Home » The Startling Realization About The Famous ‘Honk If You’re Horny’ Bumper Sticker

The Startling Realization About The Famous ‘Honk If You’re Horny’ Bumper Sticker

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Car culture has given the greater culture a lot of important things: metaphors about grinding gears, tire swings, lyrical inspiration for Meatloaf, the achingly beautiful mystery of the Cars movie series, and so much more. There are also aspects of car culture that only serve to baffle and confuse human culture, cultural automotive artifacts that somehow remain part of the collective consciousness without providing anything beneficial or worthwhile. One such artifact is the infamous “Honk if You’re Horny” bumper sticker, which for some reason has been weighing heavily on my mind, so I’m going to exorcise it here, with apologies in advance. I discussed this in depth with my wife, and she agreed there’s something important here, so let’s just get through this.

[┴p- ¡ʎʞsuᴉɥɔɹo┴ ‘noʎ uɯɐp ˙uɹnʇǝɹ I ǝɯᴉʇ ǝɥʇ ʎq sǝɥsɐ pǝɹɹɐɥɔ ʇnq ƃuᴉɥʇou ǝq llᴉʍ uɐᴉdoʇn∀ ǝɥ┴ ǝqʎɐɯ ʇɐɥʇ uɹǝɔuoɔ ʎɯ ǝʇɐɔᴉunɯɯoɔ oʇ puɐ ‘sᴉ ǝlɔᴉʇɹɐ sᴉɥʇ pɹnsqɐ ʍoɥ ʇsnɾ ʇno ʇuᴉod oʇ ǝɯᴉʇ sᴉɥʇ ǝʞɐʇ oʇ pɐɥ I ʇnq ‘uoᴉʇdǝɔǝɹ llǝɔ ǝlʇʇᴉl ʎɹǝʌ ɥʇᴉʍ ɐᴉlɐɹʇsn∀ lɐɹnɹ uᴉ uɹɐq ɐ uᴉ ɯ,I ˙ʎɔɐɹ┴ pᴉʌɐp sᴉ sᴉɥ┴ :ǝʇoN s,ɹoʇᴉpƎ]

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Granted, you don’t see these bumper stickers out in the wild that much anymore, at least not to the degree they were seen in their mid-’70s heyday, but somehow this bumper sticker is still part of the cultural landscape. It was referenced in The Simpsons even:

Simpsons

What really makes this reference so good is the cast of the movie: Pauly Shore and Faye Dunaway. Why has cruel reality kept this magical pairing away from us?

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More recently, in 2021, the Netflix sketch comedy show I Think You Should Leave referenced the bumper sticker, and I think this sketch starts to capture the inherent madness of the bumper sticker itself:

Like it or not, this ridiculous bumper sticker is well-embedded into our culture. And, if you give this sticker any sort of thought, its inherent madness becomes painfully clear: Just what is the desired result of this bumper sticker? The driver with the sticker seems to be interested in the level of sexual arousal of the people driving around them, to the point that the sticker specifically requests that the driver be alerted, via sounding one’s car horn, if one has a level of sexual arousal significant enough to be considered if not medically, at least socially, horny.

What always confused me was what is the Honk if You’re Horny stickered-car-driver going to do with this information? Wave, and jot an entry in their notebook? If they’re feeling horny as well, are they going to attempt to communicate with the other car to try to negotiate some sort of sexual encounter? That’s a tricky thing to do, car-to-car, but I’m sure it’s possible. Is it a means of helping the driver to assess who may be so horny that their driving could be impaired? From all the horniness, you see.

It’s a weird thing, because it’s the exact same thing as walking around in a crowded, public space and yelling “Hello everyone! I’m curious to know who is currently sexually aroused! Please call out to me if this is a condition you’re currently experiencing! Thank you!”

