Thursday, November 19, 2020

What "Put Some Stank On It" REALLY Means

truTVJun 5, 2019

Murr teaches the new apprentice how to add stank to her cleaning routine. #truTV #Insidejokes
This segment is from .021-.034.

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision: Nov. 22, 2020 

This pancocojams post presents some history of the African American phrase "put some stank on it" and provides some definitions for and comments about that term and similar terms.  

This post also showcases a YouTube clip from the television episode that is entitled "Impractical Jokers: Inside Jokes - Put Some Stank On It | truTV". My description of a portion of that episode and my comments about that episode's definition of and use of the word stank  and the phrase "put some stank on it" are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for linguistic, historical, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all those featured in this embedded video and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

In 1784 "funky" meaning "musty" was first documented, which, in turn, led to a sense of "earthy" that was taken up around 1900 in early jazz slang for something "deeply or strongly felt".[8][9] Ethnomusicologist Portia Maultsby states that the expression "funk" comes from the Central African word "lu-funk
i" and art historian Robert Farris Thompson says the word comes from the Kikongo term ; in both proposed origins, the term refers to body odor.[10] Thompson's proposed Kikongo origin word, "lu-fuki" is used by African musicians to praise people "for the integrity of their art" and for having "worked out" to reach their goals.[11] Even though in white culture, the term "funk" can have negative connotations of odor or being in a bad mood ("in a funk"), in African communities, the term "funk", while still linked to body odor, had the positive sense that a musician's hard-working, honest effort led to sweat, and from their "physical exertion" came an "exquisite" and "superlative" performance.[11]

In early jam sessions, musicians would encourage one another to "get down" by telling one another, "Now, put some stank on it!". At least as early as 1907, jazz songs carried titles such as Funky. The first example is an unrecorded number by Buddy Bolden, remembered as either "Funky Butt" or "Buddy Bolden's Blues" with improvised lyrics that were, according to Donald M. Marquis, either "comical and light" or "crude and downright obscene" but, in one way or another, referring to the sweaty atmosphere at dances where Bolden's band played.[12][13] As late as the 1950s and early 1960s, when "funk" and "funky" were used increasingly in the context of jazz music, the terms still were considered indelicate and inappropriate for use in polite company. According to one source, New Orleans-born drummer Earl Palmer "was the first to use the word 'funky' to explain to other musicians that their music should be made more syncopated and danceable."[14] The style later evolved into a rather hard-driving, insistent rhythm, implying a more carnal quality. This early form of the music set the pattern for later musicians.[15] The music was identified as slow, sexy, loose, riff-oriented and danceable."

In the context of this quote "having worked out" means to exert yourself so hard (to put so much of yourself into your actions) that you sweat, and therefore smell earthy. "Earthy" is a smell that is considered "stinky" (odorous), but it is proof that you "returned to fundamentals". Another way of saying "returned to fundamentals" is that "You got down to the real nitty gritty" (the essence, the heart and soul of the matter").

Also, theoretically, people who "have returned to fundamentals" don't mind how they smell or look. At that point, they aren't pretending to be sophisticated, or formal, or something that they aren't. Instead, they are "being for real" (They're the "real deal"). This meaning is the source of the phrase "Don't fake the funk" = Don't pretend to be something that you're not.
Click for the pancocojams posts entitled "How "Funky" Came To Mean Something Good (African American Vernacular English Meanings)". Also, click for the closely related pancocojams post entitled "Online Excerpts About The Song "Funky Butt" (Also Known As "Buddy Bolden's Blues") with YouTube examples"

"Stank" is an African American Vernacular English adjective that means "really stinks". “Stank” can also be an African American Vernacular English(AAVE)  noun. One AAVE meaning for that noun is “someone or something who (that) really stinks”.

No past tense is meant or implied by the AAVE word “stank”.

"Put some stank on it" is one African American Vernacular English saying that includes the word "stank". Another AAVE term that isn't discussed in this post is "stankface".

Although the word “stank” in the saying “put some tank on it” originally meant to have an odorous (stinky) smell, the contemporary meaning of “stank” in that saying doesn’t directly refer to people or things having a bad smell. 

The phrase "add some soul to it" is a synonym for "add some stank to it".

Here are two examples of those phrases from the discussion thread for this YouTube video of a army cadence: 
hqiIbPx64&ab_channel=CCo.262ndQMBNCHARLIEROCKS  "Thanksgiving Cadence Charlie Rocks Style" published by C Co. 262nd QM BN CHARLIE ROCKS on Nov 24, 2016

J D, 2017
"Thats how you call a cadence! put some soul into it!"


Gijane S, 2019
"He put some stank on it....!!!! Go head troop...!!!"
As explanation, a number of commenters referred to the way that the African American Private called (sung the call part of) the cadence) as being as a reflection of his Black church choir background. Here are three of those comments:

"That’s a church boy right there"


MFD, 2020
"Oh the PVT grew up in the deepest/blackest part of the Deep South Church. 😂"
Here are five more comments from that video's discussion thread that refer to how the way that the Private led that cadence: 

OneLove Lawn LLC, 2017
"Pri rocking it .... get some pri .... Great Video Drills ... OneLove"


Buckwild Kowboy, 2018
"Deacon Private rocking it"

Kyle Williams, 2020
My boy got flavor"

Sierra Jackson, 2020

"He’s doing the damn thing!!"


