Sex & Society » Pop culture, Sex positivity, Sexuality: "Smexy and I Know It"

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Smexy and I Know It

Smexy and I Know It
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I should love smexy, but I can’t. The portmanteau word is like a hideous chimera made from two beautiful species of animals that never should have mated.

  Scary, Scary Dictionary

I turn to my trusty Random House to help explain why my ears can’t get used to the bastard child of smart and sexy. If smexy were here, it would fall on the page with the guidewords “smallpox/smoke.” You’re in some shady company when you’re hanging out with smallpox.

If smexy were here, it would fall precisely between “smelter” and “smidgen.” Smidgen’s not so bad; it has a cooking-show flavor, as in “Add a smidgen of cardamom to your vanilla pudding.” Smidgen could even be delicious. Likewise, I have nothing against smelters, or anyone otherwise employed in the metallurgic arts. To my ancient Irish ancestors, smiths enjoyed the patronage of the great fire-goddess Brighid, and for the love of Brighid I could even love the word “smelter.”

What makes my inner ear cringe is the first part of the word: smelt. Smelt – the shiny silver fish, lying neatly decapitated in heaps at the nearest seafood counter … or bait shop. Smelt have never appealed to me as a food, looking like something on the menu at a zoo’s penguin exhibit. Their name is murder on the ears, with connotations of smells. Unpleasant smells. Fishy smells.

You put “smell” and “sex” in the same sentence, much less the same word, and you return to the age-
old debate over whether vaginas smell like fish.

The “sm” digraph reminds me of another word: smack. A well-timed smack on the ass can be a welcome thing, but smack has another meaning. Random House defines it thus: “to close and open (the lips) smartly so as to produce a sharp sound.” (That’s smart 10, “sharp and stinging,” not smart 5, “bright and clever.”) Smack as onomatopoeia refers to one of the most obnoxious sounds in the mammalian vocabulary, which is why Kellogg’s Honey Smacks is the worst-named breakfast cereal of all time. The word is reminiscent of cows chewing the cud – not to mention its associations with heroin. Don’t listen to the 1990s, kids – there’s nothing chic about heroin. Infected track marks are so not smexy.

  Like Aloha, a Word of Many Uses

It may not have hit Random House yet, but people are using “smexy” in positive ways. The romance novel review blog SmexyBooks.com wears the newly-minted word proudly, as if to say, “Of course we’re smart. We’re reading books, aren’t we?” SmexyAsians.com has another good idea: an aggregation of videos portraying Asians/Asian-American/Asian-Canadian men and women as both sexy and smart. Wikihow’s “How to Look Smexy” page is full of sound, sensible advice.

“Smexy” has a secondary usage, standing for “sexy and Mexican.” Plenty of things are sexy about Mexican culture, from mole poblano to Salma Hayek to Michael Trevino. Again, a perfectly useful and benevolent coinage. According to Urban Dictionary, this is one of the oldest usages of smexy, dating from 2004.

Within Urban Dictionary, smexy has another, sneakier usage: it’s a way of sneaking “sexy” into chatrooms and other online forums that don’t allow the word. Part of me is concerned about predators stalking kids’ chatrooms. The subversive in me, however, applauds the cleverness of young people figuring out how to voice their opinions around an overly-authoritarian Internet restriction.

  The Smexy Life Cycle

I’m no etymologist, but in my amateur opinion, a neologism like “smexy” generally goes through several stages:

1. No one over the age of 14 uses it.
2. No one over the age of 24 uses it.
3. As soon as someone over the age of 24 uses it, the word suffers a massive loss of popularity
among its original users.
4. CBS Evening News does a folksy human-interest piece about it.
5. A struggling country music artist pens a novelty song around it. It hits the Top 40, catalyzing
the artist’s career and ensuring that the world remains firmly ensconced in the American
vocabulary. Wherever there’s a digital music library, there you shall find smexy. It’ll be in Dick
Cheney’s iPod.

So there you have it – smexy isn’t likely to go anywhere any time soon, especially once Nashville gets a hold of it. I bet it sounds even worse when sung than it does inside my head. Go ahead – try a verse of “Smexy Back” in a Justin Timberlake voice. Justin might call it a vocabulary malfunction.

Maybe smexy is an acquired taste, like Miles Fisher’s cover of the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.” The first time I watched it on YouTube in 2010, I loved the Texan actor/singer’s homage to American Psycho, but didn’t care much for the ‘80s-style electronica of the song. After repeated viewings, the song started to grow on me, and I eventually took the video up on its offer of a free download. A year and a half later, I can listen to the original or the Thousandaire remix four times in a row and enjoy it more each time.

I hope smexy grows on me like that. I love sexy and I love smart, so I want to wish them a long and happy marriage. Their baby’s going through an awkward phase, but maybe she’ll grow out of it.

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Comments

Yes. Exactly this.

04/20/2012
tearex  

It reminds me of "smegma" which is definitely NOT sexy.

04/23/2012

After reading this it seems like these two words go together like kissing cousins. Here are a few of my suggestions: Intelligent + Provactitive= Intelvactitive
Smart + Seduction = Smaduction
Brilliant + Libidinous = Brillidinous* my fav

04/24/2012

Eh, I don't use the word much, but I enjoy it. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but to me it sounds ridiculous in a fun way. It combines "smart" and "sexy" into a word that sounds silly, and anyone who knows me knows I usually enjoy silliness.

To each their own, though. I hate the word "cooter" because to me it sounds like something related to toilets, yet I know at least one person who thinks it's a very clean-sounding word. Go fig.

05/05/2012

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