Normal times, I'd be sporting an erection.

Source: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

The Definition from Cambridge Advanced Dictionary is:

sport(verb) - to wear or to be decorated with something,

It does not correlate with this sentence.

  • 2
    It's a "tongue-in-cheek" (humorous, not to be taken literally) usage in your context. People don't usually go around proudly displaying erections for the world to admire. Sport = exhibit, have on show, show off, flourish, parade, flaunt. Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 16:51

3 Answers 3


The dictionary you checked has one meaning of the word, but there are other meanings as well. A better dictionary to use here would be Wordnik, which sports definitions from a few different dictionaries all on one page.

In this case, we can find additional meanings of this verb, including:

To display sportively or with ostentation; show-off; show; exhibit.

to display (something) with pride, to have (something) as an often unique feature

To exhibit, or bring out, in public; to use or wear.

Palahniuk is a clever writer; there's a chance here that he might even be employing a brilliant pun, given that one lesser-used meaning is:

To assume suddenly a new and different character from the rest of the plant or from the type of the species; -- said of a bud, shoot, plant, or animal.

Bottom line: Whenever a dictionary's meaning doesn't fit a published author's usage, I recommend consulting a more comprehensive dictionary.


This is what I might call colorful writing, where you use a word and give it a slightly different definition in context for the sake of imagery.

Now, in this example, is "sporting" the perfect word to use? No, not necessarily, but the word "sporting" has some natural attachment to it, especially for native English speakers, and it provides a different image. Instead of simply having an erection, he's wearing an erection. That brings with it a different flavor. I couldn't tell you what exactly that flavor is since I don't know the context behind that sentence (see FumbleFinger's comment above for a possible suggestion), but the point is that it's a bit exotic, and as a result, it's a bit more interesting to read.

A parallel that I'd like to draw is with a literary technique called personification, where you attach a human-like trait to a non-human object. In personification, you provide imagery to things by giving them augmented, but more familiar characteristics that help you more vividly understand what the writer is trying to say.

  • This is exactly the right line to take. It's important that learners should realize it's a deliberately quirky usage (but perfectly acceptable, indeed, amusing, to native speakers), but it's not really necessary to speculate on the precise "flavour" of nuance implied by the unconventional choice of verb. Decoding that nuance is really part of the reader's job as he "experiences" the text, not something he should expect to look up in a dictionary. Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 17:20

Even though you can't 'wear' an erection, the definition you found in the dictionary is right. It just means he would have an erection.

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