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  #1  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:27 PM
mhendo mhendo is online now
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What does the word "vixen" mean, in your opinion, when applied to a woman?

A vixen is a female fox, but the word has also historically been used, generally by men, to describe certain women. It seems to have fallen out of use, but i also think that most people would still be familiar with the term.

So, without looking at any dictionaries or other reference works: If a woman was described to you as a vixen, what characteristics would you attribute to her? What sort of woman would come to mind?

Once you've sorted out your own understanding of the term, have a look at the relevant section from the Oxford English Dictionary:
SPOILER:
vixen, n. 2.a. An ill-tempered quarrelsome woman; a shrew, a termagant.
Do your definition and the OED's definition agree?

I ask because the word came up at dinner last night, and both my wife and i found that our own understanding of the word's meaning was actually quite different from the dictionary definition, and yet we both still believe that our own definition is the one more commonly used. I'll explain further after getting some responses.
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  #2  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:29 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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SPOILER:
Hawt. Maybe a little flirty. All I can bring to mind right now is Jessica Rabbit.
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  #3  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:33 PM
emeraldia emeraldia is offline
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What tdn said. That's very interesting. Obviously it's so routinely misused that it's taken on a whole new meaning to people.
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  #4  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:50 PM
WordMan WordMan is online now
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I think of vixen as meaning a headstrong woman in touch with her animal/sexual side. Angelina Jolie strikes me as a vixen.

And yes, the definition seems to have evolved...

At least we're not focused on the 80's all-girl hair metal band
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  #5  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:56 PM
TheChileanBlob TheChileanBlob is offline
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Jessica Rabbit is a perfect example. A vixen is sexy and kinda bad.
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  #6  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:59 PM
tim-n-va tim-n-va is offline
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For some reason that I can't reference, I think of an attractive woman who actively uses her physical attractiveness to influence weak minded men.
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  #7  
Old 08-20-2012, 12:59 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhendo View Post
What does the word "vixen" mean, in your opinion, when applied to a woman?
A woman who is sexy and flirtatious or outright sexually aggressive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by emeraldia View Post
What tdn said. That's very interesting. Obviously it's so routinely misused that it's taken on a whole new meaning to people.
I think that a lot of it is the common use of the word "foxy" to describe a sexy woman. A vixen is a female fox after all. So it's kind of natural to interpret calling a woman a "vixen" to be another way of calling her a foxy lady.
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  #8  
Old 08-20-2012, 01:04 PM
running coach running coach is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheChileanBlob View Post
Jessica Rabbit is a perfect example. A vixen is sexy and kinda bad.
But that's just the way she's drawn.
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  #9  
Old 08-20-2012, 01:09 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Trihs View Post
A vixen is a female fox after all.
I did not know that before this thread. But I usually think redhead.
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  #10  
Old 08-20-2012, 01:11 PM
EmilyG EmilyG is offline
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I picture a woman who's sexy and sly.
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  #11  
Old 08-20-2012, 02:01 PM
gallows fodder gallows fodder is offline
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Calculatedly sexy, very smart and shrewd, and a little dangerous.
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  #12  
Old 08-20-2012, 02:07 PM
Fretful Porpentine Fretful Porpentine is online now
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Temperamental and sexy.
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  #13  
Old 08-20-2012, 02:33 PM
robardin robardin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhendo View Post
...have a look at the relevant section from the Oxford English Dictionary:
SPOILER:
vixen, n. 2.a. An ill-tempered quarrelsome woman; a shrew, a termagant.
Is that the ONLY definition in the OED? And from what year? (The online version being from like 1912 or something, right?)

FWIW, the online Merriam-Webster dictionary entry gives what everybody here (including myself) would have thought to be the non-literal meaning as Definition #3.

Also I've read or heard the word "vixen" used in the "Jessica Rabbit" sense since at least the 1980s, and NEVER in the sense given here in Oxford English Dictionary, so I'm surprised these dictionaries are so far behind the change in meaning.

Last edited by robardin; 08-20-2012 at 02:34 PM..
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  #14  
Old 08-20-2012, 02:44 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robardin View Post
Is that the ONLY definition in the OED? And from what year? (The online version being from like 1912 or something, right?)... .
My recent edition also gives #1 "a female fox" So maybe they did not mean the animal?
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  #15  
Old 08-20-2012, 02:48 PM
HoneyBadgerDC HoneyBadgerDC is offline
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Sexy sly, cunning but not really evil.
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  #16  
Old 08-20-2012, 02:51 PM
etv78 etv78 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheChileanBlob View Post
Jessica Rabbit is a perfect example. A vixen is sexy and kinda bad.
She's not bad, she's just drawn that way. IMO, vixen=sexually aggressive woman on the prowl.
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  #17  
Old 08-20-2012, 02:54 PM
mhendo mhendo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robardin View Post
Is that the ONLY definition in the OED? And from what year? (The online version being from like 1912 or something, right?)
The version of the OED i used is the current, complete online version available only through subscription. I have access through my university.