K dot, 2020
"Great job with the cadence. It was good seeing a private singing his heart out."
Several other comments describing that Private's calling the cadence referred to him "rocking it". According to,re%20rocking%20that%20new%20jacket!%E2%80%9D, this vernacular definition of "rocking it" means "
“your doing really well” or “you look really good” 

The word "flavor" in the comment "My boy got flavor" compliments the Private for taking that cadence and making it his own (singing it in his own style-which come from certain African American churches. A common African American colloquial way of saying that singers have their own flavor is that they "added their flavor to the mix". Among African Americans, "adding one's flavor to the mix" (putting some stank on the song) is preferred to singing the song the standard, cookie cutter way.  

Here is the only urban dictionary entry for "put some stank on it" (as of Nov. 19, 2020)
"put some stank on it

(phrase), (sl) - Phrase meaning to add a personal flare, or special ability to any given task or action. As in throwing an especially fast fast-ball, or making a difficult billiards shot. This can be applied to almost anything where talent is a factor in achieving the desired result

I've never seen such a shot pulled off under those conditions! He really put some stank on it that time!

Haywood Jablomy 2 December 28, 2017
While I can see how that contributor got that definition from the African American vernacular terms for "put some stank on it", and "adding your flavor to the mix" that are  presented above.  However, in as much as that urban dictionary entry is used as a definition for "put some stank on it", it should be considered as accidentally or purposely moving away from those African American originated vernacular definitions.

Notice that the urban dictionary definition of "put some stank on it" is used in the truTelevision episode that is embedded in this pancocojams post.     

"Impractical Jokers: Inside Jokes - Put Some Stank On It | truTV 
[the video's summary: "Murr teaches the new apprentice how to add stank to her cleaning routine. #truTV #Insidejokes"
Here's my unofficial summary of this episode (from .021 -.034) 

A middle age White man named Mrr is shown with his new apprentice is a middle aged Black woman who is not introduced by name and who never says anything in this segment.  Mrr says to the Black woman apprentice,  “I don’t know if you’ve been noticing, but when I clean, I put a little stank on it. Maybe when we stack these we should put a little stank on them too” Just a little bit more, you know? .

At .031 in this video a yellow note appears on the screen with this definition: “Putting “stank” on it means to add personal flair to the task at hand”

Around .033 Sal (the White man pretending to be the boss) asks Mrr “What did you stank?”
While the Black woman stands listening and cleaning something she is holding in her hand, he responds putting to various objects saying “I stanked that, I stanked that and I haven’t stank.”

The Black woman reacted to the White men’s use of the word “stank” with a fixed smile (or smirk) which might have been part bemusement and part tolerance for the situation she finds herself in as if to say “Let me just do my work, get paid, and get away from these wacked out White men who don’t even know what “put some stank on it” means.

Notice that the "stank" in the sentence "put some stank on it" is a noun while "stanked" in the last sentence from that episode that I quoted are verbs. The word "stank" in the last sentence of that quoted episode is a past tense of the word "stink" and, as such, doesn't have anything to do with the contemporary meaning of "put some stank on it".  

Here part of a comment exchange from this video's discussion thread:

"What in the world is that thing, that murr is wiping?"

Alexander Jones, 2019
"whatever it is.... it now has some stank on it"


Ya you!!


Impractical Jokers: Inside Jokes - Put Some Stank On It | truTV episode is an example of how people from mainstream (White) community can accidentally or on purpose attribute another  definition for an African American originated term or saying. 

"Accidentally" here means that the person giving this definition doesn't know that African American Vernacular English(AAVE)  meaning of that term/saying or doesn't understand the African American meaning that they read of heard for that term/saying. "Purposely" here means that the person knowingly changed that earlier (AAVE) definition.  

I think that the change from the African American definition for "put some stank on it" probably occurred because people who aren't African American didn't (don't) understand what was/is meant by
adding some soulful elements or more soulful elements to the way that a person dances, sings, plays a musical instrument and/or engages in other performing activities.   

I have to concur with at least one person in that video's discussion thread who wrote that he (or she) didn't consider that episode to be funny (I'm referring here to both the "put some stank on it" portion of the episode and another portion in which Mrr's boss Sal hides his asthma inhaler and whispers to the apprentice not to tell him where it is.)  By the way, given the racial dynamics in the United States (and elsewhere) and given the fact that the vernacular saying "put some stank on it" and the vernacular noun  "stank" originated in and are most closely associated with African Americans, I believe that observers of this episode would have had a different experience and interpretations of this episode if the apprentice wasn't Black. 

Furthermore, the fact that the apprentice wasn't named and didn't say anything was a turn off for me. But then again, I'm not a fan of the whole concept of that television show as I've never liked practical jokes. So there's that.

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