Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Word Up Wednesday: Flesh

This week's word is one that I dislike the sound of, can be racist in its use, and can be sensual, colorful, or disgusting all at once. It's flesh.

The word flesh can be found in cliches like "a pound of flesh" or "her flesh crawled at the thought," or the problematic "flesh-colored." Problematic because what color of flesh, exactly, does it refer to? Unfortunately, I think when writers and marketers use it they often mean "beige-colored." This is proven time and time again on products like Band-Aids and even Crayola who used to have a beige colored crayon called flesh. But in a story, how would you really know what the word refers to unless you knew the skin color of the character? Be careful with it in this context.

The sound of flesh is a heavy, gushy sound that just smacks of red blood cells and tissue. This could be bad if the story contains "chunks of flesh flew in every direction after the bomb detonated." (Relax, it was whale flesh.) It sounds ugly. It sound base. And yet, you know that when we say flesh, we mean bare skin to which something good or bad could happen...and that's why it's a great word. It's got built-in conflict!

What are you feelings towards this mammalian, ubiquitous word?


Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I like the way the word sounds. I used to like to use "flesh" to describe clothing (i.e. a flesh-colored dress) but after reading your post I realize it's not very specific as a hue. Hmm. I hadn't thought of that before. Interesting.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I've never understood the problem with "flesh-colored." People's SKINS may be different colors, it's true. But have you ever done a laboratory dissection? Everyone's FLESH is just about the same color, regardless of skin color.

On a different note, in the business world, "flesh" is often used as a verb. "Hey Bob, why don't we flesh out this idea in a memo?" Taking the "skeleton" of an idea or a concept and adding detail, solidity.

Travener said...

Flesh is a very sensuous -- or is that sensual? -- sounding word. Ah, flesh...

Sierra Godfrey said...

Lt, you're right in that flesh is the same when you cut it open. However it's not used that way. It's used to describe skin color--and that's where I think people should be careful. If we stuck to cut open flesh then that would be fine.

Good point on the verb. Trav--interesting response, but you're right!

Amber, I am intrigued that you like the sound of it.

Jm Diaz said...

I love it.. with all my.. flesh ;)

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