New words come into being in many different ways. Sometimes one language enriches another, lending it a few words here and there.
For instance, did you know that the word sugar comes from the Arabic “sokkar”?
In other cases, words are passed down from one language to another, sort of like the countless words in the French language that are originally Latin.
Other words start out as colloquialisms, short-hand speak used by a few locals, but these words take on a life of their own and eventually make it into the public’s lexicon.
An excellent case in point is the word “Google”: What started off as the name of a small Silicon Valley startup has become a word that functions as a noun and a verb.
Seriously, when was the last time you “Googled” something? It was probably the meaning of “Twunk,” wasn’t it?
Now, other words are known as portmanteaus. Portmanteau comes from the two French words “porter” and “manteau.”
“Porter” means to carry, whereas “manteau” means coat; the word portmanteau as a whole is used to talk about a large suitcase, one that is used to carry coats.
However, in a brilliant example of how one language can influence another, the English language has adopted the word and interpreted it to mean words that are composed of two separate words.
Portmanteaus abound everywhere around us. From the word “breathalyzer,” which stands for “breath” and “analyzer,” to the word “cyborg,” which stands for “cybernetic” and “organism,” we use portmanteaus every day.
What’s more, we keep coming up with new ones daily. Have you heard the latest news concerning “Brangelina”?
What about your “gaydar”? How accurate is it?
Today’s word, “twunk,” is also a portmanteau, made up of the words “twink” and “hunk.”
It is fairly new, and it is still early to tell if it is here to say. That said, understanding that word can offer us a fascinating window into the gay community and the development of their culture over the past few years.
- 1 What does “twunk” mean?
- 2 Twunk and the gay community
- 3 Gay lingo: A few useful terms
- 4 Origin of the word twink
- 5 What space does the word take up within the gay community?
- 6 Now, let’s have a look at twink
- 7 So, why does any of this matter?
- 8 What is a hunk?
- 9 Alright, I get it. Now, let’s have a second look at “twunk”
- 10 Other cases of Twunk being a portmanteau
- 11 Twunk in music
- 12 Other definitions of twunk
What does “twunk” mean?
The main definition of twunk comes from its root words, twink and hunk. A twink is a slender, gay man, who is probably in his late teens, early twenties, while a hunk, also known as a beefcake is a muscular man. So, twunk is used to refer to a muscular twink. Twunk can also be added to other words to describe someone, derogatorily or not.
For instance, the Urban Dictionary gives the definition of the term “Twunk-ass k-otter-boo,” which is a very particular type of homosexual with a certain fascination with both Korean culture and K-Pop.
This is not to mention that the word twunker can be used as an insult.
Interestingly, twunk is also a type of music that sprouted in Manchester, England.
Twunk can also be turned into a verb, in which case it means being lied to by the establishment. It can also be used to describe bad twinkies.
And, seeing as we are on the topic of portmanteaus, we will look at different words that are made up of two different words and contain the term twunk within them.
For instance, twunking refers to tweeting while drunk, and a twunky is a twitter junkie.
Twunk and the gay community
Before delving into what twunk means, we need to take a quick excursion into gay culture, picking up a few necessities along the way.
Why, you may ask, do we have to do this? Why not just go straight to the definition of the word?
Well, let me convince you.
First of all, there is a world of difference between what a word means and how it used, and to appreciate this difference, we need to look at how a specific culture uses a word.
This difference stems from several things: how the word is viewed, how it is used, what other words mean the same thing, and what words are polar opposites.
Secondly, seeing as twunk is made up of the words twink plus hunk, it will carry the baggage of both of its parents, and when it is used in a manner different than its original meaning, this usage will always be in relation to its constitutive words.
If this second reason isn’t clear now, it will make more sense later on.
Finally, and most importantly, words only make sense when we consider how they relate to different words.
This is more of a Structuralist perspective, but you can’t truly understand a word without looking at how it ties into other words within the same language and within the same culture.
