The adjective sexy is a US coinage. According to OnlineEtymologyDictionary, it was first used in 1923 to describe smoldering silent screen star Rudolf Valentino.
Sexy to describe the sexual attractiveness of individuals and the sexual aspect or content of things is still probably the most common use of the word:
George Clooney Voted Sexiest Man Alive (Again)
Joan Crawford proves that you can be a powerful and sexy screen presence even after the age of forty.
Out of Sight has been voted the sexiest film of all time in a poll of industry insiders for an American magazine.
Can minors go to video stores and buy or rent sexy, violent movies without parental consent?
Nowadays, however, sexy is used to describe things that have nothing to do with sexual attraction or content:
The 101 sexiest cars of all time
Houses with the world’s sexiest garages
Homelessness is not a sexy cause unless it’s around Thanksgiving.
Not too many mayors find it very sexy to stand next to a fixed sewer or repaired bridge.
Childcare and children’s services, in the general public’s view, is not sexy; it is not at the top of people’s agenda.
Somewhere in the 1950s, sexy acquired the meaning “appealing, liable to excite interest, not boring.” The word is especially popular in the marketing industry:
How to Make Your Product Look Sexy on Facebook
Build a strong foundation for your marketing – now that’s sexy.
A retail experience needs to be dynamic, energetic, [and] sexy.
The most successful company is the one with the sexy logo, the sexy ads, the sexy products, and the sexy packaging.
Considering that the purpose of advertising is to cause consumers to lust after products, I suppose that the extended meaning is not much of a stretch.
Just as I felt confident to say that sexy in these contexts is simply a synonym for “not boring,” I came across a marketing site with the headline “Sexy Doesn’t Mean ‘Not Boring.’ ” According to this site, “Helpful is the new sexy.”
Marketers will continue to use sexy as shorthand for “attention-getting,” but for me, sexy seems more suitable as an adjective for beautiful people like Antonio Banderas or Cote de Pablo than for an insurance blog.
When it comes to describing the appeal of advertising and merchandise, writers may want to explore other words that convey the idea of appealing to human craving and covetousness.
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