Monday, 26 April 2010

You're Gorgeous

The supreme wordsmith, Inky Fool, couldn't find an English word that means ugly-beautiful. (Jolie laide, being French and gender-specific, just will not do.)

But as Inky is ever so clever, we can forgive him. And I live in hope that something will turn up ...

It is a huge oversight in terms of the English language that no such word (meaning ugly-beautiful) exists. Surely the Anglo-Saxons - not famous for their faces - had a word for it? Or the Vikings? Something that was absorbed into our common tongue?

The Scots have braw - which can be used ironically - but it's still not exactly what I'm looking for. (Although the Scots also have wallie gowdie which is worth using just for the sheer joy it brings to ones mouth.)

I wanted to write about the beautifully ugly grotesques (not gargoyles) in The Chapter House of York Minster. And I can't. At least not without referring to '90s pop sensation, Babybird who released an album called Ugly Beautiful. (Which is all you'll blimmin' well get when you put that term into a search engine.)

Even Lewis Carroll's invention of uglification hasn't cheered me. (If you don't know what to uglify is, you ARE a simpleton*.)

Some things are just so ugly they become beautiful. Certain breeds of dogs; odd looking babies; politicians.

But the grotesques in The Chapter House are so very ugly - they squish small children, wrestle pigs, stretch their noses and mouths,stick out their tongues, snarl, gibber, and gurn. How could they fail to be beautiful when they've gone to so much bother to achieve ugliness?

I know I shouldn't find this funny, but the UK's three-times National Gurning Champion - a man who had his teeth removed in order to make his face more pliable - died when a cliff face collapsed underneath him. Is there a sort of delicious irony in the man with the collapsible face meeting his end on a collapsible face?

For more examples of the Beautifully Ugly, click here.

* That's a direct quotation, not just me being rude.


  1. For a second there, I thought this was a promotional piece for the prime ministerial debate!

  2. If language is a living thing we should be inventing a word for you right now and bring it into polite usage. I was just about to suggest beaugliful, Googled it and found it's already there in the Urban Dictionary and a couple of other blogs - use it or lose it!

  3. I read that as inventing a word to describe ME - and felt cold to the marrow of my bones ...

    Beaugliful is not a nice word. It sounds too like bugle - and also as if someone is drowning and those long vowels and glottally consonants are great air bubbles being expelled from a person's lungs.

    (Yes, I am sitting at my desk in my Icelandic Study, repeating the word - tasting it almost.)

    Now Fugly I like (although it means something different entirely).

  4. Toothache or eating disorder. At least it's only their mouths they are holding open.

  5. It occurs to me that there may be a psychological term for being attracted to ugliness. I know that's not exactly what you're after here, but I'll keep searching.

  6. So you've got a choice between Leonardo Di Caprio and Sid James. A pretty boy who looks like a potato or a giant wrinkle with a twinkle?

    No contest.

    (Have I got a 'condition'?)

  7. Surely pretty-ugly fits the bill?

  8. You may be onto something, Jinksy. Prugly?

  9. So much to learn. Gurning, for starters! Definitely thought the winner deserved his prize in the video. I also thought BB was looking for a new word to describe you politely. Really, she ought to follow through with that.

    And you're not the only one who found the collapsing faces funny....

  10. