James Brown personafied it. Many Black musical acts of the 70's played it, and one Average White Band showed that White guys guys could possess it too. I'm talking about the word "funk" or "funky". A word that began as a descriptor for a bad smell or odor, was transormed into a genre of music playued primarily by Black musicians, and that has once again returned to its smelly roots all in the span of some five centuries.
The word funk basically came onto the scene in the 1620's from the dialectal funkiere and refers to a strong, generally offensive odor. It is alleged to have its semantic roots in the smell of tobacco smoke and was commonly regarded as coarse or indecent. In the mid 1700's the Scottish and Northern English used the word as a verb to describe agitation, depression, and panic. In the late 1700's it took on an additional definition , "old, musty," in reference to cheeses, then "repulsive," from funk (2). It began to develop an approving sense in jazz slang c.1900, probably on the notion of "earthy, strong, deeply felt." Funky also was used early 20c. by white writers in reference to body odor allegedly peculiar to blacks. When I was growing up in the 70's the Black community also adopted the word funk in reference to a strong body odor peculuar to blacks! lol
But my first exposure to the word was used in musical terms and almost always associated with James Brown.
James was at the forefront of this new musical genre that originated in the late 1960s when African American musicians blended soul music, soul jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground. Funk songs are often based on an extended vamp on a single chord, distinguishing it from R&B and soul songs centered around chord progressions. In other words it was all about the beat. One group that was definitely all about the beat was the group The Bar-Kays. Their song "Holy Ghost" is a 100% funk classic.
What does "funk" mean to you? For me it refers to a musical genre AND a peculiar odor that many of my home boys used to emit!!