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For some reason, I tried re-imagining the sticker as if Rene Descartes said it, but I don’t think the Cartesian version works any better, really:

Descarteshorny

Now, none of this is the bombshell I promised in the headline. Well, let’s be honest here: overpromised. But I do have a realization that, somehow, never occurred to me before: This bumper sticker is simply based on wordplay.

Yes, simple, silly wordplay. I’m guessing a lot of you knew this, but from what I found online, a lot of people were like me, blissfully ignorant of the fact that the whole point of the stupid thing is that horns are things that honk, so if you’re horny – as in, possessing qualities like a horn – then the reasonable thing for you to do would be to honk, the essential act of hornhood.

Or goosehood, but so far I’ve yet to see a Honk if You’re Goosey bumper sticker.

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The reason the goose-based sticker doesn’t exist, despite a goose’s equal claim on the act of honking, is that the word “goose” is not also a slang term for something dirty in the same way “horny” is. And this got me thinking as well: How the hell did the word “horny” come to mean being sexually aroused?

As much as I want to make my etymology/entymology joke again, I won’t, even though it physically hurts not to. Instead, I’ll reveal to you what the etymological history of “horny” seems to be, according to famed Nixon speechwriter and lexicographer William Safire:

First, to the roots. Horn can be traced to the Latin cornu. The proto-Germanic horna bloomed in Old English, in “Beowulf,” around the year 725. (This scholarly material is being larded in to reassure nervous editors.) The original meaning referred to the hard protuberances growing from the head of ungulate mammals or mythic creatures like the satyr, a bestial being combining a goat (undeservedly vilified as a lecherous beast) and a human.

Now to the point. A horn is hard; it is shaft-shaped; since the 15th century, it has been used as a symbol for the male’s erect sex organ. “No horn could be stiffer,” John Cleland wrote in “Fanny Hill” in 1749; earlier, Shakespeare used the term horn-mad in “Much Ado About Nothing” and other plays to mean both “lecherous” and “cuckolded.” The nose “horn” of the rhinoceros has long been believed to possess aphrodisiac qualities, which led to the endangerment of the species.

“Hornie is an 18th-century Scottish term for ‘devil,’ ” reports Alan Richter, author of the 1993 Dictionary of Sexual Slang, “which itself is another old term for penis, dating back to Boccaccio. Robert Burns refers to auld hornie, meaning the devil, and old horny is also a 19th-century term for penis. But plain old horny, meaning ‘sexually aroused,’ only makes its debut at the end of the 19th century, originally applied exclusively to males.” Henry Miller, in his 1949 “Sexus,” turned it into an equal-opportunity word with “Her thick, gurgling voice saying . . . [ raunchy bit deleted ] ‘I’m horny.’ “

 

So, most simply, the word “horny” seems to have found the use that we know it best for today because of an animal horn’s superficial similarity to an engorged, erect penis. And, it seems we may have noted literary horndog Henry Miller to thank for the gender-inclusivity of the word, too.

What still bothers me is the fact that the wordplay of “Honk if You’re Horny” is convoluted in that it requires the use of a synonym as well: The “horn” that inspired the use of the slang term “horny” is an animal horn, not a musical instrument horn, which, generally, does not have the shape of a penis, engorged or otherwise.

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If you do happen to have a penis that resembles a musical instrument horn like, say, a bugle, I’d encourage you to seek medical attention as soon as you’re able.

Shofar

Maybe I’m being a bit unfair by saying it’s just a synonym-based connection, because the origin of “horn” for a musical instrument does come directly from an animal’s horn, since animal horns were used as some of the earliest musical horns, a tradition perhaps best remembered today by the Shofar, the ram’s horn we Jews blow during the High Holy Days to wake everyone up in the back rows.

Okay, so, let’s recap here: The famous bumper sticker that reads “Honk if You’re Horny” is based on the wordplay of the meaning of the word “horn,” something that can honk, like a car horn, and also, when forced into adjectival form via the addition of a “y” at the end, suggests a slang term that refers to sexual arousal, a term that itself was derived from the similarities of an animal horn to an erect phallus, the animal horn lending its name to the honking musical instrument via the use of literal animal horns as the earliest form of musical horn.

