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Current use of word “edgy” (December 2009)

I hear this word more and more, usually to describe music, singing and writing. From the 1950s to about 2000, “edgy” meant “compelling”, “provocative”, often “defiant” or “questioning”, “obviously important” and sometimes dangerous, or nearly so, as it is to walk on a ledge, or near the edge of a rooftop. For example, Bob Dylan’s songs have always been called “edgy”, same as Kurt Cobain’s or Lou Reed’s. Part of edginess is nonformist, and challenging the status quo. Jon Cage would be considered edgy, while Leonard Bernstein would not. “Edgy” usually seems to mean “original”, too. You could call Chris Rock cool and provocative, sometimes, but not usually edgy, as Dave Chappelle is edgy. ---- All right. Is that still what most of you mean by “edgy”? Lately there seems to be a growing connotation of “originality”, too. For example, it’s hard to be “edgy” with even slightly older styles, subjects or forms of singing, composing music or writing short stories or novels. What do you think?

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I accept your original premise of "edgy"'s meaning, but question some of your assertions regarding who might or might not be considered edgy, as well as the precise spot at which you seem to feel "edgy" begins along a given continuum. For example, I would strongly argue that Leonard Bernstein did, in fact, represent "edgy" composition within his sphere and era; and (though I am not a fan) I imagine that Chris Rock would indeed be considered "edgy" by many.

janthomas December 24, 2009, 8:54am

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That's far too edgy a comment for me, Jan. But I agree. Some people would consider Barbara Bush or Mamie Eisenhower edgy. I take your point.

ps60s December 24, 2009, 4:29pm

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I think it does have the connotations of danger and nonconformity that you mention, but surely it is also related the expression "on the cutting edge," which implies both originality and being very up-to-date.

But there is no real right or wrong when you are talking about metaphors and connotations anyway.

nigel February 6, 2010, 3:04am

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