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How the phrase became popular in the US



Chicken butt is a popular American child-language lexicon, often heard on playgrounds across the country. You may think it sounds too offensive for children due to the word “butt”. But it will surprise you to know that it has nothing to do with the behind of a chicken, based on its origins.

The chicken butt is a pre-internet saying but it has succeeded in finding its way into becoming a meme-able content. As you already know, memes have become an integral way for users to express themselves in the age of advanced information and technology.

So, what is the chicken butt? Find out more details when you read this article.

What is chicken butt?

What is chicken butt?

Urban Dictionary defines chicken butt as a rhyme-a-rific and obnoxious way to respond to the obnoxious question: “Guess What?” In simple terms, it refers to a saying in which people respond to the question “What’s up” or “Guess what?” with “chicken butt”.

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Here, one person says “Guess what?” or “what’s up?” and another replies “chicken butt!”

Chicken butt joke

People say “chicken butt” when they are either joking or calling someone out for asking questions that are regarded as nonsense. An example is:

Mike: “Guess What?”

Jim: “Chicken butt!”

Origin of chicken butt slang

The phrase can be traced back to the late 14th century when street merchants would call out what they were offering and how much it cost. According to reports, one particularly delicious item was advertised as:

“Chicken butt! Five cents a cut!”

Chicken butt, in this sense, did not refer to the behind of a chicken but its shoulders, which were less desirable in the markets and made butchers pack them into barrels – either to store them or ship them. These barrels were called butts after the modern French word for a barrel or wineskin, botte and the Latin buttis (for cask). The term has, over time, extended to cuts of meat within the barrels as well. This was after the Great Depression in the 1920s when a lot of people were plunged into poverty and had to resort to buying those cuts of meat from butchers.

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Another origin story of the phrase has been traced to George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, in 1935. In the book, Maria compares Sporting Life to a chicken, invoking the merchants’ chant:

I hate yo’ struttin’ style,

Yes sir, and yo’ god damn silly smile

an yo’ ten cent di’mons an’ yo’ fi’ cent butts. Oh, I hate yo’ guts.

However, a more acceptable origin story has also been traced to Mississippian Charles G. Bell’s 1962 novel, The Married Land.

Part of the book read:

…but what as a boy he had spoken with boys, white and colored, when they ran and fought together (“What, what, chicken butt, come around the house and lick it up.)

The 1970 work, Psychoanalytic Study of the Child – Volume 25 tells a different story when it describes a girl named Naomi, who uses some peculiar terms such as “chicken-butt” to mean “sex” and “cookie” to mean “vagina”. It is described as “confusingly using words that she senses are somehow inaccurate…” However, a 1973 book, Black Language by Malachi Andrews and Paul T. Owens, contains the following entry:

Chicken Butt- When someone calls out, “What?”, because they didn’t hear, a reply might be the rhyme, “Chicken Butt.” It means forget it; I am not going to repeat it. Junior flip usage.

In the same year, the National Education Association of the United States’ Today’s Education Volumes 62-64 stated that at least some children were using “chicken butt” as a slang insult: “‘Mrs. Pratt, come check me off.’

Therefore, many believe the phrase originated in southern black-American culture at least as early as the 1960s and probably a bit before. However, it became popular during the late 1970s and 1980s, when American youths used it alongside other variants like “Guess what?” “Guess why?  Chicken thigh!” and “Guess who? Chicken tattoo!”

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