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My friend and a girl were talking and I heard her say to my friend "You stinker!"

What does this term mean?

  • It means, (metaphorically) that person smells unpleasant. Literally, that person is being unpleasant. – Elliott Frisch Aug 15 '16 at 0:04
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    Hello, welcome to English Language and Usage Stack Exchange! Questions that can be answered with a simple dictionary look-up are not on-topic for this site. It's not clear at the moment if this question is on-topic; have you looked at the definition of stinker in any dictionary? If you still don't understand the meaning of this word even after looking at a dictionary entry, please edit your question to add a quote from the dictionary you looked at and an explanation of what more you want to learn. – herisson Aug 15 '16 at 0:11
  • Thank You so much for the fast answers and suggestions. I will visit that site. More power to this site. – nora schwerzel Aug 15 '16 at 0:25
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Depending on the context, UrbanDictionary defines a stinker as:

A man who is charming, magnetic and often manipulative. Women's clothes fly off for a stinker and men will follow him into battle because he is just that cool. A stinker rarely gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but if he does, an intoxicating look or a clever remark gets him off scot free.

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    James Bond: the ultimate stinker. – 3kstc Aug 15 '16 at 0:05
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    1) Urban Dictionary is not particularly trustworthy. 2) I have never heard 'stinker' used in any situation remotely like this. – Mitch Aug 15 '16 at 0:32
  • @Mitch, agreed, it's not really a dictionary, but based on the limited information by the O.P. and fact that it was used between a girl and a "friend", I thought it might have some colloquial context. – 3kstc Aug 15 '16 at 0:34
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    Yes, it is colloquial, but UD ... yes, sometimes they describe slang terms (with acceptable explanations) that no one else does, but the great majority of it is crap. – Mitch Aug 15 '16 at 0:37
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The term probably originates with a small child in diapers, where a "stinker" is obviously in need of changing. And, of course, if a child needs changing and several family members are available to perform the needed activities, there is a tendency to pass the child from one person to the next, avoiding being stuck with the task.

Thus a "stinker" is someone who, while probably loved, is considered unappealing at the moment, and apt to be avoided if possible.

But that was 75-100 years ago. The term has changed. The "smell" is now metaphorical -- the individual may say/do things that are less than "sweet smelling", but not obnoxious enough to result in a permanent disassociation from the person. They're a bit naughty, a bit of a tease, a bit obnoxious (but in a cute way).

From there the term can, of course, be adopted (depending on context) to have various sex-related meanings. The specific meaning of the term as you heard it is hard to guess, absent further context.

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In British English, the exclamation "You stinker" was used by the literate, upper-middle classes to josh someone who had done something that was disagreeable or reprehensible. It was an idiomatic use of the word uttered among those of the same social class and was in common usage in the UK in the period between the wars and in the post-war period leading up to the 1960's. It sounds very P.G. Wodehouse in tone.

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