I was listening to the radio in the car yesterday and the song Funkytown (by Lipps Inc) came on. What a good song that is. Anyway it got me thinking about the word funk. We don’t hear that word so often these days but in the 70s it was ubiquitous, appearing in song titles like Play that Funky Music, Funky Stuff and Funky Chicken, the names of bands, like Funkadelic, and expressions like strut your funky stuff (ie dance). But what does “funk” actually mean? Well, according to wikipedia it’s a style of Afro-American music which appeared in the 60s, influenced by jazz, characterised by a strong beat decorated by complex rhythms, in which the drums and bass are prominent, with small emphasis on melody and chord progressions but making use of repeated rich complex chords, often in minor keys. (By this definition Funkytown is not actually a very good example of funk.)
But where did the word come from? I was once told by a friend (a certain Mr Rob Lemkin) that it originally meant “pubic sweat”. I have no idea if this is true but it sounds as if it ought to be true. And when you consider that funk in British English is also an old slang word for “fear”, the idea that it has a connection with sweat does seem plausible.
P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.