What is it about “junk,” that caught on?

To say that John Tyner’s actions at San Diego International Airport have touched a nerve is an understatement.  This all started at a security checkpoint on the way to a flight on American Airlines on November 13th, two days ago.  The complete event is written up by Tyner on his blog.  He uploaded a video of the events on the same day. As of right now, that video has been viewed 350,000 times on YouTube and on many, many newscasts. It’s below:

At 3:45 in the video, he is heard saying, “If you touch my junk, I’m going to have you arrested.”  It’s that line, and theme that has caught on. Why?

In my communications classes in the early 90’s the talk was always about the “sound bite.”  What would  you say in an interview that would be the eight seconds they would use during the newscast.  At the time, you were at the mercy of news editors, not any longer. Now, it’s the power of the meme.  So, why did this one catch on?

  • Timing – lots of people are still worked up over the election, and semi-pro politicos are still in “election-mode” and have large groups of like-minded people on speed-dial, or more likely as Twitter followers;
  • Growing concern over TSA searches at airports, particularly as we get into the travel season and news organizations are looking for travel-related stories; and
  • Linguistic novelty – the inclusion of a specific word, that can have multiple meanings, but the one used in this case is not the usual usage by most people, and when used in shorthand in this moment many people will know what you are referring to.
Image from ABCNews.com

All of these things together have made “Don’t touch my junk,” the meme du jour even though he never actually says it in the videos I watched. I think this might make it somewhere up there with,”Play it again Sam,” as one of the most famous lines never actually said, at least for this week.


28 thoughts on “What is it about “junk,” that caught on?

  1. Flying to San Diego Thursday. Should I be worried? And what’s the female equivalent word for junk or maybe I’d rather not know.

  2. If I could do it all over again, I would have said something memorable 3 weeks ago when I had one hell of a pat-down at the Port-au-Prince airport. Since I live in Haiti, without access to most media sound bites, I missed this one. Thank god I logged on long enough to blog and read your post. Living in a country where cholera could soon kill thousands, it’s surreal to be reminded of the junk becoming news back home. But somehow now I’m glad to be in the loop. It’s these pieces of America I sometimes miss the most—reminders that I come from a country with the leisure and luxury to deal seriously with the trivial—reminders that I am indeed blessed.

  3. Shoot- I don’t think “junk” is gender specific. I call mine junk. Goodies. Box. Bits. Lady Cave. Pretty much anything to avoid the proper terminology, because I am very immature, linguistically speaking.

  4. You’re right, Kathryn. I appreciate hearing a dose of reality. I think Americans are easily distracted by minor “threats” – perceived or imagined or real. We lose our perspective so easily. Haiti is in a world of hurt and cholera is a very unpleasant way to die.

  5. Nice post. I learned a little something about memes. Regarding the guy who was so concerned about his junk, buy a bus pass.
    Since 911 we’ve all had to give up some of our freedom for the sake of security, which is usually the way it works.

  6. For myself, I’m sick and tired with the excuse of “security” as a reason to inconvenience so many people so frequently. Terrorism can never be completely removed as a potential risk, and the risk is already reduced enough by existing measures.

    A reasonable, streamlined, efficient security screening is a good thing, obviously. But anyone travelling through airports over the past 10 years has been witness to chaos, confusion, inefficiency and poor management. All in the name of “security”… the whole system needs to be rationalised and streamlined, with redundant elements deleted from the gauntlet of checkpoints one needs to pass through just to get on board a flight.

  7. I recently had a similar experience in San Antonio. My clothing set no alarms off on the way down. On the way back, it did. I was pulled out and put into a clear box while my purse and suitcase remained on the conveyer belt. Thankfully my purse wasn’t stolen while some woman trotted down to give me a five a.m. pat down. It turns out that the underwires on my bra set off the detector. This is a sexual assult! I was definitely groped. I’m a US born and bred citizen who is overweight, white, and middle aged. Did they think I had a remote control device up my ass? If we are subject to this, perhaps the President, who has spent a good portion of his life OUTSIDE the U.S. should also be groped and prodded on live television to show us how it is done EACH AND EVERY TIME he flies. He is far more likely to blow something up than I am.

  8. Airport security has become such a battleground. The discussion over what’s needed for security and what’s invasion of privacy can be a fine line with today’s terrorists. Fortunatly, I’ve only had my camera bag and equipment tested to see if it was a bomb once.

  9. Also right up there with “Judy, Judy, Judy” which was famously not said by Cary Grant.

    I also think (seriously) that it’s the “Ch” in touch and the “j” in junk. There’s something so much fun about how those all sound together.

