I was subbing some wireless router reviews last week – 17 pages of them, to be precise (I shall let you draw your own conclusions as to how exciting that was) – when I came across one described as “the vanilla 2.4Ghz option”.
Now this took me somewhat by surprise. Relax, relax, I didn’t think it was vanilla-scented or anything like that. It was just that although I’ve heard “vanilla” used to describe conventional sex (see the Wikipedia explanation here, if you’re a sweet innocent), or softcore porn, I’ve never heard it used to describe… routers. Or much else, for that matter.
However, when I enquired about this on Twitter, a fair few people suggested that I was not quite - how to put it - with the times. Apparently it’s been in common usage for a good 20 years. Well, fine.
The Urban Dictionary has some good contributions to make, as ever.
Unexciting, normal, conventional, boring.
Straight down the line, boring sex, with as little foreplay as possible, the kind of sex that the Catholic Church (proud sponsors of this year’s Republican party) want you to have, if you have to have sex at all, and if you’re married.
Preferring an activity or thing in its basic and unmodified state. Refers to vanilla ice cream. Used when expressing a preference for having something the traditional way.
Original game format without any mods.
And Whatis?.com offers this definition, which is particularly relevant to the case in point.
In information technology, vanilla (pronounced vah-NIHL-uh) is an adjective meaning plain or basic. The unfeatured version of a product is sometimes referred to as the vanilla version.
So, okay. I’ll admit to being behind the times on this one. In further evidence, here’s the Guardian, proving that vanilla goes with anything from vampires to economic growth plans (thank you to Trenchard for these, from afar).
We have evil vampires and benevolent vampires, traditional vampires and postmodern vampires, camp vampires and vanilla vampires, virginal vampires and cocksure, sexually explosive vampires. A veritable gush of vampires, an unstoppable arterial spray of the bastards. We’re so saturated by this cultural exsanguination, I half-expected Tony Blair’s memoirs to come with a vampire angle (or did they? he asked mischievously).
On special-edition DVDs:
People who buy DVDs and Blu-rays tend to fall into two camps. Some just want to own the film or TV series. They don’t care if they’re buying a collector’s item, a double gold-plated bumper anniversary special edition or a no-frills vanilla disc.
On Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream:
As an experiment in west coast genetic engineering, in which Brian Wilson’s vanilla fantasies synch up with Snoop Dogg’s tongue-in-cheek gangsta shtick, lead single “California Gurls” is hilarious. As a song, it is actually pretty lame.
On corporate profits:
But we also need to ask a second question now. Where are those profits going? Are they going out the door to shareholders? Or are they going into investment and rising wages? And how do we make sure the recovery actually benefits all workers – not just those at the top? A plain vanilla growth plan is not enough. We need to make sure this time that growth really is growth that is shared.
So yes, it is everywhere. But I think I liked it better before.