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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:04 pm

• cute •

Pronunciation: kyut • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Appealingly dainty, childishly pretty, as 'a cute girl'. 2. Contrived or precious, as 'a cute trick'. 3. (Archaic) Shrewd, clever.

Notes: Our long-time friend Chris Stewart recommended this word as one of his pet peeves. It is one of the two positive words in English that are so mild as to border on the insulting (nice being the other). What a put-down to hear someone say, "You're so cute and have such a nice attitude." You can't be insulted because it is, well, a nice thing to say. But the words are so bland as to leave you wondering what has been said.

In Play: This word is OK if you use it in referring to children: "Letticia Romane's little girl is really cute; she looks like her father." Otherwise, it tends to take on negative connotations: "That was a cute trick, telling your mother that your dad wants her to pick him up, so that we can be alone."

Word History: Today's Good Word is the aphetic form of acute, i.e. acute without its initial [a]. It first appeared with the meaning of acute "perceptive; shrewd" in a 1731 dictionary. It then went on to develop its own sense of "pretty, fetching", first recorded in a reference to "gals" in 1838. Acute comes to us from Latin acutus, the past participle of acuere "to sharpen". This word goes back to acus "needle". In Greek the same root shows up in akros "high up", found in acrobat from akros "high up" + bainein, bat- "to walk." (Today's Good Word is another suggestion from the acute mind of our old friend Chris Stewart of South Africa.)
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Re: Cute

Postby rrentner » Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:00 pm

I'm a little more positive on this word than either Chris Stewart or the good Dr. Goodword. Children are not the only "safe" objects for this adjective. If used on clothing, I think it is neither childish nor cynical. She wore a cute hat, or, that dress is cute. You might think it "appealingly dainty" or "childishly pretty", but grown women might enjoy the description and not be offended at all. Cars and other objects of clever and compact design also can be cute, even without offending the masculinity of their male owners.

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Re: Cute

Postby bnjtokyo » Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:18 pm

Agreed. When my daughter was small and we were out and about, she would sometimes ask me to carry something for her because she was tired or needed her hands free for some other purpose. And on more than one occasion, someone exclaim "What a cute hand bag!" To which I felt the best response was to acknowledge the complement with a simple "Thank you."

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