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The passage below comes from a book, What The F. It's about the anomaly in the rule of profane words.

But jack-shit and its profane peers flout the rule. You can say You don’t know jack-shit, using it in a negative context, but you can also just as easily say You know jack-shit. Same with dickI don’t draw dick unless the price is right is fine, as is I draw dick unless the price is right.

In this I cannot figure out what draw dick means in this context. (Excuse my profanity.) My gut feeling says Don't draw dick means Don't care, but I am not sure.

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    jack-shit, dick = anything at all, nothing at all. I know/don't know jack-shit means the same. In the same way, I draw/don't draw dick means the same. Maybe as the OP says, it means "don't care anything at all or care nothing at all". – mahmud koya Mar 21 '17 at 2:53
  • To mahmud koya. In that case, I still can't figure out what DRAW DICK means. According to your reason that is DICK means ANYTHING AT ALL, what is the meaning of I DON'T DRAW ANYTHING AT ALL UNLESS THE PRICE IS RIGHT. – morti Mar 21 '17 at 8:52
  • If a word is used as a forceful way to express 'nothing' then it's only logical that it can be used both in itself, and also, with negation (where 'not' means 'not even'), to express 'less than nothing'. – Bepe Mar 21 '17 at 11:36
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    @morti: I don't think draw dick is an idiom. So the meaning is presumably one of the ordinary meanings of draw. The problem is, none of them really work all that well. Maybe it's an artist saying he won't work for free. – Peter Shor Mar 21 '17 at 12:31
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    "Draw dick" would most likely come from the idea " to remove one's penis from clothing" for some activity (urination, sex). However, no one using such a term has any literal meaning in mind. – J. Taylor Mar 21 '17 at 19:27
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"I draw dick unless the price is right" in this passage is probably meant to express "I draw nothing unless the price is right" (which would more commonly be expressed with the negation on the auxiliary, as "I don't draw anything unless the price is right"). It's not clear what the word "draw" means without more context, but it doesn't really matter. As Peter Shor says in a comment, the imaginary context of the statement may be "an artist saying he won't work for free" [or for less than his work is worth]. Or, as fixer1234 and aparente001 say, it may be that in this example "I draw" is being used with the meaning "I earn."

The comments beneath your question seem to indicate that this use of profanity is not especially familar to all English speakers. "Dick" can also be extended to "dick all" when used with this meaning.

The passage is about the use of profane words as substitutes for either negative words, such as "nothing" or "nobody," or negative-polarity words, such as "(not)... anything" and "(not)... anybody."

In standard English, usually a single word cannot be used in both of these contexts. (In some varieties of colloquial English, words like "nothing" and "nobody" can be used in both contexts.) The author is pointing out that the synonymy of "I don't draw dick" and "I draw dick" might therefore be seen as unusual.

It also contrasts with the use of "shit," which for many speakers does generally have to be used with a clause-level negation: "you don't know anything" is much more likely to be expressed as "you don't know shit" than as "you know shit" (though the second might be possible for some speakers).

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    You pretty much nailed it. I think "draw" in this context has more the meaning of "receive", like in drawing a salary. So "I don't draw dick" would mean I receive nothing (as would "I draw dick"). Shit can mean either nothing or alot. "You know shit" means the person has a lot of knowledge. "You know shit" means the person knows nothing. I think the key in both cases here is that "don't" is used like a double negative--reinforcement rather than negation. "You don't know nothing" is meant as "you know nothing" rather than "You know something". – fixer1234 Mar 21 '17 at 20:33
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    I'm pretty sure this is an NPI like squat and diddly-squat are. Why we use allusions to excretions or organs thereof for such things is a deeper matter. See the Horn reference here. – tchrist Mar 21 '17 at 22:51
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    I agree with fixer1234. Here, "I draw" means "I earn." Otherwise, the answer is good. "I draw dick" = "I earn nothing." – aparente001 Mar 22 '17 at 2:48
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But jack-shit and its profane peers flout the rule. You can say You don’t know jack-shit, using it in a negative context, but you can also just as easily say You know jack-shit. Same with dick—I don’t draw dick unless the price is right is fine, as is I draw dick unless the price is right.

There seems no reason that the term profane should be used here. This is common vulgarity (or, cussing), and, as such, is not codified by any rules or protocols.

I cannot imagine how the author can claim that not know jack-shit means the same as know jack-shit; unless jack-shit (with a hyphen) is a proprietary word the author feels he owns.

The same is so for draw dick or, plain dick. Perhaps the author believes he has an understanding of these words. If that is so, he no doubt knows far more about them than the one who ordinarily issues them.

If any sense is to be made from such vulgarity, one general principle need be observed: cussing=negative.

But negative and its profane peers flout the rule. You can say You don’t know negative, using it in a negative context, but you can also just as easily say You know negative. Same with negative—I don’t draw negative unless the price is right is fine, as is I draw negative unless the price is right.

The exception to this principle (not rule) is the use of vulgar intensifiers.
They only intensify, but do not suggest a positive or negative.

Boy, what a fxxxing beautiful sight! (intensifies only)

Boy, you don't know fxxxing jack-shit! (intensifies only)

  • This is wrong. In general, "he don't know jackshit about X" means exactly the same thing as "he knows jackshit about X". They both mean "he doesn't know anything about X." I assume the same thing holds for draw dick, although I can't verify that because I'm not familiar with that idiom. – Peter Shor Mar 21 '17 at 12:19
  • @Peter Shor.... I believe you might want to read my answer again. While I was no very kind to the author cited, I did confirm the negative meanings. .I'm not sure what the issue is. – J. Taylor Mar 21 '17 at 14:05
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    I have multiple issues with your quote "I cannot imagine how the author can claim that not know jack-shit means the same as know jack-shit; unless jack-shit (with a hyphen) is a proprietary word the author feels he owns." I think that one can know perfectly well what words mean without owning them, and in this case "know jackshit" means essentially the same thing as "not know jackshit", whether or not the word is hyphenated. – Peter Shor Mar 21 '17 at 14:13
  • @ Peter Shor... perhaps I should not be so subtle.... words such as "jack shit" or "dick" in this context HAVE NO MEANING. except to express a negative.. The very idea a person might attempt to make sense of such terms as if they belonged to proper English is funny. And, I was making fun of the hyphen, as I have never seen such before, nor do I think there is a correct form for "jackshit"... Any competent user of cuss words will know how little substance there are in such words. The author clearly had no understanding, beginning with the use of "profane". – J. Taylor Mar 21 '17 at 14:36

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