It has three definitions; two as a noun, one as an adjective. Here's how the entry looks:
Quote:
vixen, n. and adj.

1. The female of the fox; a she-fox.

2.
a. An ill-tempered quarrelsome woman; a shrew, a termagant.

b. In the phrase to play the vixen . Obs.

c. Applied to a child or a man. Obs. rare.

3. attrib., passing into adj.
a. Appositive with fox, = sense 1.

b. Appositive, of persons, = vixenish adj. 1.

c. Of looks, actions, etc., = vixenish adj. 2.
And the definition of "vixenish" given by the OED is "Resembling a vixen in disposition; cross, ill-tempered, snappish." The most recent quotation given as an example of instance #2 is from 1879; it seems to me that they might need to update this entry.
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  #18  
Old 08-20-2012, 03:02 PM
Diamonds02 Diamonds02 is offline
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Rihanna
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  #19  
Old 08-20-2012, 03:19 PM
Manduck Manduck is offline
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My personal definition agrees with the OED, except that there should also be an element of sexiness. Probably the Russ Meyer influence.
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  #20  
Old 08-20-2012, 03:25 PM
gaffa gaffa is online now
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...and preferably wearing a skin-tight leather catsuit.
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  #21  
Old 08-20-2012, 03:27 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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Sexy, sexually aggressive, and trouble.
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  #22  
Old 08-20-2012, 03:29 PM
Rigamarole Rigamarole is offline
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It means a girl I want to know.
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  #23  
Old 08-20-2012, 03:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manduck View Post
Probably the Russ Meyer influence.
Nah, you're thinking of an Ultravixen. We're just talking about the standard model.
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  #24  
Old 08-20-2012, 04:37 PM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Reading nothing but the thread title:

A vixen is a woman who is very sexually attractive but not completely trustworthy; she may be completely untrustworthy.
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  #25  
Old 08-20-2012, 05:06 PM
Balance Balance is online now
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Clever and roguish, a gamine with an edge of steel. Bright eyes and a flash of teeth in a fleeting, slightly unnerving grin.
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  #26  
Old 08-20-2012, 05:33 PM
River Hippie River Hippie is offline
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As long as she's not a minx...
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  #27  
Old 08-20-2012, 06:31 PM
Moonchild Moonchild is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tim-n-va View Post
For some reason that I can't reference, I think of an attractive woman who actively uses her physical attractiveness to influence weak minded men.
Very well put.

I'm inclined to mention big boobs also, but that might just be the Russ Meyer influence from my childhood showing its influence.

Last edited by Moonchild; 08-20-2012 at 06:32 PM.. Reason: 'cause I felt like it
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  #28  
Old 08-20-2012, 10:12 PM
Speak to me Maddie! Speak to me Maddie! is online now
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A sexy woman who uses her feminine wiles for ignoble purposes.

I also tend to picture a curvy, redheaded, middle-aged woman, Christina Hendricks type. Her character in Mad Men is pretty much the perfect example of a vixen in my mind. I'm surprised at the OED definition too. Time for an updated entry.

Last edited by Speak to me Maddie!; 08-20-2012 at 10:12 PM..
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  #29  
Old 08-21-2012, 01:37 AM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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It means she's got red hair and a pointy nose of course.
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  #30  
Old 08-21-2012, 01:49 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
It means she's got red hair and a pointy nose of course.
Like this? Now there's a real vixen!
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  #31  
Old 08-21-2012, 02:41 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Without reading the thread,

SPOILER:
the image that came to mind was Bette Davis. So, "the kind of women Bette Davis usually played".
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  #32  
Old 08-24-2012, 05:14 AM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is offline
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See, if I ran across that expression, I wouldn't even know. I think it's one of those metaphorical words that means different things to different people. Maybe something like, "a tiger in bed"? Or something else?

Maybe people in my region just don't use the word?
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  #33  
Old 08-24-2012, 09:02 AM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
Without reading the thread,

SPOILER:
the image that came to mind was Bette Davis. So, "the kind of women Bette Davis usually played".
I can only remember Bette Davis as an evil, evil, hag. She just played that role too well for me to remember her any other way.


A vixen is very sexual, very hot, and very much in charge of her own self. Madonna, perhaps, if she were slightly less overt about wanting to rule the world.

Last edited by The Great Sun Jester; 08-24-2012 at 09:05 AM..
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  #34  
Old 08-24-2012, 09:29 AM
Kinthalis Kinthalis is offline
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If one of my friends told me that a "vixen" was about to enter the room I'd immediately imagine a super hot girl in renaissance fair garb.
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  #35  
Old 08-24-2012, 10:51 AM
shunpiker shunpiker is offline
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I think I'm far enough down in the thread to forgo the spoiler box.

