Another Sexy Thing…that isn’t really sexy!

Caricature on "The great epidemic of porn...
Image via Wikipedia

I heard it again yesterday.  In another IT talk.  This time during Drupal Discovery Day.  The presenter was showing the front page of a website he’d built and talking about his choices for SEO.  He’d added a video module because “…search engines think video is sexy.”

After the sessions were finished, and everybody was chatting over drinks (which there were way more of than we were able to consume), I approached him and after congratulating him on his presentation asked what it is about video that search engines find sexy.  He explained that the SE takes into consideration the user’s response to what’s on the page and apparently users are excited when they have a video option.

Me: Sexually excited?
Him:Not unless it’s sexually explicit.

I explained my distaste for the use of ‘sexy’ as an adjective to describe anything of interest and told him about the Sexy Pothole blog post as well as some recent conversations I’ve had about this misuse of the word.  I suggested that for his next presentation he find another word that better describes what video does for search engines.  It was a friendly, stimulating chat.  He understood what I was talking about.  Stimulating might be a good word to describe how SE ‘s feel about video.

I’ve had a few other chats with people about this, with mixed reactions.  Some quite intense – yet good natured – debates.  The commonest reaction from men (paraphrased): “It’s not literal.”

I know it’s not literal.

But my favorite reaction came from a young woman working in digital marketing:

“I hate that.  My brother uses it all the time.  He’ll get a new camera and say it’s really sexy.  I can’t stand that!”

Happy to find a kindred spirit in the dislike of its incorrect use, and a younger woman at that, someone who reflects the thinking of a different generation.  So it’s not just because I’m a fuddy-duddy.  I wonder how many people you alienate with the incorrect use of the word? Do you think you snare more than you lose?

And now, to keep the search engine satisfied, here’s a sexy spoof.  The original is way better than the new version.  Even if you hate the song, you’ve got to appreciate Right Fred Said’s clever sense of humor!

Made 20 years later, is this LMFAO response?  What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Another Sexy Thing…that isn’t really sexy!

Add yours

  1. I don’t mind people using ‘sexy’ incorrectly – because I know what they mean. And for me, our language is full of words we use incorrectly, though those ‘incorrect’ uses often become correct, or accepted, over time. I enjoy the evolving nature of English, and using ‘sexy’ to mean ‘exciting’ is just another example of that evolution.

    Hi Leif! I’d suggest it’s a gender thing – but then Chris mentions his dislike of it in his blog, so strike that out. I appreciate what you’re saying about evolving language – though what word will we use to describe something that inspires sexual desire if we use the word sexy to describe anything that excites? I think it suggests a loss of genuine sexiness and perhaps that’s the reality. We are so bombarded with sexy images that we’ve become indifferent and now anything that is interesting is said to be sexy, perhaps more in a glib way. But then, I do think using sexy as an adjective to describe anything of interest is pretty lazy. Alison

  2. Why is using ‘sexy’ to describe something of interest lazy? Surely it’s just the same as using ‘interesting’. No more or less effortful!

    People say ‘bad’ to mean good, and ‘the shit’ to mean the best, but ‘shit’ to mean bad.

    Surely the gradualy adoption of ‘sexy’ to mean more than one thing is just another example of the richness or English. Our language has so many nuances, so many subtleties! It’s a beautiful, sexy thing.

    Your comment suggests that a word can only mean one thing, and as an English-speaker you must know better than that!

    1. Leif, you make a strong argument. Though I reserve my right not to like it. No, I don’t think words can’t mean more than one thing. I think I’ve clearly expressed why I don’t like the word being used to describe things that don’t inspire sexual interest. Perhaps it offends me more because I feel to use it that way, cheapens and waters down the power of the word. If we use it for things that don’t inspire sexual interest, what are we going use for things that do?

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