June 23, 2007
The Universal Sound of Desire? Maybe Not
BusinessWeek reports that when Unilever wanted to market its Axe deodorant/body spray in 75 countries simultaneously, vice-president Russell Taylor went looking for "an international expression of lust," a single phrase to represent uncontrollable female desire.
Leaving aside the inherent improbability that any scent will cause women to go mad with desire (particularly when worn by young men, who always put on three times as much cologne as they need and make me sneeze), coming up with a universal word or phrase for anything is impossible. Once you get past facial expressions and inarticulate grunts, you run into vast differences in language.
And Unilever's chosen phrase to encapsulate the response women have to Axe? "Bom Chicka Wah Wah."
Urban Dictionary claims the phrase is an attempt to mimic a 1970s guitar porn riff. I was around in the Seventies, and I didn't know there was such a thing as a porn riff.
Whatever the derivation, however, "Bom Chicka Wah Wah" seems about as far as you can get from any natural expression of lust or desire. (Of course, true universal sounds of lust are not the kinds of things you can put on prime-time TV.) Granted I'm a ways from the late teen-early twenties crowd Axe is marketed at, but even in my most slang-happy teenage days, I would have expected any guy to respond to "Bom Chicka Wah Wah" by calling the nearest mental hospital to see whether they'd misplaced a patient.
Nevertheless, perhaps due to an intensive advertising campaign that's found its way onto YouTube, the phrase seems to be gaining some traction. Which means that before too long, "Bom Chicka Wah Wah" really might become a universal expression.
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