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Grotesque

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Grotesque

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:28 pm

• grotesque •


Pronunciation: gro-teskHear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. A style of art in which bizarre animate forms are interwoven with fantastical plants and flowers. 2. Horrifyingly and unnaturally bizarre, distorted, misshaped and ugly.

Notes: Don't forget that grotesque came from French so recently as to preserve the French spelling: que is one way French spells the sound [k] at the end of words. Today's word comes with a coterie of relatives: the adverb is grotesquely, and the noun expressing the same sentiment as a quality is grotesqueness. It also brought with it from French a collective noun (in the linguistic sense), grotesquerie "a collection of grotesque objects or ideas".

In Play: This word has come to be used in the sense of "extremely ugly" in the US, but it means more than that: "To get even with a patron who refused to pay him, the architect made the gargoyles grotesque caricatures of the faces of the patron's entire family." I especially love the collective noun: "Hitler's grotesquerie appalled everyone of sound soul and mind throughout the world."

Word History: Today's Good Word, if you haven't already noticed, came to English as the French word grotesque. French picked it up from Italian grottesco "of a cave or grotto" from grotta "cave". Grotta is what Italian turned the Latin word crypta "vault, cave" into, a word which ultimately came from Greek krypte "hidden place". (Notice how English borrowed this word all along its way to French.) The Italian phrase pittura grottesca "grotto painting" was a popular expression for murals revealed by excavations of Roman ruins in Italy. Since these pictures were often mutilated by the scrape of time, the meaning of grottesca shifted to "distorted, misshaped". (Today we owe a note of gratitude to Perry Lassiter, a Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, for suggesting this oddly beautiful treat as a Good Word.)
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Re: Grotesque

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:22 pm

A strange and sobering transition: from cave to ugliness. While I do have speluncaphobia and have never seen Carlsbad Caverns, I like the photographs my friends bring back. It was once the practice to put artificial grottos in formal gardens. They are usually very shallow. I have ventured into a few of those.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: Grotesque

Postby MTC » Sat Jun 29, 2013 7:48 am

"Grotesques"--fanciful creatures which populate the margins of medieval manuscripts--are especially fascinating. Unused space on the page becomes a zoo of the imagination, a bestiary of commonplace animals spliced together with men in unlikely combinations, a special place where unicorns, griffins, dragons and satyrs abound. Grotesques exist exclusively along the border of the page, the border between the known and the unknown. I like to think when scholars doze grotesques come to life and float around the page, escaping on rare occasion.
Last edited by MTC on Sat Jun 29, 2013 3:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grotesque

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:15 am

I don't believe in Santa Claus. Now MTC tells me there are no unicorns, griffins, dragons or satyrs. No unicorns! Surely there are unicorns.
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Re: Grotesque

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:22 am

He forgot black panthers.
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Re: Grotesque

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:13 am

In "The Glass Menagerie", Tennessee Williams used a glass unicorn to portray a disabled girl with a major inferiority complex. A visitor accidentally broke the horn off her unicorn and hoped he had liberated the young lady. But unicorns is unicorns, so it was to no effect. If you can tolerate him, I recommend Williams as a writer. Not so much the movies.
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Re: Grotesque

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Jun 29, 2013 1:22 pm

Williams is superb. Got to see the stage play in Louisville with Burl Ives as Big Daddy. I thought then and now it was highly Christian in the prophetic sense, pointing out the misery, evil, and hypocrisy in the world and crying out for an answer. Ives had one poignant scene where he tells about a child prostitute I haven't been able to find in any copy. Part of his basement rant with his son.
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