More than you need to know about the word Junk

Junk has come to mean worthless stuff such as discarded or useless items of little or no value. People talk trash or junk. A financial instrument of little value is a junk bond. People also refer to their disorganized stuff as junk, as in I need to get my junk together. (Recently, people have referred to parts of their anatomy as junk, which used to be called family jewels or schmuck, which is German for jewelry—the opposite of junk.)

Where did the word junk come from? The word has a nautical heritage but not the Chinese Junk – that’s a different etymological path from the Chinese word pronounced Chun and came to use through the Portuguese word junco.

Our word junk comes from a 14th century word for an old cable or rope no longer usable. Sailors used the junk rope to plug leaks, or they tossed it overboard. Sailors expanded the word junk to mean any trash from ships, which expanded to become any discarded item.

Some word wonks say that the word junk derived from the Old French junc (from the Latin iuncus, meaning rush or reed)—a term once used to mean something of little value.

So where does this leave Junk King?  If we stick to the French etymology, we would be Roi des Ordures. Or Latin, Rex Purgamentum. I think we’ll just keep the good ol’ Junk King, and we are not talking about the family jewel variety.  Does this blog make me a word junkie?

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