March 1, 2014

7 in 7: The Origins of Chicken Butt

[This is day six of 7 Posts in 7 Days.]

The same ridiculous joke that little boys told (and laughed at) when I was in elementary school in the 70s is still popular today. I overheard it in the lobby of my daughter's school this week. Here's how it goes:

Kid #1: You know what? ("Guess what" works too.)

Kid #2: What?

Kid #1: Chicken butt!!!

Hearing this for the first time in many years got me thinking and pondering many things. Why does this joke always involve a chicken? Does it mean "chicken" as in someone who's afraid? Would it be just as funny as "rooster butt?" Do chickens have butts?

So I did some extensive internet research (for about five minutes) to try to find out the origins of the chicken butt joke. Here's what I found:

The first thing to pop up was Urban Dictionary's definition of chicken butt: "A rhyme-arific and obnoxious way to respond to the obnoxious & ubiquitous question, 'Guess What?' A much easier response than actually trying to guess the topic about to be brought up."

Next I found a children's book on Amazon called Chicken Butt, and it's based on the joke: "The classic schoolyard joke has been recast as an irreverent picture book, with call-and-response parts for parent and child."

Then I found something I want for my next birthday or Christmas: a Guess What T-shirt for sale by a place called One Horse Shy:

Most of the search results did not address the actual origins of this joke. But I did find a couple of suggestions on Yahoo Answers (which is one the last places I'd actually go for reputable answers). One person said that one day some moron discovered that "what" and "butt" rhyme, and the phrase caught on after that. That's funny.

Another answer suggested that the phrase came from back in the 50s when you could actually buy some chicken for a nickel. The phrase was, "Chicken butt, five cents a cut."

Guess what? I still have no idea where this joke came from.

[See a list of other 7 Posts in 7 Days participants here.]



  1. I was just searching on this topic because I was thinking back to the first time I heard this expression, which was in the 90s, and I was actually the person who said it. I said it in response to another kid on my school bus asking me "guess who", and following it with "chicken stew". Seemed like a pretty obvious follow up. It wasn't until years later that I realized it was already a thing.

  2. Hmm I searched about the origin of "chicken butt" on the internet simply because there is a person in my class that keeps repeating this same joke. Usually a joke gets old after the first few times, but this one wasn't even funny the first time so, naturally, I was curious. Well, guess you never know!

  3. When I was a police dispatcher in 1973 in St. Helens, Oregon my joke that I started in 1969 ~ guess what? Chicken Butt! stated to spread around. Wish I would have had it patented!! And if you ever hear rats patuee ~ that was me also. ~~ Jan

  4. Many people first heard the chickenbutt joke on Saturday Night Live when guest Macaulay Culkin exasperated Michael Jordon by repeating the joke over and over (the joke was that Mike didn't get it). But I remember an even earlier reference in the 1981 movie "Suburbia" there's a scene where two girls are playing the chicken butt game while sitting in the backyard in front of a fire pit.

  5. I am taking credit ... If you want to believe it or not is up to you. I am a school teacher. I began my teaching career in 1993 in El Paso, Texas. It was something I'd say to kids to be funny with them. I'd start with hey guess what? Chicken butt. Guess why? Chicken thigh. Guess how? Chicken cow. Only chicken butt stuck. Lol. Go figure.

    1. I don't believe it. My dad was using the Chicken Butt joke on us kids back in the 70's.

  6. I was wondering if there was anywhere to find the origin of this phrase, or was it exclusive to where I grew up (Memphis, TN). I'm sure it predates the 50s--a family member now in their late 90s says this was a standard schoolyard joke in the 20s, & was old even then.