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You may hear the term “junket” used in a variety of ways. For one thing, junket is a food, a type of soft custard made with rennet and flavored milk. This word is also used to refer to a trip. Junkets may take the form of trips undertaken for pleasure by public officials on the government's dime, or a junket may be a promotional trip which is used to drum up interest in a product or event.
The root word for all three versions of “junket” is the same. This word comes from the Middle English jonket, which refers to a rush basket used to carry food. Jonkets would have been used to pack the foods for picnics and other pleasurable social events, and they were also used as serving platters for guests. In any sense, the term “junket” implies some sort of party, and it entered modern English in the 1300s.
Public officials are often accused of taking junkets, taking advantage of their positions and access to public funds to undertake pleasure trips thinly disguised as being of political importance. For example, a public official might travel to Hawaii, claiming to attend a conference there, but leaving plenty of days to explore the Hawaiian islands at leisure in addition to attending the conference. Members of the press tend to target certain public officials for taking frequent junkets, reminding voters of their free ways with public funds when election day rolls around.
In the sense of a promotional tour, junkets are often undertaken by movie studios, who send out the stars and major staff members of a film to promote it. On a film junket, the studio may arrange special screenings, giving people a chance to meet the people involved with the film and ask them questions after seeing the film. These types of junkets are sometimes called press junkets, in a reference to the fact that the promoters hope to get press coverage to encourage interest in the film which is being promoted.
Authors also go on junkets to promote their new books, as do other people with products which they wish to sell. Attending an event associated with a junket can sometimes be interesting, because it often offers a chance to get neat freebies from the company sponsoring the event while also meeting prominent authors, filmmakers, and so forth.