I've always thought that the definition of a vixen was a woman that is not to be trusted (attractiveness notwithstanding). A female criminal, perhaps, who's not been caught or convicted.

I also understand the more sensual definition you guys have given, perhaps a product of movie trailers, etc. e.g. "See our hero tempted to fail by the beautiful vixen."

Note: I'm an old guy.
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  #36  
Old 08-24-2012, 11:08 AM
Baal Houtham Baal Houtham is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilyG View Post
I picture a woman who's sexy and sly.
Quote:
Originally Posted by badger5149 View Post
Sexy sly, cunning but not really evil.
I'll endorse those. I don't see it as decidedly derogative, or else it wouldn't be employed in the Russ Meyer manner. It implies some fox-like independence and slyness--but maybe more for self-amusement than selfish manipulation. And since foxes are physically gorgeous animals, there's the implication that that the woman is visually fascinating, even if not beautiful.
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  #37  
Old 08-24-2012, 12:23 PM
Corcaigh Corcaigh is offline
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Didn't read the thread

I'd say a "vixen" was a smart, sassy woman, who'd outsmarted a man in some way, shape or form, can't call her a bitch cos that would suggest she's evil, so vixen is the next best thing.

but that's just what I reckons, being a woman.
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  #38  
Old 08-24-2012, 12:59 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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I wonder how it tracks the connotation of calling a woman a "fox"?

Did "foxy" used to mean "ii-tempered"? Or did it always mean clever and sexy?
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  #39  
Old 08-24-2012, 03:21 PM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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Hypersexual type of woman.

Though the first thing I think of when I hear "vixen" is a female fox.

(I love that word. Vixen vixen vixen).

Last edited by Malleus, Incus, Stapes!; 08-24-2012 at 03:22 PM..
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  #40  
Old 08-24-2012, 03:52 PM
Taomist Taomist is offline
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I think of 'an agressively seductive woman, sexually manipulative'.

Had no idea it meant 'PMSing for the third week in a row'!!
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  #41  
Old 08-24-2012, 03:55 PM
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I didn't read the thread or the definitions purposely in this case so to try to guess like I suspect other people have been. I always thought the term vixen referred to a woman who liked to argue for the sake of it, or was constantly getting into pissing contests with other people. That's how I understood the context of "you little vixen!"
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  #42  
Old 11-12-2013, 11:07 PM
JakobA JakobA is offline
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Yes, the meaning of Vixen have changed.

Where they used to be definitely negative (as recorded in most dictionaries), the word Vixen have now become a positive and even flattering word.

I believe there are 3 main reasons for this:

1) the emergence of the slang term "Foxy Lady" for an attractive and sexy woman.
- the base meaning of 'vixen' is "female fox" so it is natural to short-cirquit from that to "foxy lady" with its connotations

2) Women lib have made enough of a difference to make it possible for women to speak and have opinions, without automatically being labeled as troublemakers and complainers.
3) The word 'attitude' have switched from being exclusively negative to becoming more of a positive character trait, implying self confidence and strength.
- So many of the behaviours that was associated with 'being a shrew' have now become positive: a woman who speak up and is not afraid to correct an man when he say something stupid , etc.

regards JakobA
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  #43  
Old 11-13-2013, 12:36 AM
terentii terentii is offline
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In this context, it clearly means a sly and cunning woman, with perhaps just a hint of sexual manipulation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp7ZP9a4Pec

On the other hand, I have a huge collection of Playboy's Voluptuous Vixens at home that place somewhat more emphasis on the sexual aspect.

After reading most of the Poldark series, I would expect "minx" to be an acceptable substitute for "vixen."
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  #44  
Old 11-13-2013, 02:57 AM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is online now
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An actress in a Roger Corman movie. Or more likely Russ Meyer.
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  #45  
Old 11-13-2013, 04:06 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is online now
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Since the last time this thread was around I've come to the conclusion that another reason for the shift in meaning of the word "vixen" is the popularity of another word to describe a woman who fits the old definition: "bitch". With "bitch" largely talking the place of its old definition, "vixen" was free to drift into having a new meaning.
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  #46  
Old 11-13-2013, 06:23 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Hos

Last edited by msmith537; 11-13-2013 at 06:23 AM..
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  #47  
Old 11-13-2013, 07:56 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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Betty White's character from the Mary Tyler Moore show.
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  #48  
Old 11-13-2013, 08:04 AM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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She has red hair, is kind of low to the ground and has a bushy tail.
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  #49  
Old 11-13-2013, 08:05 AM
actualliberalnotoneofthose actualliberalnotoneofthose is offline
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A promiscuity girl
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  #50  
Old 12-03-2013, 11:33 PM
Nobbsy Nobbsy is offline
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A young girl who is smart, sexy and sly.
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