Daily Archives: January 24, 2009

junket

A word that could be fun, trashy, or both – or even neither. The junk leaps out right away, of course, and brings to mind trash, waste, booty, and boats (not unfamiliar things on many a junket). The et gives it a small and ornamental feel, echoing trinket. The opening j gives it a jaunty feel, and the k is perhaps the most unrefined-feeling of letters. (Together unaccompanied they give us jk, now short for “just kidding.”) The modern North American speaker will generally think of this word as signifying a pleasure trip at someone else’s expense with an ostensible serious purpose (research, business, what have you). Many official government trips are this characterized, and academic conferences have certainly not escaped the label – nor have medical “continuing education opportunities” in the form of luxury vacations with pro forma lectures attached, paid for by such as drug companies. More loosely, it can signify any pleasure trip, an outing for a picnic, perhaps. And it can signify a confection of cottage cheese and scalded cream. And it can signify a rush basket. OK, what? Do we need to do a research trip to explore the connection of these? Perhaps. There are various lines of thought about the lines of development. The rush basket is certainly the oldest sense, and comes from jonc “rush,” which may or may not be related to junk “rubbish” (all it needs is a bbi, clearly!). The dessert, it is asserted in some sources, is named after giuncata, Italian cream cheese, originally made in a rush basket. The picnic sense comes from the basket, the dessert, or, who knows, maybe both? Apparently people were too busy drinking and enjoying themselves on their outing to take notes.