“Smoking hot wife.” Is it a term of endearment a Christian man should feel free to give his wife in public? Or is it a potentially sexist label that should be carefully avoided? (And besides all that: where did it come from in the first place?)
Recently the Her.meneutics blog (which focuses on women’s issues in the Christian church) at the Christianity Today website ran a story called “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife” by Mary DeMuth. Then a few days later another Christian blogger, Zach Hoag, published “Smokin’ Hot Wives & Water to the Soul” on his own blog. (A quick google search showed me an older article here that also had interesting things to say about the use of this term.) Clearly there is ongoing interest in the question of whether the Christianese term smokin’ hot wife is an innocent term of endearment or whether it is chauvinism at its most subtle. Naturally, as with most debates about language, there aren’t any black-and-white answers—just a lot of strongly held and earnest opinions and points of view. When it comes right down to it, people in this country are allowed to say what they want (short of yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater) and others are free to keep listening or to walk away. But since Christians are usually in the business of drawing people closer and not driving them away, it makes the “free speech” issue a bit more complicated. It reminds me of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.” So yeah, we’re free to say whatever we want, but we ought to speak with wisdom and charity.
My own personal opinion is that if a husband wants to call his wife “smokin’ hot,” and if the wife likes to be called “smokin’ hot,” then honestly what can any of us third-parties do or say about it? Heaven knows that some of the affectionate nicknames and terms of endearment that couples have for each other are enough to make their friends (or kids!) roll their eyes and plug their ears. What floats some other couple’s boat might not necessarily float ours, and vice versa and all that jazz.
But let’s move along to firmer ground, shall we? We might not all agree on whether the term is kosher to use in public or not, but it should be an agreeable matter of research to find out the meaning and origin of the term. Thankfully when it comes to linguistics and lexicography, we can usually come to objective answers if we dig deep enough. The expression “smoking hot wife”—or, as people in the more southerly Bible Belt area pronounce it, “smokin’ hot wife” with the “g” conspicuously dropped—seems to be typically used in cases where a Christian man, often a church leader such as a pastor, is giving a sermon or leading a prayer and wants to mention his wife with particular, even grandiose, affection. The term “smoking hot wife” essentially suggests that the husband is still madly in love with his wife and still finds her, for lack of a better word, “sexy.” Yes, folks, married Christians sometimes refer to their spouses as “sexy.” I know, I know… it goes against every stereotype you’ve ever heard about how boring the Christian love-life is. And yet, apparently there are some coals yet burning below the ashes of Christian matrimony. (Thank God!)
You may be wondering, do Christian guys really say “smoking hot wife”? Well, they do. In 2011 Pastor Joe Nelms delivered the pre-race prayer at a NASCAR race. He thanked God for the cars and the tires and the racing fuel. And before Pastor Nelms finished the prayer by saying, “boogity, boogity, boogity, amen,” he also thanked God for his “smoking hot wife,” an utterance which catapulted him and his pre-race prayer to national notoriety (see the 2011 citation below for the part of the prayer where he said “smoking hot wife”).
O.K. So it’s a real term. But where did it originate? Interestingly enough, the earliest citation I can find comes from the 2006 movie Talladega Nights starring Will Ferrell. So the question has to be raised: was the term “smoking hot wife” coined by the screenwriters of the film (who were, incidentally, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay)? Or was the term already in circulation by 2006 and Ferrell and McKay simply used the term in the script because it made the Ricky Bobby character sound like a stereotypical southern evangelical? I still haven’t found a citation prior to 2006, so until more evidence comes to light, I can’t say for certain. Maybe this bit of Christianese genuinely comes from a Will Ferrell movie. Stranger things have transpired in the church.
Now you might think that because the two examples I’ve given so far have to do with stock car racing, that maybe this Christianese term is limited to Christians who are part of the sports car community. Not so. If you look at the 2008 citation in the definition below, you’ll see that an author used it in the acknowledgments section of his book, and the book (and the author) have no formal link to NASCAR. So it’s out there being used generally Christians, though two of the most famous (or notorious?) uses of the term do happen to be related to NASCAR.
So what’s your opinion? Do you think smoking hot wife is fine to use if the wife is O.K. with it? Or should the term be avoided because some people don’t like hearing it? (The verse 1 Corinthians 8:13 comes to mind.) And the most important question of all, did you hear Christians using this term prior to 2006? Or is this Christianese term have its roots in a Will Ferrell movie?