Are we all clear now? I hope so. Too bad it’s still an idiotic bumper sticker.

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Enueve
Enueve
1 year ago

I just thought it was so that anyone honking at you would feel uncomfortable and self conscious.

Parsko
Parsko
1 year ago

Thumbs up this comment if you are horny!

Lokki
Lokki
1 year ago

Damn… ya’all realize you’re in a place where a “Honk If You’re Horny” bumpersticker has lured you into a deep philosophical and sociological discussion?

And you thought it was all Smart Cars, tail lights, and rust….

Tyler S
Tyler S
1 year ago

The first one of these I saw was advertising for a place that sold/installed custom car horns, it was an red 80s chevy pickup with 6 polished chrome train horns on the roof and cow horns on the grill. After that I always assumed it was just another advertising campaign that had worked it’s way into pop culture.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  Tyler S

Like hearting your hooker (headers) maybe?

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
1 year ago

Fun fact: “cornu” (“horny” in French) is slang for being cheated on, possibly because one’s partner is overly horny in the English sense of the word.

Mars
Mars
1 year ago

Actually, the origin is much earlier than that of the word “horny”, with people noting the usage of the horn sign as far back as the early 17th century. It is said to be a reference to the Minotaur (I’m sure you know how he came to be…) – and though some call it a reference to Andronicus hanging a deer’s head on the doors of the men whose women he slept with, I’d argue that itself could be a reference to the term rather than vice versa.
In my country of Italy it’s got much the same meaning – and as such has become an extremely popular thing to yell at people cutting you off at least from Rome south.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
1 year ago

So…is tomorrow a probing investigation of the socio-economic impacts of the ‘Ass, Gas, or Grass’ license plate surround on the rideshare gig economy?

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

If we’re doing the add-on rear-end foolishness thing by the decades, can we have a piece on the chain-link license plate frame?

No late ’90s/early ’00s Firebird was seemingly complete without one, but I know it predates that.

In fact, didn’t Homer’s Barracuda-ish mid-70s high school car have one? I mean before they retconned his teenage years to the ’90s.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

To do that, you need to start with the chain-link steering wheels that were popular at the same time as the “Honk….” bumper stickers. Couldn’t truly have a custom van or low rider without that wheel.

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
1 year ago

I prefer “Honk if you’ve never seen a gun fired from a car window.”

Back in the Honk if you’re Horny heyday, my Mom had a T-shirt that said “If it feels good, do it to me”. Which she wore. In public. Fortunately I didn’t understand what it meant back then. But my Dad was not amused by it.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
1 year ago
Reply to  Angry Bob

Or it’s close relative: “Keep honking, I’m reloading”

Parsko
Parsko
1 year ago
Reply to  Angry Bob

Was this because he was jealous??

Dave Horchak
Dave Horchak
1 year ago

Made it this far and noone references the double entendre? It is a saying that can mean two things. Of course the 70s the era of key parties, wife swapping, and women proving their feminist credentials by sleeping with as many men as possible (Unfortunately I missed out on this by a few years) it just might be honk we see each other nod agreement pull over at the next rest area, so as to screw and go back about our separate ways. Hell I was once solicited by a flight attendant to join her in her hotel for her layover.

My favorite 70s bumper sticker?
Ass, Gas, or Grass noone rides for free.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 year ago

We used to goof the burger drivethrough when we were young and stupid[er] by ordering a Ram burger, extra horny.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

ƃuᴉɥɔuǝɹʍ puɐ pooƃ ƃuᴉop ǝɹ,noʎ ǝdoH ˙pɐol ʇno pǝɥƃnɐl ʎlsnoǝɹǝs I ‘pᴉʌɐp

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

Torch unleashed! Let your freak flag fly man, I’m digging it.

