Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't Touch My Junk! (Junk as a euphemism)

I was having a conversation today, with a colleague, that broached several topics. One thing I noticed, though, is that we are both people who like to take things apart and figure them out, although our perspectives are different. It might be germane to note that we are both massage therapists, though, and as such, are prone to such viewpoints and methods of thought. She commented on a few words that I used, that she was curious about, like "junk"- as in, "The circus juggler in the leotard stood on Homer Simpson's seat armrests, waving his junk in Homer's face."

"How did 'junk' become a euphemism for male genitalia?" she asked me. "I just learned about that recently, from my sister who teaches in a high school," she said. 

Obviously, other than being a name for Chinese boat, most people recognize 'junk' as something worthless, of no value, refuse or garbage. Well, that couldn't be where the slang meaning derived from, since our male-dominated culture and language makers most certainly would not see their crotch-meat that way. A little internet research yielded surprising results: According to author and lexicographer Grant Barrett, the first known us of 'junk' in this way appeared in a 1986 story set in gay culture called "Buddies" written by Ethan Mordden. In it, one character threatens to drag another outside and "kick your junk in."* Apparently, a decade later the term showed up again on an internet message board about wrestling. not long after, it was popping up all over the web, and even network television sit-coms. Ripe for punchlines, it has since gained mainstream appeal in its usage. Take a Jay Leno joke, for instance: "Did you hear the TSA's latest slogan? 'We handle more junk than e-Bay.'"

I don't remember when I first heard it, or used it, to be honest. But it seems to be commonly questioned, according to my perusal of message boards. Maybe it is not as foreign a term to me because of my heavy consumption of television and comedy, in particular. "Junk...junk. junk..." it ends in a 'K'- the funniest letter sound in the alphabet. The word is short, punchy, and Anglo-Saxon sounding, which, indeed, it is, since the word in its original meaning (an inferior rope) is less than two-hundred years old (late Middle English). So many other slang words for the male genitalia are embarrassing or unwieldy to say: "peee-nis", "crotch" (or my own coined word, "crotch-meat"), "manhood", "wedding tackle", "bits 'n' pieces", "twig and berries", etc. Many, many others are incomplete, referring to only the penis or the scrotum, and not the set. I think, even when heard for the first time, any native English speaker can quickly derive the meaning of the word 'junk'.  Some of those listed are too obscure to be understood, and also include others like "crown jewels". Although, obfuscation is, or was, the intent in the first place for most slang, anyway.

My various friends and I seem to choose to say 'junk' regularly. For instance, a friend of mine was recently in the second row to see Neil Patrick Harris in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. "Neil Patrick Harris was shaking his junk in the face of the guy sitting right nest to me!" she gushed. 

Junk is a random word choice for investigation; as my colleague and I discussed many things and had many moments of "stop-and-wonder". But, since I am such a purveyor of pop-culture, and a major linguaphile, born with what some might call a "gutter-mind", I decided to write about junk. Gives a hole new meaning to certain phrases, like "junk jewelry", "junk mail", and even "junk in the trunk" (which is a whole 'nother thing, that I'm not talking about today. Ore probably ever).


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Labor Union Day Writing

So, my friend from NYC has been visiting me for a week. I took off from work to spend time with her, and we had a lot of fun. After dropping her off at the airport, I went out for breakfast and am now at my office (Starbucks) to get back in the groove of writing. It feels weird to have not done it for a week! Plus, I'll be visiting my parents in Florida in two weeks, so I will probably not get much done the second half of this month, either.

My plan is to get a new draft (number six) of the zombie novel done and submitted to a list of agents, and polish up some shorter personal essays to submit for publication. I also still have three manuscripts from other writers to edit, so I will be busy.

It turned out to be a beautiful day today, too, so I am sacrificing the last of the summer sun to get back on track!

While my friend Lindsay was here, we toured the city. On Saturday, we saw a live in-store show of a SC band called Shovels and Rope, that we both like, at Sonic Boom in Ballard. We both shopped the hell out of that place, too. I got that high that I haven't had in years, because I try not to overspend and tend to keep my record store visits to a minimum. But, man...finding some great tribute albums (To Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix), the Live at KEXP Volume 1 (One!), and a few other used and new items really gave me an adrenaline rush. After lunch (dinner?) at the People's Pub, we hit Fremont. A stop at the Troll, then onto Jive Time, where we endured a heavily perfumed Japanese jazz afiicionado on a serious mission and the sounds of hippie jam bands to score some sweet vinyl and CDs of our own. Another sweep of adrenaline ran through y body, and I rode the wave for hours. It's like being a gambler in a casino- and the record store owner agreed with me; he said he'd often thought to compare the life of a record collector with that of a gambler. And, I'm still regretting not picking up that Suzi Quattro 45...

Another bucket list item I get to start checking off is to read the 33 1/3 books. For ten years, I've been eyeing them, with a mind towards writing one or two eventually, myself. I bought #10 Sign O' The Times (Prince) by Michaelangelo Matos, #56 Master of Reality (Black Sabbath) by John Darnielle, and #85 Dummy (Portishead) by RJ Wheaton. I'm halfway through reading the Prince one. This guy and must share genes - obsessive about trivia and music, I love it. Looking forward to reading more.