Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: The history of the word “punk” part 2

Last time, we explored the earliest use of the word “punk,” which turned out to be in an old English ballad composed around 1575 and then used by Shakespeare about 30 years later. In both cases, “puncke” was a term for a female prostitute. So how the word morph from that to being about music?

We have a few more steps to go. In the late 17th century, a “punk” came to mean a boy kept around by an older man for sex. By the time we got into the 18th century, it was slang in American prisons for inmates that were used for sex. In the 20th century, a punk was any sort of worthless, degenerate, weak, and contemptible person. Then in the 50s, a “punk” was both some kind of inexperienced young person and a juvenile delinquent and troublemaker. But we still haven’t got to the point where punk referred to music.

We’ll sort that out 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.

Alan Cross has 37459 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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