For instance, think of the word “book.”
You instantly know what a book is and what it is used for.
But, the funny thing is that you can’t define the word book and have someone else understand what you are talking about without using the following terms or their synonyms: page, paper, number, words, expressions, knowledge, speech, talk, ink, story, and printing.
Go ahead try it, and I’ll wait.
If you succeed in describing the word “book” to someone else without using the above words or their synonyms, and you got them to understand what you were referring to, you deserve an A+ for creativity.
Nevertheless, you must have felt how easier the exercise would have been had you been able to use the above words.
Similarly, to make my job easier, I’ll go over a few different terms and expressions that will help you understand what a twunk is.
Gay lingo: A few useful terms
Homosexuals have a term for everything, and if there is something they haven’t given a name to, it’s only a matter of time. Here are a few cases in point:
A twink is a young gay man who’s at the end of their teen years or at the beginning of their twenties.
They are slender, skinny individuals who tend to be hairless and opt for applying foundation or fake tanning lotion.
Their overall look is best described as androgynous. What’s more, twinks can be described as muscle or femme to further define their physique.
On a behavioral level, they tend to be quite effeminate, and according to the gay community, twinks behave as if they are the center of the universe; they expect the world to celebrate the fact that they are young and gay.
Whatever mental image you have of a twink, a bear is the exact opposite of that.
They tend to be large, gay men who are a bit on the older side and are proud of their body hair.
In fact, some may try to celebrate their masculinity to such a degree that they don’t put on any deodorant, opting for a muskier odor.
Behaviorally, they tend to be jovial and happy individuals. More importantly, they are usually some of the nicest people you will ever come across, bringing to mind the image of an actual plush teddy bear.
They also range from muscle-daddy to Sumo wrestler. (See, I told you. The gay community can come up with a term for anything.)
Just like the name implies, cubs are gay men destined to be bears. These are hairy individuals that are smaller and younger than your average bear; they also tend to be less hairy.
Interestingly, it is not uncommon to see a bear and a cub partner up, which is sort of similar to a Daddy-Twink relationship.
This is a gay man who pursues a relationship with younger men. The resulting relationships tend to mirror that of a father/son dynamic, where one partner offers emotional support and wisdom to the younger and less experienced partner.
Otters are sort of in the middle between twinks and bears. These are lean gay men who are also a bit hairy and have a little bit of scruff.
But, they are nowhere near as hairy as bears, and they are not as lean as twinks.
These are all of the terms that we will need for our purposes. Nevertheless, if you are interested, I recommend exploring even more words.
Origin of the word twink
Of all these words, the one that we are most interested in is the word twink because it forms half of our word twunk.
No one knows for sure where the term twink comes from.
Some argue that it first appeared in 1963, while others argue that it actually came from the British gay slang twank, an archaic term used to refer the patrons of a gay male prostitute.
As for the Oxford Dictionary, it asserts that the word appeared during the 1970s.
However, another possible origin can be traced back to the Twinkie treat. Now, this possible origin is important as it will play an important role in understanding the place the word twink takes up within the gay community as well as why some use it in a derogatory fashion.
Many people consider the Twinkie to be the pinnacle of junk food, something that may seem sweet but really has little nutritional value.
Also, it is filled with white cream, so you can easily see the connection there.
What space does the word take up within the gay community?
Before exploring the space occupied by the word twink within the gay community, let’s take a look at what it means for a word to occupy a space in the first place:
Every word occupies a certain space within the community that uses it, and this space is different than the word’s actual definition.
If you are unclear on what this means, you need only think of the words “vagina,” “pu**y,” and “C**t.”
Even though all three words mean the same thing, they all occupy different spaces within different cultures.
Let’s take a look at American culture as an example:
In the USA, the word “vagina” is the proper term for referring to a woman’s reproductive organ; it is considered more of a medical term and is used in classrooms and formal conversation.
