Ongoing History Daily: The history of the word “punk” part 1

Most people associate the word “punk” with a form of music that appeared in the 1970s. But the word itself has a much longer history than that.

Back in the 1950s, it was used to describe young hooligans, juvenile delinquents, and leather-jacketed ne’er-do-wells. But if we want to really get serious about etymology, we must go back to sometime around 1575 when a ballad called “Simon the Old Kinge” started making the rounds. The song warned that drinking is a sin equivalent to consorting with prostitutes. Back then, a female prostitute was known as a “puncke.”

From there, Shakespeare used the word in his 1604 play, Measure for Measure, in which it’s speculated that the character Mariana might be a “puncke.” And there’s more. We’ll cover that next time.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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