Philip Ogston
Philip Ogston
1 year ago

Is it possible that “honk if you’re horny” has a similar meaning to “let your freak flag fly”? In the sense of “do what you do”. If you’re a horn then honk!

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
1 year ago

Are there un-charred ashes I’m just not familiar with?

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
1 year ago

It’s not going to be a whole month of this, is it? 😉

Beater_civic
Beater_civic
1 year ago

“If they’re feeling horny as well, are they going to attempt to communicate with the other car to try to negotiate some sort of sexual encounter? That’s a tricky thing to do, car-to-car, but I’m sure it’s possible. Is it a means of helping the driver to assess who may be so horny that their driving could be impaired? From all the horniness, you see.”

I would suggest that people already do this, quite a lot, and they don’t need bumper stickers. Especially if their taste is anything outside of the mainstream. Looking for partners for illicit stuff without outing yourself is probably as old as time.

Think of when you’re driving along and someone passes you or drives near you in a way that clearly indicates that they wanna race. They’re waiting for you to signal back that yes, you would also like to race, and they want a sign that you’re not a cop. Screaming “YES I WOULD ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE TO AN ILLEGAL STREET RACE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO ILLEGALLY STREET RACE ME?” out of your window probably doesn’t work. You gotta drop a gear or flip on those sweet undercarriage lights or whatever.

Donald Petersen
Donald Petersen
1 year ago

I thought it worked on multiple layers, one of which, thus far unmentioned, is the one wherein such a sticker is used as a *honk deterrent*. ‘Cause everyone can see the sticker, so if you go honking at its bearer for regular, non-horny reasons like “hurry the eff up” or “don’t cut me off, mothereffer,” passersby will just hear your honk and thus identify you as shamelessly horny… so annoying would-be honkers refrain from letting fly an annoyed toot for fear of being thought licentious and lacking decorum. In that sense, it might as well read “Honk if you’re an impatient and self-centered shitheel” but it’s just easier to read while driving.

I totally forgot to even consider the “horny = something that honks” angle.

Josh Jones
Josh Jones
1 year ago

.ʇᴉ pɐǝɹ uɐɔ noʎ os uʍop ǝpᴉsdn sᴉɥʇ ƃuᴉʇᴉɹʍ ɯ╻I .ǝɹǝɥʇ uʍop ʞɔnʅ poo⅁ .ʇǝʎ pǝɯᴉɐɯ/pǝʅʅᴉʞ ǝsᴉʍɹǝɥʇo ɹo pǝɥɔund ɹo uǝʇʇᴉq ɹo pǝuosᴉod ɹo ʻpǝʅnɐɯ ɹo uǝʇɐǝ uǝǝq ʇ╻uǝʌɐɥ noʎ ǝdoɥ I ʻpᴉʌɐᗡ ʎǝH

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 year ago

In the UK this bumper sticker has some serious problems.
In many parts of the country the verb honk means “to vomit”. as in “After twelve pints he honked up all over the place”. Indeed, bumper stickers here have never gained the popularity the they seem to have in the colonies, although for many years it might actually have been illegal to drive a poorly maintained 2CV without a “Greenpeace” sticker.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Reminds me of when I found out that fanny doesn’t mean the same thing in the UK as it does in the U.S. They must love it when we say, “fanny pack.” Horn if you’re honky.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

I used to work, in the US, with a woman named Fanny Young. I was temporarily working in Scotland with a group that had just joined our division. Our email system showed sender’s names last name first. I had to have one of the locals explain why getting an email from Young Fanny was so hilarious to them.

Fatbutt
Fatbutt
1 year ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Honk is also used to imply extreme smellyness. E.g “his feet really honked”.

