Photos for press
Below are lo-res and hi-res versions approved for press usage.
|Image No. 1 [low-res]||Image No. 1 [hi-res]|
The New York Times Magazine
William Safire contemplates 'raunch' in his "On Language" column, October 2, 2005'Fluent in raunch'' is how Ariel Levy, 30, describes her critique of postfeminism. Her shocking book, ''Female Chauvinist Pigs,'' is subtitled ''Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.'' In that debasing culture, she writes, young women are fascinated with porn stars and strip clubs, obsessed with the need for ''plastic surgery, peroxide, a manicure, a mall,'' and live in ''a candyland of sex'' where ''every magazine stand is a gumdrop castle of breasts.. . .'' She deplores the way a new generation -- at least a well-publicized, hedonistic part of it -- has so easily liberated itself from the old, hard-fought liberation.Raunch, the word, is hot. ''Reeling 'Em in With Raunch'' is the headline above a review of ''The 40-Year-Old Virgin'' in Pennsylvania's Centre Daily, though The Chicago Tribune liked the movie's ''oddly sweet-natured raunch.'' The San Jose Mercury-News embraced ''The Baxter'' as ''a romantic comedy without the raunch that has been so prevalent this summer.'' How did this noun, now the byword of those disapproving of bawdiness, smuttiness, licentiousness and other manifestations of blatant sexual arousal, get its start in our language? There may be a connection to the Latin rancidus, ''rank, stinking,'' and its English offshoot, with a more general sense of ''odious, nasty.'' The O.E.D. has a 1903 citation of ranchy, about a ''flea-ranchy'' old monkey. An early sexual connotation was in a 1959 British book that described a wedding at which the bridegroom spoke of his intent to worship his bride's body. ''There was an embarrassed pause at this; and then one of the bridesmaids remarked, 'A bit ranchy, that.''' In 1967, Manfred Lee and Fred Dannay, writing under the pseudonym ''Ellery Queen,'' had an impressionable heroine say: ''I fell in love with him. In a raunchy sort of way, he's beautiful.'' By the late 60's, the adjective's meaning, perhaps influenced by randy, was clearly ''ostentatiously sexy.'' In T.P. Whitney's early-70's English translation of Solzhenitsyn's ''Gulag Archipelago'' was this line: ''They had noticed two raunchy broads going to bathe.'' Along the way, users of the adjective clipped the last letter, turning it into a noun. ''Presley made his pelvis central to his act,'' wrote Time in 1964, ''and the screams of his admirers were straight from the raunch.'' The Times in 1976 discovered ''bars that breathe both elegance and raunch and therefore are considered chic.'' We have resolutely traced the development of the adjective raunchy, but its escalation into the noun raunch has had an impact on the language. Adjectives are a dime a dozen, modifying and qualifying stronger terms, but nouns -- especially the short, punchy ones that are not drearily formed by affixing a -ness -- can define an era. Take sleazy, an adjective that was just poking along (originally a slur on cheap products from Silesia) until it was given a quick haircut to become the noun sleaze. Its usage exploded in 1980 into the political ''age of sleaze,'' a phrase for petty corruption that replaced a previous generation's ''mess in Washington.'' In the same way, grungy -- a 60's adjective meaning ''dirty, grimy, ugly'' -- had a short and unsuccessful life as the noun grunginess, but then blossomed in the music and fashion worlds as grunge, which was all the rage until good taste made a comeback. We have seen how to back-form a new noun by lopping the -y off adjectives. It works in the coinage of verbs, too: baby-sit from baby sitter, typewrite from typewriter (I'm keying this in) and liaise from the French liaison. I don't like liaise, a self-important, bureaucratic substitute for ''work with,'' but I like surveil, because ''surveillance'' has more of a pervasive and sinister quality than ''watch'' or ''follow.'' I don't cotton to enthuse, a verb back-formed from ''enthusiasm,'' because I prefer the pejorative gush. On the other hand, reminisce, convalesce and resurrect are useful and even beautiful back-formations. Back-form is a verb formed from the noun back-formation, just as edit is a verb created by editing the end of the noun editor. Try it yourself; become a neologist. You can even front-form: computerese has brought us unsubscribe (cancel my subscription!) and uninstall (rip it out of the wall!). By paring down words and shuffling the parts of speech you may coin a word that fills a void and catches on. Better leading a life of raunch than living in a world of hurt.
Twee Writing about the film ''Chungking Express'' in The Times, Karen Durbin observes, ''None of this is cloying or twee.. . .'' And in a song about sitting down for a nice cup of English tea, Paul McCartney sings that the notion is ''very twee, very me.'' British usage of the word is spreading to America. Coined a century ago in Punch, it means ''overly dainty; quaint; too cute for words.'' In 1970, the magazine Melody Maker wrote, ''Most of the songs were too twee, and the rest seemed to be too raunchy.'' The etymology is in baby talk, the infantile pronunciation of ''sweet.'' The increase in usage comes from the steady media derogation since the 80's of a tender countertrend in British popular music that rejected the macho attitude of rock. ''In the U.K., the term twee is used only as an insult,'' says Matt Haynes of Sarah Records, home to many of the twee-pop groups. ''It means 'unbearably cute with no real substance.' But later, twee-pop was used to denote a certain style of music, and people began to look on it as a description rather than an insult.'' Will Hermes, an American music writer, defines it as ''nonmacho pop music with an indie-rock sensibility that critiques and tweaks rock's butch posturing.'' We finally have a synonym for the American derogation itsy-poo. Will the word twee, as a reaction to raunch, continue to spread in the English-speaking world? Poems are made by fools like me, but.. . .