Jennifer R. Bernstein wasn’t the only one stumped by this sentence, lifted from an article by Michael Hafford in Playboy whose headline reads “F—k Your Chella Bod. I Love Mine As Is and I’m Still Going to Coachella.”
what do words even mean anymore pic.twitter.com/vPDk5msppX— Jennifer R Bernstein (@jenniferrenu) April 15, 2017
Context helps: The story is about preparing for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, an event that’s taken place annually since 1999 and whose first weekend ended yesterday. Still, this particular sentence would have made no sense in 1999 or in 2009, and it would have required some decoding even five years ago. Because I am so old that I pronounce “Coachella” the way most Southern Californians of my generation do, with four syllables – Kids These Days pronounce it “co-chella,”* although this audio guide gives both options – I needed to do a fair amount of research, which I will share with you now.
Start with Chella Bod. It’s unclear when “Coachella” was truncated to “Chella”; amazingly, neither “Chella bod” nor Chella-as-abbreviated-place-name has been logged in Urban Dictionary. (“Bod” as abbreviation for “physical body” has been documented since 1933.) A Chella Bod is the toned and chiseled physique suitable for flaunting semi-clothed under a hot desert sun. As Michael Hafford puts it, “The Chella Bod guys have V cuts** and abs that dynamite out of board shorts and the Chella Bod girls seem to be smuggling basketballs in their daisy dukes.”***
Gents displaying Chella Bods at Coachella, 2014. Via New York Times.
Instagram is the (now) well-known photo-sharing platform, but it behooves us to recall that the company launched its first version, for iOS devices, in October 2010, and its Android version in April 2012. It isn’t new, but it isn’t ancient, either.
Finally, there’s the word of the week, thirst trap. Yes, that’s two words, but they count as one because they’ve fused into an idiom. Thirst here means “lust for attention,” a meaning that was recorded in Urban Dictionary back in 2005. Thirsty – “so hungry for a romantic partner as to appear desperate” – was a runner-up Most Euphemistic Word of the Year in the American Dialect Society’s 2014 vote. (That was the year #blacklivesmatter was the overall WOTY winner.)
Urban Dictionary’s top definition for thirst trap, recorded in 2011, is “any statement or picture used to intentionally create attention or ‘thirst’.” Thirst trap generated thirst trapping, whose top UD definition is the embittered “The act of looking very attractive to the opposing gender to lead them on to rejection.”
“Rings of Jupiter” LED hula hoop, $108 at the Free People festival shop. All the hot retailers have festival shops.
Now that we’ve deciphered a formerly opaque sentence, go forth and enjoy the rest of Hafford’s article, which contains this mini-manifesto:
Like vintage Italian sports cars, the Chella Bod needs premium fuel to survive. You’re not going to get premium fuel at Coachella; in fact, you’ll be getting the opposite: muck. Glorious muck. Festivals are about taking things as you can get them—food, liquor, drugs, Cheetos, experiences, whatever—and walking through the world in a haze, waiting in a bathroom line for a half hour, worrying about where to charge your cell phone and finding your lost friends. Of course, you’re free to stand in line for half an hour to get a $15 salad, but please stay the hell away from me. Go take your shirtless photos in front of the Ferris wheel with your organic chickpea salad and leave me be.
Bonus link: John Seabrook wrote about the origins of the Coachella festival for the New Yorker’s April 17 issue.
* “Co-chella” is in fact closer to the original pronunciation. The place name comes from a mispronunciation of Spanish conchilla (“little shell”), which is pronounced cone-chee-ya, but once it was mis-written, literal-minded Anglos insisted on pronouncing ev-er-y syl-la-ble. Read more about Coachella’s “bastard” etymology in this Language Hat post. By the way, if you go to the Coachella Valley for non-festival purposes, which I recommend, be sure to make a stop at Shields Date Garden (“Since 1924”) and order a date shake to sip while you watch the totally G-rated documentary “Romance and Sex Life of the Date.” You could also watch it here, but it wouldn’t be the same.
** V-cut: toned lower-abdominal muscles that form a V shape above the groin.
*** Daisy Dukes: Form-fitting denim short-shorts similar to those worn by Daisy Duke, a fictional character portrayed by Catherine Bach in the 1979-1985 TV sitcom “The Dukes of Hazzard.”