gave good face

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
They had style, they had grace
Rita Hayworth gave good face
Lauren, Katherine, Lana too
Bette Davis, we love you

Vogue, Madonna's song

How do you understand the boldfaced phrase?
Thank you.
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    She presented a beautiful face to the world.
    How do you know Keith? have you ever heard the expression "gave good face?" It doesn't mean a thing to me but suggests something else. I don't see how anyone can claim to know what it's supposed to mean, since the context doesn't seem to help.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Not necessarily, VikNikSor. Velisarius, there are similar phrases such as to lose face and to save face, where it doesn't mean your own face, it means the appearance/reputation you present to the world. I think that was meant here, by analogy.

    (The other possibility, that it was based on the other analogy of "to give good head" (= oral sex) seems inappropriate in the context of this song and its title, and the preceding line.:rolleyes:)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Normally, in speech (not in lyrics) it'd be used with an indefinite article -- "to give a good face", right?
    This phrase would rarely if ever be used outside this song. Regardless, she gave us many faces so I think the uncountable usage is justified.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Well, if it weren't for Madonna's tramp approach to entertainment :rolleyes:, I wouldn't even bring this up, but ...

    In the 1987 film Nuts, Barbara Streisand plays a high-priced prostitute accused of murder. In the film, as I remember it, she uses "give good face" to mean "give oral sex."

    ;)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I'm sorry, but "gave (a) good face" is just not an English expression and any interpretation of it would be speculation. I don't know what "gave us many faces" means either Myridon. Can we just accept that these song lyrics are more like gibberish than the English language?
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Velisarius, I have no torch to carry for Madonna or her songwriters, but "bow of burning gold" and "winter of our discontent" weren't English expressions either until somebody thought them up. Poetry, and even pop songs, aren't to be judged or understood by the same criteria as ordinary prose. This is metaphor, you know?
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    I'm with sdg. "Give good head" is what popped in mine (ha!) when I read the lyrics. I think that Madonna expects her listeners to think of it.

    I take give to mean provide a service. Who can say if it is intended to mean head specifically or if some other service (like providing a beautiful face) is intended?
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    I am with Keith Bradford. The song is about glitz, glamor, style, and fashion. It's possible that the phrase was formed off of the pattern of "gives good head," but in context it clearly refers to Rita Hayworth's beauty on the screen.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I agree, too. The song is about dancing, the recitative part is about glamor, style, showbiz-stars of past years, Rita Hayworth. Why would Madonna think about that giving head at all:D?
     
    Last edited:

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The previous verses make explicit mention of famous faces on the front cover of "Vogue" magazine,

    Greta Garbo, and Monroe
    Deitrich and DiMaggio
    Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
    On the cover of a magazine
    so I take this as literal. I hardly think Madonna is saying Rita Hayward, Lauren Bacall, Lana Turner, Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis performed oral sex well. But who knows what thought she intended to stir by using this expression:eek:
     

    Typecast

    New Member
    English - US, UK
    I'm waaaaaay late on this thread, but I want to give the right answer and reply to some of the others:

    1) To "give good face" means to be photogenic. It's a modelling term. He/she gives good face means they perform well for the camera. It isn't gibberish. It's a verifiable term.

    And to understand the song "Vogue" you need to understand the culture from which it came. (See: Paris is Burning, documentary).

    Vogueing is a dance, created in the 80s gay underground dance scene. The entire song is about this dance, how people who felt like outcasts feel beautiful, like Hollywood icons, when they're Vogueing.

    Dancers "strike" various poses that look like they're modeling for the camera, like they're in the pages of VOGUE magazine. "Don't just stand there, let's get to it. Strike a pose, there's nothing to it. Vogue!" The dance poses are very "high fashion".

    All of the people mentioned in the song were highly photogenic Hollywood icons of the black & white film era:
    "Greta Garbo, and Monroe
    Dietrich and DiMaggio
    Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
    On the cover of a magazine
    Grace Kelly; Harlow, Jean
    Picture of a beauty queen
    Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire
    Ginger Rogers, dance on air
    They had style, they had grace
    Rita Hayworth gave good face
    Lauren, Katherine, Lana too
    Bette Davis, we love you"

    And, at the time, Madonna was going through her black & white film and photography phase. There are references to Garbo (see wardrobe in the video) and Man-Ray (see opening sequence).

    You may not like her, but she doesn't do anything for naught. Literally every song she's ever performed has meaning (as trite as the lyrics may seem at times). And more often than not, the videos contain some semblance of cultural appropriation that one could use as an entrée in to learning more about the culture referenced. (See "Paris is Burning" for the story of Vogueing).

    2) As for the "Nuts" reference, I believe you mean "give good head" which refers to oral sex; primarily a person performing on a male, but women have more recently started using it for performing on a woman as well. So in general it can be used for performance on any sex organ.

    So, now you know. "Give good face" is a fashion/photography term.

    "Give good head" is a vulgar term for a sex act.

    Hope this clears things up!
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I'm waaaaaay late on this thread, but I want to give the right answer and reply to some of the others:

    1) To "give good face" means to be photogenic. It's a modelling term. He/she gives good face means they perform well for the camera. It isn't gibberish. It's a verifiable term.

    And to understand the song "Vogue" you need to understand the culture from which it came. (See: Paris is Burning, documentary).

    Vogueing is a dance, created in the 80s gay underground dance scene. The entire song is about this dance, how people who felt like outcasts feel beautiful, like Hollywood icons, when they're Vogueing.

    Dancers "strike" various poses that look like they're modeling for the camera, like they're in the pages of VOGUE magazine. "Don't just stand there, let's get to it. Strike a pose, there's nothing to it. Vogue!" The dance poses are very "high fashion".

    All of the people mentioned in the song were highly photogenic Hollywood icons of the black & white film era:
    "Greta Garbo, and Monroe
    Dietrich and DiMaggio
    Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
    On the cover of a magazine
    Grace Kelly; Harlow, Jean
    Picture of a beauty queen
    Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire
    Ginger Rogers, dance on air
    They had style, they had grace
    Rita Hayworth gave good face
    Lauren, Katherine, Lana too
    Bette Davis, we love you"

    And, at the time, Madonna was going through her black & white film and photography phase. There are references to Garbo (see wardrobe in the video) and Man-Ray (see opening sequence).

    You may not like her, but she doesn't do anything for naught. Literally every song she's ever performed has meaning (as trite as the lyrics may seem at times). And more often than not, the videos contain some semblance of cultural appropriation that one could use as an entrée in to learning more about the culture referenced. (See "Paris is Burning" for the story of Vogueing).

    2) As for the "Nuts" reference, I believe you mean "give good head" which refers to oral sex; primarily a person performing on a male, but women have more recently started using it for performing on a woman as well. So in general it can be used for performance on any sex organ.

    So, now you know. "Give good face" is a fashion/photography term.

    "Give good head" is a vulgar term for a sex act.

    Hope this clears things up!
    Thank you for the explanation!:)
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Well, if it weren't for Madonna's tramp approach to entertainment :rolleyes:, I wouldn't even bring this up, but ...

    In the 1987 film Nuts, Barbara Streisand plays a high-priced prostitute accused of murder. In the film, as I remember it, she uses "give good face" to mean "give oral sex."

    ;)
    My thougt too. A sneaky way to get around the "giving good head" phrase.
     
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