Twisted Navigator
Twisted Navigator
1 year ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

And “to goose” someone is a transitive verb. “to poke between the buttocks with an upward thrust”

Marlin May
Marlin May
1 year ago

Also, angry geese (is there any other kind?) are well known for assaulting fleeing people by administering a sharp poke to the person’s buttocks. My guess is that’s the reason the action is called “goosing”. So, “Honk if You’re Goosey,” just might be also correct, even if incredibly obtuse.

BrakShowStarringBrak
BrakShowStarringBrak
1 year ago

Jason, if you’d just quiet down about tail lights and bumper stickers, I’d be happy to treat you to a garbage bag full of popcorn.

ElectrifyAllTheThings
ElectrifyAllTheThings
1 year ago

Nah, for me (and I’m sure many others) Torchinsky’s zaniness is half the reason I visit this site daily.

Scottingham
Scottingham
1 year ago

And the fact that he’s no longer being told ‘no, you need to write yet another article to rile up the Elon Musk trolls’ just means we get more and more of this great content!

GearDog
GearDog
1 year ago

No, I get where you were going with this. In the 90’s I found I often faced a similar state of confusion with bumper stickers inviting me to honk if I am in favor of a specific social liberty (or dislike a specific politician). Every time I have been tempted to “honk in solidarity” I decide to not to ‘toot when I realize the driver is a (usually) woman just struggling to make it through NY rush hour traffic. I don’t want to be that guy honking only to have her she may well forget about her bumper sticker and just assume I am another aggressive dingleberry trying to make her life difficult. Sigh.

GearDog
GearDog
1 year ago
Reply to  GearDog

Serious points for typing upside down David.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
1 year ago
Reply to  GearDog

I still remember a picture I took with my RAZR flip phone of a Geo Metro in a junkyard with a “Lick Bush” bumper sticker on it.

2004_Z06
2004_Z06
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr.Asa

I still have a few pieces of unused bumper stickers proclaiming, “Lick Bush in ’88”

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr.Asa

I think the van in Jason’s mind has a faded “Lick Dick in ’72” or “Dick Nixon… before he dicks you” sticker in the same spirit.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 year ago

Sometimes, when a person’s neuroses are ungrounded by direct and frequent contact with those friends and acquaintances who function as a stabilizing force in their lives, they end up going past the bounds of conventional propriety. It’s like electrostatic charge. It could shoot of anywhere and shock people.

The upside, is that these unpredictable events can result in remarkable fantasias, which would otherwise be too eccentric to bear formal development and elabortion. So there is something to be said for giving an artist the license to freak the eff out periodically.

The downside, is that sometimes the peasants will get offended, and try to burn the office down.

It’s a mixed bag.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 year ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

“Sire, the peasants are revolting!”

“You’re telling me. Ew.”

Not THAT Florida Man
Not THAT Florida Man
1 year ago

When will The Autopian start selling its version of the “Honk if you’re Horny” bumper sticker?

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago

Honk if you’re rusty?

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Honk if you like my taillights?

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
1 year ago

Honk If This Jeep’s Bumper Fell Off

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
1 year ago

Galvanic corrosion ate the bolts holding on one of my Volvos’ aluminum bumper, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Tracy’s had something similar happen at some point.

John Beef
John Beef
1 year ago

Yes, I’d buy that for a dollar.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
1 year ago

David did an upside down writing bit without referencing the Jeep “If you can read this, flip me over” thing. He’s already gone. Australia has taken him.

As for the rest of it… uhhh… ok?

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr.Asa

I make $20 an hour plus benefits stripping spambots for materials recycling and spare parts for actually useful computers. Got any copper wire in ya, Mai?

Jblues
Jblues
1 year ago

I always preferred the “Horn if you’re honky” sticker.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 year ago
Reply to  Jblues

I have seen “Shut up if you’re a Honkey”.

Philip Ogston
Philip Ogston
1 year ago
Reply to  Jblues

Honk if you’re horny for honkeys

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago

Come back soon, David. Please. Save us.

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