As for the word “pu**y,” it is more of a colloquial term, and while it isn’t exactly offensive in itself, it has been used as a derogatory word when talking about someone considered to be a coward.
And, the word “C**t” is considered outright offensive; unless used in particular situations, such as dirty talk, Americans rarely tolerate the use of that word.
There are also a few other interesting things to point out here:
When describing someone as a “pu**y,” you are effectively calling them a coward.
However, if you describe someone as a “C**t,” you are describing them as a very unpleasant person.
Yet, describing someone as a “vagina” really doesn’t mean anything. And, this is the first thing that should be noticed about the space occupied by a word.
Its literal meaning can be different from its figurative meaning, and not only is this very culture-dependent, but it is also very much based on the historical usage of the word.
Although the word “c**t” is considered extremely offensive in the United States, it is much more accepted in places like the United Kingdom and Australia.
This is the case despite the fact that both the word’s literal and figurative meaning are the same in all three countries.
And, this is the second thing to notice about the space occupied by a word: Even if a word has the same literal and figurative meaning in different cultures, its usage and acceptability may still differ.
Now, let’s have a look at twink
Given both the meaning and the suspected origins of the word, you should have some idea of where this is going.
For starters, some will argue that the word twink is both ageist and somewhat racist. This is because it brings forth to mind the image of a young, white male and sexualizes this image.
In fact, the term occupies such a sexual space that it has become a bit of a fetish, with twink porn being really popular within the gay community.
What’s more, the term might represent a form of performed masculinity.
If you are unclear on what performativity is, it is simply a look at how language can shape culture by setting standards that people try to live up to.
Now people like Judith Butler will argue that gender is a social construct, one that depends on the performative effects of everyday language and common speech.
In other words, when we define what a male and female are, Butler believes that we create roles and force people to perform this role.
So, why does any of this matter?
Well, the reason is that if a twink is a young man who is desired, even fetishized to some extent, by the gay community, then this creates a performative pressure on young gay men who want to feel desired and appreciated for their youth.
It effectively creates a role for them to fill, sort of like the femme fatale for heterosexual men.
And like the femme fatale, this role is not only hyper-sexualized, but it implies that only a certain race, white men, who are at a certain age, late teens to early twenties, are worth being coveted to such a degree.
It is this performative pressure that will make some young men shave off their body hair even if they are naturally hairy.
After all, hairlessness is a sign of youth, and twinks are known for being hairless; it is what differentiates them from the bears, cubs, and otters.
It is also why some gay men may act more effeminate than they are naturally inclined, all in service of a social role.
It is this pursuit of shape over substance, this need to look a particular way and act in a particular fashion, that has made some people use the word twink as a derogatory term.
The claim is that, like a twinkie, a twink’s obsession with how they are perceived makes them look good on the outside but offer no real nutritional value; all they have to offer is a little cream.
On the other hand, some bears may use the word twink as a pejorative term; these are the same bears who celebrate their masculinity and view feigning femininity for the sake of popularity as a degrading act.
What is a hunk?
There is much less to say about the word hunk. It has been around for a while and is not unique to the gay community, making it unnecessary to delve deeply into what the word means. Nevertheless, let’s take a quick look at it.
The word hunk is almost synonymous with the word beefcake. It describes a large, muscular man, and like twink, it both exerts performative pressures on males to conform to a particular body type and is fetishized by the community at large.
This sexualization of the hunk focuses on the outer shape while disregarding any inner-depth.
To add to this fetishized nature of the word, many actors get type-cast as the hunk; think Chris Hemsworth, Brad Pitt, or Ryan Reynolds Additionally, numerous photoshoots are carried out where a male celebrity poses in ways that accentuate their physique.
The origin of the word hunk is uncertain. Back in 1813, it meant “a large piece cut off.”
It was uncommon until the mid-1800s. The word itself may come from the West Flemish word hunke, which was used to talk about bread and meat.
However, it wasn’t until the 1940’s that the word was used to refer to an attractive, muscular man.
