In an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry says: "Adjacent to refuse, is refuse." Can anyone explain to me what that means? I found the script and give the context in what is was said.

JERRY: Was it in the trash?
JERRY: Then it was trash.
GEORGE: It wasn't down in, it was sort of on top.
JERRY: But it was in the cylinder!
GEORGE: Above the rim.
JERRY: Adjacent to refuse, is refuse.

What does it mean, and how can it be used?

  • Welcome to EL&U! A tip: questions that can be answered with a single link to a dictionary will be closed so please check one next time. Thanks!
    – Hugo
    Nov 27, 2011 at 10:07
  • Ok I will check next time. Nov 27, 2011 at 10:09

3 Answers 3


Refuse here means rubbish. He is saying that anything near rubbish is considered rubbish too, in a humorous way.

  • Oh really, I have never heard of refuse. I was thinking the sentence meant something completely different. Something in the realm of refusing something. I guess adjacent me means 'close to' then. That makes a lot of sense, thanks. Nov 27, 2011 at 4:13

Merriam-Webster defines refuse in the noun form as "the worthless or useless part of something." It just means Trash, essentially.

Adjacent means in close proximity, usually enough to share an edge or border. USA is adjacent to Canada.

So "Refuse adjacent to refuse, is refuse." If it's touching the rest of the trash, it's included in the trash.

You can really only use it yourself if when you want to point out a collective.

A: When are you going to clean this mess up? B: It's not all messy. There are some piles, it's an organized mess. A: Mess adjecent to mess...is still mess.

It's a weak and and schmaltzy example, but hopefully that'll give you an idea of the pattern for usage.

  • Schmaltzy, "overly sentimental, emotional, maudlin or bathetic" seems like wrong adjective, although via bathetic it may suggest trivial or banal. Is that the meaning you aimed for? Nov 27, 2011 at 6:03

Did you happen to notice the pronunciation when you first heard the show? Jerry said:


which is either garbage, or something rejected as worthless (per Dictionary.com) — such as the inhabitants of the Pit of Refuse in World of Warcraft.

The pronunciation and meaning you're familiar with is


as in

Lucy: Why don't you be a good little brother and go make me a jelly bread sandwitch? If you don't I'm going to leap on you and pound you right through the floor! So why don't you make me that jelly-bread sandwich, huh? Please, dear brother?

Linus: (heading off for the kitchen) When someone asks you that nicely, how can you refuse?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.