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HANDSOME

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HANDSOME

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:35 pm

• handsome •

Pronunciation: hæn-sêm • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. (Men) Attractive, having pleasing features appropriate for a man or any other thing (a handsome piano). 2. (Women) Beautiful and poised, attractive and dignified for a woman. 3. (Elsewhere) Generous, copious, liberal, more than ample (handsome salary).

Notes: This is a word that is seldom used to refer to women because it has been so closely associated with men and other objects. A handsome woman is beautiful and something else, but we aren't sure what that 'something else' is. Well, now we know. Today's Good Word may be used adverbially, handsomely, and it comes with an unhandsome noun, handsomeness.

In Play: We seldom use today's Good Word in reference to women, not that there is any shortage of handsome women: "Derry Yare is a handsome and intelligent woman whom Phil Anders immediately knew was out of his league." "Handsome is as handsome does" is a phrase that might be appropriately applied to Phil, if he lives up to his name. It is applied to a handsome person who misbehaves. In fact, we can use this word to describe many things other than men: "Dewey Rose worked hard on her garden until it was the handsomest in the neighborhood."

Word History: The origin of this word might surprise some of you. Its development parallels those of other adjectives with the suffix -some, like burdensome, wholesome, and loathsome. Its meaning, though, started out in Middle English as "easily handled, easy to deal with". Its cousin, Dutch handzaam, still carries that meaning. When handy's meaning shifted from "done by hand" to "convenient", handsome's meaning shifted to "handy". How this meaning made it to "beautiful" is anyone's guess. (We now handsomely thank Aaron Groetsch for his suggestion of today's Good Word.")
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:35 am

Festus Hagan of the TV western "Gunsmoke", described a pretty girl as "right looksome". It works for me.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:41 am

Re handsome women. I usually sense this applying to a woman who may not now be called beautiful (though she may once have been), but retains dignified good looks. I tend to think of handsome women as mostly 50 or above.
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Postby Slava » Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:10 am

There is also the hansom cab, from Mr. Hansom, the eponym. who designed the contraption. I do believe it is pronounced the same way, though missing two letters.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:17 pm

Philip Hudson wrote:Festus Hagan of the TV western "Gunsmoke", described a pretty girl as "right looksome". It works for me.


How well I recall his use, and I used to wonder about it,
thinking it was an "olden days' usage.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:40 pm

I think looksome may be a gift of Applachian dialect to the world. The world, like Luke, has dismissed it as "old timey".
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:03 pm

Anything when I was young is now 'old-timey'.(Is there
an 'app' for that?)
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