Posing Nude, or Posing Naked for Photography?

Naked or Nude photography models?Two-weeks ago I was interviewing prospective models for an upcoming photo-shoot. It would be a nude shoot. One of the models I was interviewing was quite young and very new to modeling. She hadn’t done very many photo-shoots prior. I asked her if she had ever posed nude before. She said that she had once or twice, but only for her boyfriend, never for a professional photographer. Then, she chuckled and said “I hate that word. ‘Nude.’ It’s ‘naked’, not ‘nude.’ ‘Nude’ makes it sound kind of vulgar to me.”

That was interesting, I thought to myself, seeing as how the term “nude” came into being precisely as an alternative to the word “naked”, which was considered to be… vulgar. The thing is, she wasn’t the first person whom I’ve heard say this. The term “naked” it seems is just much more common in casual, modern speech. So, it seems more familiar to people — more ordinary. People are more comfortable with the term. I’ve actually had models express displeasure before at my uttering of the word “nude.” She wasn’t the first.

So, if you’ve ever wondered about “nude” or “naked” and which term is more appropriate, I’m here to give you a little run down on the history and origin of the terms and their usage. It’s uprising how many people aren’t familiar with these things. And, it might shed a little light, and perhaps make you change your mind regarding your feelings towards the specific terms.

The usages of the terms “naked” and “nude” and the differences between them originate in England in the medieval era. The medieval English civilization was influenced greatly by a number of preceding cultures — most notably, by the ancient Romans who had settled the area long ago, and by the conquering Germanic Saxons.

In medieval times, the ancient Roman society was commonly held in regard as being the pinnacle of human civilization and cultural achievement. The ancient Germanics, in contrast, were looked upon as being barbarians — savages that had just barely managed to pull their heads above the muck and mire of man’s primitive, animalistic nature. The Romans built great wonders of architecture, and excelled at creating exquisite works of art. They had important literature, philosophy and science. The ancient Germanics lived in mud-huts and seldom bathed. One society, to the medieval English, was civilized and divine. The other was primitive and dirty. So, for this reason, things associated with Rome were considered to be noble and regal. Things associated with the ancient Germanics were considered crude, common and savage.

Nude Models or Naked models?As it happened, the royalty and nobility of the era held Roman things in high regard, while shunning Germanic things. Roman things were for nobles — Germanic things were for the uneducated, dirty, unwashed peasantry. Included in this was the use of language.

The language that the Romans spoke was Latin. And, in medieval times, only educated people were able to read and understand Latin. Also, in those times, only members of the noble class were educated at all. Common folk had no means to receive any sort of education. They then, therefore, had no knowledge of, or ability with, Latin. Common peasants spoke old English — a direct linguistic descendant of Anglo-saxon — a Germanic language.

This is why, today, we have different words for animals than we do for the meat those animals produce. We eat beef. We don’t eat cow. We eat pork. We don’t eat pig. And, so on. The reason is because the words for the meat come from the Latin words for those animals, while the words for the animals themselves usually come from the Germanic words for the same animals.

In medieval times, the commonly used word for pig, for example, was “Swine.” That word comes from the Germanic word “Schwein”. But, no king or nobleman would be so vile and vulgar as to sully themselves by putting “swine” into their mouths. So, instead, they ate pork. Which, of course, comes from the Latin word for pig, which is “porcum.” It’s the same with all the words for food — Chicken/poultry — Küken is Germanic, pullum is Latin. Kings and queens and noblemen wouldn’t eat something as vulgar as the common, chicken/küken! They ate poultry/pullum, like the civilized Romans did. It’s the same with Cow/Beef = Kuh in Germanic, Bovem in Latin.

You see? Words that were derived from the Germanic languages were considered to be vulgar and crude — the language of the uneducated, uncivilized, common peasantry. Words that were derived from Latin, the language of the Romans, were considered to be civilized and erudite — the language of nobility.

So, I’ll give you a guess as to which language the word “nude” is derived from, and which language the word “naked” is derived from.

I’m sure you guessed it: The word “naked” comes from the Germanic word “nackot”. Whereas, the term “nude” comes from the Latin word “nudus.” According to the people of medieval times, the word “naked” is the common, vulgar word of an uncivilized and uneducated peasantry. The word “nude” however is suitable to be spoken by nobility. When common, crude, dirty and diseased, vulgar peasants take off their clothes, they’re “naked.” When the upper-society, distinguished and educated nobles take off their clothes, they’re “nude.”

So, now you know. The next time you book a model in to do a nude photo shoot, if he or she complains that they’re uncomfortable with the word “nude”, accuse them of being a dirty commoner and banish them from your studio forthwith and post haste!

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