The Grammarphobia Blog

Junk in the trunk

Q: So if “junk” can mean male genitalia, how did “junk in the trunk” come to mean rear end, particularly a female rear end? In other words, what is the difference between junk male and junk female?

A: Enough already! We’ve written blog items about the use of “junk” in reference to genitaliafood, and other things. Now, female rear ends? OK, OK, we’ll do one more.

The new three-volume Green’s Dictionary of Slang describes this use of “junk in the trunk” as black American English for large buttocks.

The dictionary, by Jonathon Green, says the word “trunk” here is a reference to the rear or “boot” of a car.

The slang dictionary lists two Internet citations, including this 2000 example from the Ebonics Primer: “Hey you see dat big booty sista right there? She got junk in the trunk!”

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, which is edited by Green, also describes it as US black English, and says the usage originated in the 1990s.

However, the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, edited by Jonathan E. Lighter, doesn’t indicate a racial origin of the expression.

The earliest citation for the usage in Random House is from a 1995 broadcast of the The Jerry Springer Show: “I’ve got too much junk in my trunk [woman shakes her very large buttocks].”

The next two citations are from the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless, including this one from a 1997 broadcast: “That girl’s got some junk in the trunk.”

Hmm. Maybe it’s time for us to go on a diet. 

Update: A couple of hours after we posted this entry, the linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer sent us this comment:

“I know you don’t want to hear any more ‘junk’ talk, but I thought you’d like to know that the callipygian sense goes back to the 1993 hiphop song ‘Dazzey Duks’ by Duice. You can find some discussion on Arnold Zwicky’s blog, in a post following up on my On Language column about the other kind of ‘junk.’

“(By the way, I got dozens of emails from that column asking me why I didn’t talk about ‘junk in the trunk’!)”

Thank you, Ben. And we’d like to say here that we were sorry to see the New York Times Magazine drop the On Language column. We’ll miss it—and you. 

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