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Still looking up

Madonna’s recent moonlighting stint as a dictionaries marketing executive is still paying dividends: another thousand people have looked up reductive since we discussed it last Monday, and it’s been the single most looked up word for the last two weeks.

If you remember, Madge had said of a Lady Gaga song: “When I heard it on the radio, I said, ‘That sounds very familiar. It feels reductive.’ ”

But what exactly did she mean? It’s possible that she got the wrong word, and meant to say derivative. That would have been understandable in the context, and the interviewer would not have needed to ask if this “was a good thing”.  But it would have been a much more open criticism, and by using a word like reductive, she’s managed to create a mystique around the whole business. It’s either an accidental slip of the tongue, or very clever linguistically-driven PR.

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Stephen Bullon

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