Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keywords for magazine mastheads

Magazine and popular music guru David Hepworth suggests in his column in this week's MediaGuardian that, 'The most overused word in the world of magazines is not "lunch" or "darling". It's "aspirational".'

Certainly 'aspirational' is a good word and one that I may even have used myself, but let's not forget 'sassy' and 'irreverent'.

Sassy is almost always used in connection with women's magazines and as if to illustrate this point it was actually used as the title of a magazine in the 1980s. In one sense it is a word very much of that era, and although I fear we may see a decline in its use as teen print magazines fade away, I am sure that the spirit of 'sassy' has a big future in the digital word. Mykindaplace and Jellyfish seem custom made for it. And let's not forget the brave new face of sassy central, Cosmogirl.

Irreverent is also a young-women's-mag kind of word but in an interestingly unisex irony it is also a description frequently applied to mags for young men. Since the dawn of loaded, irreverence has had an honoured place in the lexicon of lad. (And is also, by a pleasingly symmetrical coincidence, itself the title of a magazine.)

The trouble is that most people and things which describe themselves as irreverent, like those who describe themselves as zany, generally aren't. Irreverent is Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg church; irreverent is Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on that bus. It is not making jokes about football while looking at pictures of women in their pants.

There is probably a similar argument to be made about sassy, so I guess that Hepworth is right after all: those who have neither sass nor irrev merely aspire to it (or to a very watery version of it).

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