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In his poem “If I Were Tickled By the Rub of Love”, Dylan Thomas refers to “Jack of Christ”:

And what’s the rub? Death’s feather on the nerve?
Your mouth, my love, the thistle in the kiss?
My Jack of Christ born thorny on the tree?

Now, I've heard jack used to mean a man (“every man-jack”, etc.) and Etymonline says it is

Used generically of men (jack-of-all-trades, 1610s), male animals (1620s, see jackass, jackdaw, etc.), and male personifications (1520s, e.g. Jack Frost).

I understand the line to be talking about a representation of Jesus, but I’m trying to get at how common the expression is. If it’s a common substitution for Jesus Christ I think it’s probably less intentionally profane than if Dylan Thomas had coined the usage here to mean just another human being.

Do speakers of British English use “Jack of Christ” as even a rough synonym for Jesus Christ?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It seems this is specific use of the term was made up Dylan Thomas specifically for the poem. A search for 'Jack of Christ' mostly throws up results which are a direct quotation of the poem. Personally, I have never encountered this term being used in British English.

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3  
I'm a native speaker of British English, and it's the first time I've heard it, so we can at least say it isn't common. –  Brian Hooper Mar 6 '11 at 18:38
    
I likewise have never heard the term elsewhere. Thomas was a great wordsmith; this definitely seems like wordplay to me. –  PLL Jun 30 '11 at 4:07

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