It was used both in jive talk and Australian slang.
Alright, I get it. Now, let’s have a second look at “twunk”
Finally, we get to the part you’ve all been waiting for: the definition of twunk. The original meaning we first looked at remains unchanged.
A twunk is simply a muscular twink.
But, given our exploration of gay culture, we can take a much more detailed look at the word.
You see, a twunk can also be used to describe an older man who acts as a twink.
This could apply to someone who was a twink when they were younger but grew past their early twenties while still never losing their twinkish behavior.
From a behavioral standpoint, an older twunk would be someone who is somewhere between 28 years old and 40 years old.
They might have an orangy glow and look older than they actually are thanks to an overuse of tanning beds in their youth.
Obviously, they still shave their body hair in an attempt to stay “young,” and they lie about their age.
In these cases, twunks tend to act effeminately still. Their clothing is rarely age-appropriate, and they do their best to have plastic surgery that will either make them look younger or more feminine.
They also do their best to fit in with a younger crowd, specifically young gay men who are in that twink age, even if it means acting like a 16-year old.
And, if rebuffed or rejected, they take it poorly.
In such a scenario, an argument can be made that twunk is the past-tense of twink.
However, twunk doesn’t have to only refer to an old twink-wannabe; it can refer to a twink who lost their figure by getting overweight.
You see, whereas twink refers to both the physique and behavior of a specific hyper-sexualized niche in the gay community, a twunk is used to describe a gay man who wants to become a twink but lacks the look for it.
So, these individuals who wish to belong to this coveted niche adopt many of the behaviorisms without embodying the actual thing.
And, here again, we have an excellent case where the meaning of something can differ from its usage. Twunk was originally meant to refer to muscular twinks, and it still sometimes is.
However, it is also used to describe people who try too hard to be twinks.
And, while the first usage is neutral, the latter usage is derogatory in nature as it points out how a twunk focuses on the superficial appearances of something, all in the hopes of being accepted by a specific niche in particular and being fetishized by the gay community in general.
In fact, some people may go as far as putting the word twunk in the middle of other words, creating a term whose primary purpose is to insult someone else.
For example, in the online urban dictionary, you will find the expression “twunk-ass k-otter-boo.”
This is used to refer to someone who has the body of a twunk, is a bit hairy like an otter, and is obsessed with Korean culture and K-Pop.
Other cases of Twunk being a portmanteau
Since we’re on the subject of portmanteaus, let’s take a quick look at other cases where twunk is part of a word that is made up of two different words:
- Twunking means to tweet while drunk. The actual mashed up words are tweeting and drunk.
- A twunky is a twitter junkie, a.k.a. someone addicted to twitter.
- Your twunkle is an uncle who resembles you to such a degree that they could be your uncle. In fact, the mashed-up words are twin and uncle.
- A twunker is an insult that mashes up three words together: twat, c**t, and wanker. Combining three insults into one is definitely an efficient way of conveying how unpleasant you find someone.
Twunk in music
In Manchester, England, a hybrid musical genre appeared called twunk.
It combines the unique melodies and lyrics of folk and modern bands like Belle and Sebastian with the more aggressive noise-pop punk that is played by groups like Erase Errata and the Platinum Spires.
Musicians who play twunk tend to be peaceful individuals who are interested in several crafts and enjoy hanging in large social gatherings by Hobbeycraft over the weekends.
Interestingly, it is expected that twunk will go in new directions, including twunk rock, nu-twunk, twunkadelia, and Brit-twunk.
Other definitions of twunk
Twunk has other definitions. For one thing, it can be used to talk about bad twinkies, which is sort of fitting given all we’ve talked about.
When we say bad twinkies, we are talking about twinkies that have gotten rotten, the kind that can be found at the bottom of a garbage bin.
Another definition is being lied to by the establishment.
In this case, the word can be used as either a noun or a verb. This is a very unique definition, one that is rarely used.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.