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I was watching That 70s Show (an American TV show), and in one of the episodes (Season 3, Episode 15), one of the character is reading a magazine article on astronauts and makes the following comment:

Wow! Chicks must really dig astronauts 'cause it says here that astronauts get all the Tang they want.

(There's a laughter track indicating it's a comedic moment.)

I didn't understand the joke but am guessing there's some funny sexual innuendo? I also didn't understand the context in which "tang" was referenced with "astronauts" in the magazine article and looked up the word in the dictionary and got various meanings to it:

noun

  1. [in singular] a strong taste, flavour, or smell: the clean salty tang of the sea.

  2. the projection on the blade of a tool such as a knife, by which the blade is held firmly in the handle: a full tang is used for strength.

verb
make a loud ringing or clanging sound: the bronze bell tangs.

But none of it made sense (to me) when referenced with "astronauts"?

Can someone explain:

  1. What does tang mean in reference to "astronauts" in the sentence?
  2. Is tang also slang for something else? (If yes, what does it mean.).
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    A note: it should be "as slang", not "as a slang" - slang is uncountable, so you can't use a singular article with it.
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 20:38
  • @stangdon But there are many slangs right, so it is "countable"?
    – sfxedit
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 21:05
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    Not in this case. You could say "there is a slang used by the criminal underworld", but in that case slang means something like "language". A particular word is slang, meaning that it is part of informal language, but the word isn't "a slang".
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 22:19
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    The idea of someone trying to figure the joke out, armed only with the knowledge that tang can mean "the flavor of sea air" or "a projection on a knife blade," is much much funnier than the actual joke. (I say that with all respect for the language learner because it would confuse the heck out of me, too!!!)
    – qdread
    Commented Jan 31 at 18:13

1 Answer 1

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The joke is a double meaning.

  1. Tang (with a capital T) is an American brand of fruit flavoured drink mix powders. Packs of these were used in supplies given to astronauts.

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  1. The other 'meaning' (sexual, as you have guessed) is that 'poontang' (often shortened to 'tang' with a small 't') is a vulgar sexist American slang word for the female genitalia, a woman viewed purely as a sexual object, or sexual intercourse.

The alternative meaning of 'tang' in speech suggests that astronauts get all the sex they want.

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  • I do know about the brand of juice mix Tang, but dismissed it because I was wondering why would Astronauts get Tang to make drinks!? The American context explains it. :)
    – sfxedit
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 21:07
  • @sfxedit - Why is it a puzzle that astronauts (small 'a') would use drink powder to make drinks? Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 21:10
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    @sfxedit It's in Wikipedia, and when I was a boy I was always reading in magazines and newspapers about the dried meals and drinks that astronauts used to save weight. They had to add water which was made on board by the fuel-cell electric generator. Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 21:19
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    It's also "That 70's show". In the 70's Tang was a popular new drink and was heavily advertised as the drink of astronauts. Of course, it's not a good joke, since a teenager would already assume women like astronauts; and no one ever said they get all the Tang they want, just that it's there on the ship, instead of orange juice. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 2:14
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    @OwenReynolds - not all that 'new'. Tang was first marketed in powdered form in 1959. Sales of Tang were poor until NASA used it on John Glenn's Mercury flight in February 1962. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 5:58

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