Mask

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Dr. Goodword
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Mask

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:05 pm

• mask •


Pronunciation: mæsk • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A face covering used to amuse or terrify people, to hide the identity of the wearer, or to protect from bacteria and viruses. 2. (Also spelled masque) A preparation spread over the face to cleanse and improve the skin. 3. A thin likeness of a person made by making a mold of their face, as 'a death mask'. 4. Anything used to cover something else to block it from view or protect it, such as a photographic mask used to block part of an image.
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Notes: I think most people are overly familiar with today's Good Word. It may be used as a verb meaning "to cover up", as 'to mask one's feelings'. The most interesting offspring is masquerade "masked ball", with a root spelled the French way. It, too, may be used as a verb meaning "to pass oneself off as", e.g. 'masquerade as a doctor'.

In Play: Today the US is now the greatest country in the spread of the coronavirus: "Surgical masks are standard protection against invisible droplets of saliva that may carry viruses that the mouth sprays out with each word we speak." Please, wherever you are in the world, wear a cloth mask when you go out of your home—it protects yourself and others.

Word History: Today's Good Word was captured early on from Middle French masque "covering to hide or guard the face". French apparently copied either Italian maschera "mask" or Spanish máscara "mask", source also of English mascara. These words were modifications of Medieval Latin masca "mask, specter, nightmare", a word of mysterious origins. It may have come from Arabic maskharah "buffoon, mockery", based on sakhira "be mocked, ridiculed". It may come via Provençal mascara, Catalan màscara, or Old French mascurer "to blacken (the face)". These words would have had to be derived from mask- "black", coming from a pre-Indo-European language, such as Old Occitan masco "witch", a conjurer of black magic. The word is alive today in various dialects. (Today's word comes as a reminder from a long-time major contributor, George Kovac, who presumably is staying home and wearing a mask when he goes out.)
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call_copse
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Re: Mask

Postby call_copse » Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:07 am

"Today the US is now the greatest country in the spread of the coronavirus"

Lol, not quite sure of the meaning there? The most grotesquely incompetent at dealing with it, therefore the 'greatest' at spreading it?
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damoge
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Re: Mask

Postby damoge » Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:34 pm

Iain, the Good Doctor is quoting the president. What the Doctor meant is clearly as you indicated. A lot of people got a good snort out of hearing the Pres. use it as a compliment to himself. Others were just left scratching their heads.
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call_copse
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Re: Mask

Postby call_copse » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:13 am

Ah thanks Damoge, that explains it :D
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George Kovac
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Re: Mask

Postby George Kovac » Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:30 pm

The meaning of “mask” as a prophylactic face covering is, of course, the meaning uppermost in our thoughts today.

I have always been intrigued by “mask” as a metaphor for character. In the performance of ancient Greek theater a mask—or even larger costume—identified the characters in a play.

Today we use “mask” in both pejorative and aspirational senses to describe a person’s authentic “character.” A bad person masks who he really is: “Senator Pyrrhus’ calculated gregariousness masks his cynical manipulation of people he despises.” But we also think of “masks”—faces—as markers of who we really are, or whom we truly aspire to be: we are told to “put on a happy face” or a “brave face,” not to encourage dishonesty but to admonish ourselves become our best selves.

We all wear masks of some sort. Sometimes we aren’t sure whether the mask is a good thing or a bad thing, an authentic or an artificial presentation of ourselves. Paul McCartney poignantly captured this ambiguity in his description of the lonely Eleanor Rigby, “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?”
"The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words." Colum McCann, But Always Meeting Ourselves, NYT 6/15/09

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Re: Mask

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:22 pm

I have always been intrigued by “mask” as a metaphor for character. In the performance of ancient Greek theater a mask—or even larger costume—identified the characters in a play.
Masks identify the characters in the Italian Commedia dell'arte. I have a mask of Zanni hanging behind me, because his name is the origin of the English word zany.

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