The stink/The stank

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Fri Jan 21 02:08:42 UTC 2005

I *do* agree with you. Oh. Now I see your point. The quote from Hank
should read "stink." No, maybe I'm still not getting your point. I
could say "it stanks," if that fitted in with what the people around me
said and I didn't want to draw attention to myself by speaking a
different subdialect. But the people around me use "stinks" and so do
I. So, in what sense would this be impossible for any other speakers?
It's not as though the string -ank- is foreign to English. I once had a
chat with an Englishman who was unable to pronounce "Wanda" in
isolation so that it could be distinguished from "wander" spoken in
isolation. Or do you mean that "it stanks" would be impossible to the
extent that, in some sense, no English speaker  could say "it rans" or
"it stoods" or "it wents"? Then I was right. I *do* agree with you.
But, for people speaking a suddialect in which "stink" and "stank" fall
together as "stank," "it stanks" would be just ordinary English speech,
with nothing special or peculiar about it at all.


On Jan 20, 2005, at 6:28 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: The stink/The stank
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> I'd be inclined to agree, except that for many speakers (presumably
> Hank Hill is one), the verbal  " *It stanks " would be impossible.
> JL
> Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Wilson Gray
> Subject: The stink/The stank
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> About a year ago, I heard the character, Hank Hill, of the animated
> cartoon, "King of The Hill," which is set in Texas, say, "You got the
> stank on you and everybody can smell it." It's been about sixty years
> since I've anyone use this turn of phrase, which means, "everybody can
> tell that you're the responsible party, etc."
> Then, on Comedy Central a while ago, on a show called "Country
> Comedians" or some such, one person says to another, "Go 'hayid. Put
> yo' stank(sic) on it," which, from context, meant, "Put your mark (of
> ownership, etc.) on it."
> In both cases, the speakers were white, FWIW.
> So, I was moved to see what Google had to say. It showed that both
> spellings, "stink" and "stank," are in use. But, whatever the spelling,
> both of the meanings above are rare. In some cases, "stink/stank" is
> used to replace "funk" in the sense of "foul, disgusting odor." In
> other cases, it's used to mean "the word, the inside dope, the skinny,"
> leading to puns like, "The stink on anal glands." In still other cases,
> "put the stink/stank on" is used to mean "jinx, foul up," etc. A closer
> reading of the data may yield other meanings.
> IMO, there's only one word, "stink," with the spelling following
> whichever pronunciation is hip or boss in a given area.
> -Wilson Gray
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