The stink/The stank

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Sun Jan 23 03:10:51 UTC 2005

On Jan 21, 2005, at 11:15 AM, Mullins, Bill wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
> Subject:      Re: The stink/The stank
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Is the verb really a different word than "stink", not just a different
> pronounciation?
> (I agree that the noun "stank" has a separate meaning from the noun
> "stink")

Whether there's any distinction in meaning between "stink" and "stank"
or not is dependent upon context, so that "stink" and "stank" don't
have separate meanings. There's no automatic distinction. At least,
there isn't in BE. Back in the '60's, hanging around the watercooIer, I
mentioned "stinkfinger;" while chatting with white, Asian, and Latino
colleagues (all male, needless to say). They didn't know what I was
talking about, till I explained. Of course, they actually did know what
I was talking about. They just weren't familiar with the term that I
had used. But, if I'd been talking to blacks, they would have
understood immediately, whether I'd said "stinkfinger" or
"stankfang-uh," just as easily as you would have understood Mellencamp,
whether he sang "Paint thuh muther pank" or "Paint the mother pink."

-Wilson Gray

> I've heard "thank" for "think", and back when MTV still played music
> videos, around
> the time of John Cougar Mellencamp's (we called him John Cougar
> Melonhead) "Little
> Pink Houses", the network had a promotion where they gave someone a
> pink
> house, but
> it had to be painted.  I remember clearly Mellencamp saying "Paint thuh
> muther pank."
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society
>> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Wilson Gray
>> Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2005 8:09 PM
>> Subject: Re: The stink/The stank
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: The stink/The stank
>> --------------------------------------------------------------
>> -----------------
>> 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.
>> -Wilson
>> On Jan 20, 2005, at 6:28 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
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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
>>> -----------------------
>>> 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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