1. Quote - Listen to the quote and guess what the slang means.
“I was a ham in school. I was just a ham. That’s all we really are, actors and musicians or performers, we are all just hams.”
- Justin Timberlake on what made him get into show business. (Hollywood.com)
1. Definition - Study the definition.
theatrical or melodramatic person; show off
2. Use - Learn how the slang is used.
Does Justin Timberlake think all performers are pigs? Not exactly. Normally, ham refers to a piece of meat, usually from the thigh or hind leg of a hog. But when a person is a ham, it means they love to perform and be the center of attention. Someone who shows off at Christmastime might be called a Christmas ham, but don’t get that confused with the traditional dish that many families enjoy on Christmas day. (Some might say it’s a little hammy of us to make such a bad pun, but we don’t care. We’re too busy enjoying the spotlight.)
Children who are hams at school often get in trouble for disrupting class or taking their classmates’ attention away from the teacher. They’re the “class clowns,” the ones who are always being silly and cracking jokes. Justin says he was this kind of kid, so it was natural for him to become a performer when he grew up. He thinks a lot of actors are probably hams at heart.
A ham can also be a bad actor, someone who exaggerates emotion and overacts. This expression probably dates back to the age of Shakespeare, when actors would use ham fat to remove their makeup after a performance. If they wore a lot of makeup to create a more extreme look, they’d have to use extra fat to get it off. So the more you overacted, the more ham you’d use.
Ham can be used as a noun, or you can use it as a verb by saying someone really hams it up. JT hammed it up all the time when he was little, and he still loves hamming it up today. He really enjoys being on stage, which is probably why he’s so much fun to watch.
1. Examples - Hear some example sentences.
“My little brother is such a ham. He’s always making up silly jokes and putting on little plays for my parents.
When I’m on stage, I love to go crazy and really ham it up. I’m not a very subtle performer.
Don’t be such a ham! Do you really need everyone to be focused on you all the time?”