Hey Sacramento, City Editor Matt here. The word ‘janky’ fascinates me because there’s something unshakably Sac about it. Let me explain.
This thought occurred to me while I was driving the other day + saw a bumper sticker that read “Keep Midtown Janky.” Rather than surprise me, it made total sense that we had a phrase that not only bucked the keep your city weird trend, but had a subtly self-deprecating air to boot (I mean, we do have a clothing brand called Sacramento Hates You Too).
The City of Trees is also the first place I ever heard the word. It was in a conversation with someone who had grown up here — they ended an extended anecdote with the phrase, “You know, because Sac is janky,” as if that explained everything they had just said.
So, let’s back up. Janky is North American slang for things that are “of extremely poor or unreliable quality.” It entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, with its origins in early-90s hip-hop music.
But “janky” has been floating around Sac for a while, especially online. Like “Keep Midtown Janky” — a mildly active Facebook group, where janky refers to an artistic diversity in our city. Or this Reddit thread on the slogan, which is oddly poetic:
“Let’s let the weeds live a little longer from time-to-time. It’s okay to procrastinate on patching that plank in your broken fence. Haul out the broken chair on your porch (maybe) after it collapses […] let’s not forget this imperfection is one of the things that has given midtown its character.”
All in all, I can’t quite articulate why “Keep Midtown Janky” makes so much sense to me. Maybe it’s what this Redditor said, about how it means putting the soul of a city + its people first.
What ever janky means to you… let’s just chalk it up to a je ne “sac” quoi.