  10. It always amazes me what catches on in the modern mindset. I mean, it’s funny to hear but what does it actually mean? Can he have the officer arrested? What if he hid something up there?…lots of questions…

  11. I have to say I’m on the fence on this one. Sort of in the same way I don’t claim to be a liberal, I’m an independent. The reason? Because as much as I’m all for human rights, I also am all for being safe. Our experiences lead us in life and having experienced a beautiful daughter recently, I no longer have the luxury of a black and white mindset.

    Currently I’m a marketing consultant with a specialization in IMC, so I’ll def follow your blog.

    Thanks for the insightful posts.

    Please feel free to check me out and take a quiz to find out what fears in life are holding you back.


    Much ❤ — Shan

  12. I don’t think trampling on our rights as Americans is trivial at all. We have the right of freedom from unlawful search and seizure and when you walk through airport security you give up that right as an American citizen. That is not trivial. That is scary. It is our rights that keep us from becoming a country like Haiti.

  13. Congratulations on being featured on Freshly Pressed!

    Thanks for sharing this story about memes and security.

    It’s a tough call as to whether or not people should be searched before boarding an aircraft. I would rather be searched if it is required of everyone rather than have someone slip through with something in their junk, trunk, or, as another person wrote, “Lady Cave”….Let’s go with “chunk” as suggested by “heybow” to avoid gender specificity.

  14. I hadn’t heard of this news story before (I’m currently living outside the USA), but it underlines everything that I love about American news reporting!

    Personally, I am one of the advocates at the forefront of promoting the word “junk” as a word that can enter our lexicon to join “package”, “twig n’ berries”, and “manly stuff”. Rock on!

  15. Timing, growing concern, linguistic novelty…

    I’m sure none of these elements were on Josh Tyner’s mind when he posted his sound bite/video.

    Q: How does, “a story write itself,” and how important or essential is the viral nature of blogging and the internet as distribution of the story that writes itself?

  16. Trunk.

    Junk is male.
    Trunk is female.

    Which would make ‘junk in the trunk’ a euphemism for, well…. you know.

  17. As frequent traveller, I go under those uncomfortable checks often. And it is really intrusive. Besides, the personnel have the tendency to avoid showers and deodorants, so to the disgust of being touched overall, one has to cope with unfortunate smells as well…

  18. Danielle. You don’t have a right to travel by plane. By using an airport, you are agreeing to allow the search to happen. It is not considered unreasonable search. Whether or not it is unreasonable seizure depends on whose junk they seize.

  19. @spizmar You said “Danielle. You don’t have a right to travel by plane. By using an airport, you are agreeing to allow the search to happen. It is not considered unreasonable search. Whether or not it is unreasonable seizure depends on whose junk they seize.”

    I didn’t say we had the right to travel by plane, no more than we have the right to drive. We give up certain rights to enjoy such privileges, but TSA has gone way beyond the bounds of reasonableness. My 6-year old daughter is a six-year-old cancer survivor, and I will not allow her to do the scan, which will concentrate what they calculated to be a safe amount for your body into the first quarter inch of her skin. I’m not risking a melanoma recurrence on a piss-poor tested piece of equipment that won’t, by the way, detect the last airplane bomb attempt material. So what do I do with my daughter? I “opt out,” and she is given the full, no holds barred special “enhanced pat-down” which they save for those troublemakers that don’t want to expose their or their childrens’ genitals to the pedo behind the screen. No, instead, my daughter is felt up from hair to feet, with nothing, NOTHING left untouched.

    The only thing the metal detectors failed to catch was plastique and gunpowder based explosives, and dogs can do that. Why were they done away with? If you ping the metal detector, why are you now felt up six ways from Sunday instead of being wanded?

    I have read too many accounts of TSA agents being rude, power-hungry, God-complexed, vindictive, unreasonable, aggressive, hard-headed, and out-and-out line when a traveler asks to see a supervisor.

    This is the very definition of unreasonable search and seizure, and I thank God that my next travel plans aren’t until June, hopefully months after the TSA will admit that this was a very bad idea, and backed it down to something more reasonable.

  20. I don’t think doing a security check up is a junk check but it is for the safety of the nation as there is terrorism being spread everywhere and so this can be considered as a personal safety and national security for purpose..Individuals carrying man made explosives have been increased since a few incidents have occurred in the same manner…so i would recommend doing a check doesn’t mean check the junk it is basically a safety measure…

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