What Your Word for 'Attractive' Says About You

In the VICELAND census we asked you which words or phrases you use to describe the person you're attracted to. Here's what those words tell us about you.

by Angus Harrison
23 September 2016, 9:56am

Two actual phrases respondents in the VICELAND Census say they use to describe someone attractive

We spoke to over 2,500 18 to 34-year-olds living in the UK to explore and document what life is like for young people in Britain in 2016. From Blackpool to Belfast, country fairs to council estates, the nation's youth told us exactly how they felt about money, politics, drugs, sex, music, clothes and everything else that matters. This is the VICELAND Census, all this week on VICELAND and VICE.COM.

The Bee Gees once sang "It's only words / And words are all I have / To take your heart away." Of course, words aren't necessarily all we have to seduce the objects of our affections – some of us have money, great bodies and a real skill for arranging clothes on our bodies in an appealing way – but they do make a big difference.

Equally, the terms we use to describe the people we find attractive says a lot about us, and can have a massive impact on whether or not those people ever speak to us again. This language of attraction is a social minefield, and you've got to know your audience. Times and societies change – crumpets fall, pengtings rise – and our convoluted mating rituals churn on endlessly.

As part of VICELAND's recent census of 18 to 34-year-olds in the UK, we asked you which words or phrases you use to refer to people you find attractive. The results ranged from totally fucking obvious to deeply concerning. In order to make use of this powerful data, we have reviewed and categorised every word. The vocabulary of tinder chats, catcalls, post-coital mumbles, school bus journeys, Instagram comments and good old fashioned chip shop chat-up lines.

Here's what your word for attractive says about you.

Fit. Wrap your mouth around it. The best word in the English language for describing somebody attractive. It knows no gender, race, body-type, face-type, fashion or height. Fit is more than a word; fit is a primordial concept. Sensations, images and smells coalescing in three letters. Just think, right this second, millions of people up and down the country are looking at Facebook photos, pointing at TV screens, pausing workouts, slurring over pints, biting bottom lips and spitting out one instinctive word: "fit". If you are a man or woman who describes the objects of your affection as "fit" then God bless you. You are an honest individual.

If you're using it to describe food, then you're probably the worst.

Hot is "fit" for posh people who are no longer in touch with their feelings.

The issue with "cute" is less the people who are saying it, and more the sub-species of lads it's often aimed at. The sort of young men who will happily talk about how much they love their mothers, how much they miss their pets or how often they watch Pixar movies. We're talking adults who go to Legoland, post couple selfies captioned "love this one" and deliberately get a bit of whipped cream on the end of their nose in Starbucks. This, of course, is not to say that anyone who doesn't conform to set ideas of masculinity is deceitful, but cute lads are out there pretending to be big babies in order to get laid and they are using that puppy Snapchat filter and I'm fucking sick of it. Cute lads, I'm fucking onto you. Grow up.

A word for girls to say about each other, normally followed by "babes", as in: "You look absolutely fucking stunning, babes." It is never meant genuinely.

Objectively the worst word in the English language. If you say sexy it's an instant giveaway that you're a eunuch attempting to assimilate.

If you say beautiful out loud, you are most likely a very creepy dude who writes poetry. You think that saying "beautiful" somehow shows that you respect women, yet the only time you ever pull it out is in the kitchen at a house party in an attempt to seduce a woman who is not your girlfriend. You think that when you say "I think you're beautiful" the world will stop around her, she'll lose her breath and the cacophony of oafish lads yapping "y'alright love?" at her heels will dissolve. You think it makes you enchanting. It does not.

Sadly, if somebody says you are pretty they are probably parring you. Pretty is way too nice a thing to actually think about somebody, so it usually means the words after "you're pretty" are going to be "but I've got to go away forever now".

Either you've been saying this since you were in year 8 or you discovered Stormzy in the last 14 months.

A word for lads who patronise girls they are actually scared of.

Says: You're a spice, you're naughty.
Means: I would rather be playing Xbox and smoking weed.

If you shout "oi oi" – and let's face it: you're shouting it; nobody just says "oi oi" – then you're most likely a semi-professional banter merchant with a selection of nice shirts and a relatively small penis. Even the sort of blokes who catcall in the streets have stopped using "oi oi" at this stage. Even they have matured and moved onto whistling noises or "yes, yes darling". If you're actually shouting "oi oi" then you no longer know what's funny and what isn't – what's sincere banter and what's meta-banter. You shout "oi oi" because your emotional capacity is so stunted your attempts at shouting "please love me, know me, be with me" are forced through a banter-defibrillator and garbled into nothing but a meaningless, potentially classist cliche. You are a university student pretending to be a builder. What has become of you?

Strangely the leeriest entry on the list. "Bit of alright" is one of those "understated" phrases that is actually packed to the rafters with repressed sexual energy.

A useful word for attractive older gents like Sven-Goran Eriksson.

I hear you, pal.

Handsome is a weird one, isn't it. Said by a woman, it's sort of the ultimate compliment. It suggests attractiveness, paired with an innate cool. You don't just look handsome, you are handsome. Flipside is, if said by a man, it sort of sounds like he's talking about a horse.

The Melvyn Bragg re-edit of "curvy". Don't say positively rubenesque. No overweight person has ever actually appreciated that. In fact, general rule: don't precursor any word with "positively". It makes you sound like a pervert.

Like Megabus, but for babes. Great word. Would highly recommend. Five stars.

I sort of admire the confessional aspect of this, but personally if this was issued to me as a compliment I'd feel a pressure to go in the bum, regardless of my stance on the matter. Never assume anyone wants to go in your bum. It makes an ass of you and me.

I like to think of buffting as peng ting's slightly rowdier older brother.

Gorgeous is the plump, cosy maturation of "fit". A word for middle-aged women to caw at whichever rugby player is on Strictly this year. A word for greying fathers to ooze while describing their first girlfriend to their embarrassed son and his mates on a long car journey. A word for your aunty to wheeze as she swipes a blob of chocolate from the top of a massive bowl of profiteroles. Probably best not to say it before you turn 40, but after that, all bets are off. You're in your golden years and this glitzy, gooey compliment is your ticket to getting laid in the post-fit world.

Congratulations. U just met me.


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