• raunchy •
Pronunciation: rawn-chee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. In bad condition: unkempt, shabby, dirty, smelly, messy. 2. Lewd, bawdy, salacious, dirty, suggestive, disreputable.
Notes: Today's questionably Good Word refers to things that are somewhat lewd or thoroughly messy, inoffensively. Lady Gaga's performances can be raunchy in the second sense and jeans that have been worn for weeks on end are certainly raunchy in the first. The adverb is raunchily, as an exotic dancer who writhes raunchily. The abstract noun is raunchiness. Today's word may now be used as a verb, as punk rock performance that raunches it up.
In Play: In the first sense we may say: "Portia Carr wouldn't be caught dead in Ivan Oder's raunchy jalopy!" In the second sense, we might say, "Not only does he drive a raunchy car, he tells equally raunchy jokes."
Word History: Most dictionaries claim that the origin of today's Good Word is unknown. However, two offer suggestions. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests—with little enthusiasm, I might add—that it might come from a British regional word raunch "to eat or snatch greedily". There is also a regional adjective raunch "uncooked green vegetables". However, the American word seems to have arisen in the speech of aviation cadets in the Southwest. Etymonline suggests that it might be a slight corruption of Spanish rancho "ranch", pronounced [rahncho], which might have been associated with the smell of cattle. I am not totally convinced of either, though I do think the evidence favors that latter explanation. (Today's Good Word was suggested by the completely unraunchy William Hupy in the Alpha Agora suggestion shop.)