will be able to continue the circle of life!


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The Slippery Dick comes in several shades. The colors vary hugely. They can be a light purple color, to shades of green and brown. Younger specimen of the species – whose Latin name is Halichoeres bivittatus – are commonly white. Adult specimens have a large and dark stripe running from the base up to its eye. The other stripe is situated on its under side. Juvenile Slippery Dicks are, of course, significantly smaller than the adult and their lower stripe does not develop till it is in the adult phase.


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When mating, the (now) male Slippery Dick acts in a very masculine way indeed. The males form what is known as a lek. This is a kind of territory in which the males show off their prowess. If you think of a fishy kind of WWF, then you are fairly close to the mark. Wondrously, the male Slippery Dick comes in phases, known as initial and terminal. The initial phase male Slippery Dicks are not aggressive or territorial. They will spawn together with a single female. The older, terminal phase Slippery Dick, however, will only mate with a single female a time.



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As a footnote, a Slippery Dick is considered quite a tasty bite to eat by many. In fact there are a number of ways to eat one. If you fancy having a gobble of a Slippery Dick then there are many recipes. For some reason, the name has also been adopted by Festival Organizers for bars where young people meet to get to know each other better and there was a recent Slippery Dick Love Shack at Glastonbury Festival in the UK. It is also the name of a cocktail (another word, the etymological root of which could do with some investigation). Many young ladies have been spotted at events like these with a Slippery Dick in each hand, which they will then swallow almost simultaneously.


So, there you have it. The Slippery Dick is, in fact, a harmless fish whose common name has been callously abused by spaced out hippie types, cocktail swigging party animals and numerous school boys down the years. Oh, yes – and this writer too.

1 comment:

lizzie said...

Of course I had to go and see what this was!!

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