I'm a bit confused about the meaning of "dick" in the following context. Girl comes to pub and wants to participate in a pool tournament. She is told, that "it's men only".

Everyone is looking now. I can’t back down, and now that I’m being challenged, I want to prove myself. I take a cue from the rack. There are some balls scattered on the table, a few reds, and all the colours. I drop down and aim for a red near the cushion. It rattles the jaw of the pocket, and there’s a collective holding of breath as it drops. I pot the black ball and straighten up. ‘So what do I need to show?’ I say. ‘A dick, or a minimum level of competency?

Lauren Westwood "My mother's silence"

I guess, she asks if "a dick" is the only "ticket" to this tournament, but what does "minimum level of competency" mean then? Google directs me to Dick Lane and Dick Jaspers as pool players, but, suppose, they have nothing to do with this situation :D Absolutely confused about this sentence :(:(

  • 25
    The reference is not to pool, but to the 'men only' rule! Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 12:08
  • 5
    It's vulgar slang.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 12:19
  • 18
    The description of the balls sounds more like snooker than pool.
    – James K
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 20:45
  • 4
    If you read the book, you will find that it indeed is a snooker table, not a pool table, albeit larger than tournament size.
    – JdeBP
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 5:15
  • 1
    Dick=male. Or vice versa, depending on perspective :-).
    – copper.hat
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 7:19

2 Answers 2


I agree with @rjpond. I'll just answer in a slightly different way by translating rather than explaining!

So what do I need to show?’ ... ‘A dick, or a minimum level of competency?

What is more important for me to display in order to be admitted? A penis? Or that my skill is higher than the minimum required level.


They've told her that the tournament is male-only.

She challenges this by displaying her competence and then demanding whether showing a minimum level of competence is sufficient or whether they are still going to insist she needs a male anatomy ("dick", penis).

Lexico defines "dick" as follows:

vulgar slang A man's penis. https://www.lexico.com/definition/dick

  • 15
    Possibly worth mentioning the inference that the pub patrons believe her gender, by definition, indicates a lower level of competence.
    – mcalex
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 20:15
  • 9
    Although reading the book reveals that the issue is that the tournament is sex-segregated and the women's competition has just finished.
    – JdeBP
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 5:24
  • 3
    @JdeBP Usually sex-segregated competitions imply that one sex would be less able to compete than the other, so they are giving a separate competition so they can compete with peers--kind of like creating a major and minor league, except that instead of separating by ability they have chosen to separate by a physical attribute with the (perhaps not intentional) implication that all of one sex are less able than the other...there is no way one sex would be capable enough to compete in the "major league". (For pool it would definitely be implied that women are less able than men.) Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 13:12
  • 7
    As I said, one can read the book and find out what's actually written, instead of as you have just done inventing, wholesale, implications of one's own that are not based upon the novel that the questioner is trying to understand.
    – JdeBP
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 15:43
  • 3
    The question asks for the meaning of the sentence explicitly referencing the context of the given paragraph. 'Meaning-in-context' doesn't (and shouldn't) require a reading of the entire publication. Also, your additional information doesn't alter the answer. About the only valid reason for gender discrimination in sport is muscular strength which is not required to play pool. In context, the "wholesale invented' implications fit. Including the fact that there's a separate female tournament doesn't change this.
    – mcalex
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 5:10

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