What does It Mean to get "Punked"?

R. Kayne

To get "punked" is to be intentionally fooled in some way, usually the butt of a practical joke perpetrated by a friend or colleague. In a harsher and more extended context, getting punked can be slang for getting ripped off, dumped, passed by for a promotion, or otherwise receiving the short end of a stick.

Los Angeles is the site of most of the action in "Punked".
Los Angeles is the site of most of the action in "Punked".

The term “punked” was popularized by an MTV series that began in 2003, using an updated Candid Camera format. Punk’d!, created by Jason Goldberg and Ashton Kutcher, plays elaborate pranks on unsuspecting people while secretly filming the action. The catch is that the unsuspecting subject is a celebrity. When the star has gone through sufficient grief, Kutcher appears on scene to announce, "You’ve been punked!"

Ryan Seacrest -- a famous radio and television show host -- has appeared on the MTV show "Punk'd!".
Ryan Seacrest -- a famous radio and television show host -- has appeared on the MTV show "Punk'd!".

Some celebrities punked by Kutcher include Rob Thomas, Matthew Perry, The Rock, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Pink, Tyra Banks, and Halle Berry. Often, Kutcher involves guest celebrities or personal associates of the subject as accomplices to make the prank more convincing. While most of the pranks take place in the Los Angeles area, Kutcher has also taken the show across country, making no celebrity safe. Sports figures, singers, and actors have been punked in virtually every setting, from movie premieres to music video sets and parking lots.

A few celebrities have caught on to the prank and failed to be punked. Fellow-producer Jason Goldberg set up a prank to punk Kutcher himself for the first season’s final episode. Goldberg enlisted the help of Britney Spears, but Kutcher got wise, Spears switched teams, and they turned the prank around on Goldberg, who was successfully punked. Kutcher claims he tried to punk Neve Campbell twice before he finally succeeded in a sixth season episode.

A few celebrities, including Pamela Anderson, reportedly refused to sign off on airing rights. Lawyers for Michael Vartan of Alias threatened to sue if the star’s taped prank was ever shown, though Vartan denies ever being punked.

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Discussion Comments


Ultimately from punk, "prostitute, harlot, strumpet," first recorded 1590s, of unknown origin.


To "get punked" originates from prison slang. As such, it is unfortunate that it has entered mainstream slang, due to the violent and unpleasant initial origins of the phrase, which is a synonym of a specific form of rape that takes place in prisons". More precisely: punks are inmates "... who had been forced to engage in sex to avoid physical harm. This process, referred to as being “turned out” or “punked out,” effectively redefines and labels the victims’ role in prison as that of a “punk,” or subjugated homosexual. Thus, the homosexual orientation and label placed upon the deviant is not one of self-choice or personal preference, but is forced upon him by more powerful members of the inmate subculture.

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