In The Shawshank Redemption, the officer said to a prisoner:

Do you speak English, butt-steak?

What does it mean to describe someone as a butt-steak?

  • 11
    For what it's worth, just about any noun could have served the same purpose as long as the tone of the delivery was the same. English is a mighty language :) Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 16:01
  • 1
    The context is quite important. If it were Tina Belcher using the term the meaning would be completely different.
    – Bill K
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 17:48

4 Answers 4


The key word is "butt". It's like calling someone an ass, but in a way that has a double meaning so as not to get in trouble from your superiors for using foul language. A butt steak is another term for top sirloin, so that's the double meaning. It was clearly meant as a veiled insult.

  • 64
    Or perhaps a vealed insult.
    – pipe
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 15:26
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    @AzorAhai it's not bad but it's certainly not the best cut. ("Best cut" is subjective but I'm not sure of any criteria that would put sirloin at the ahem "top" of the list) Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 18:54
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    @MikeTheLiar Actually, most lists have Fore Rib, Sirloin, Top Rump and Fillet listed at the top, as the best cuts. (And "top sirloin" is a pointless name, since it comes from the French "surloinge", where "sur" means "above" or "top"... And, Americans use a different set of names for the cuts compared to the rest of the world, calling sirloin "short loin" and rump "sirloin" >_<) Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 8:15
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    @Chronocidal I was confused by this very much, moving from the UK to the USA, sirloin is a cheap cut here, which roughly (though not exactly) corresponds with what the UK called rump steak. In the UK sirloin was a fairly nice and expensive cut. Honestly US cuts of beef are almost unrelated to those of any other countries I know.
    – Vality
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 17:42
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    Since when does "ass" not have a double meaning?
    – Owen
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 19:11

Some hearsay for you... I had a friend that was in the military (in the 60's) and he told me that superiors were not allowed to insult lower ranking troops so they would use "creative" names and acronyms that technically had a non-insulting meaning but everyone knew it was just a veiled insult.

For instance, they would call people a TURD which is another word for poop, but they said it was actually an acronym that meant "Trainee Under Rigid Discipline". Now that's not an insult - it's just a descriptive classification.

Police, prison guards, and the military share some culture. This could be seen as another way of calling the prisoner an ass (bad word for butt), but not really.

  • You can stick "butt" before just about any word and it becomes an insult. "butt-head" and "butt-wad" are common (the latter literally means toilet paper left behind in your butt).
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 17:40
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    @Barmar, right, but the point is that a "butt steak" is a real thing you can go to the grocery store and ask for with a straight face. Just adding butt to a word is a "real" insult.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 17:42

Most likely he was trying to subtly let him know that he was going to be treated like a piece of meat. Andy was supposed to be a fairly good looking man, and in male prisons, "pretty boys" were highly prized. Steak was considered highly sought after back then, so it's implied that he will be very desirable in the prison.


There is nothing much deep here, it's just a plain insult.

Generally, Steak is :

meat generally sliced across the muscle fibers, potentially including a bone. wikipedia

So butt-steak means sliced meat from a butt and is used just to insult.

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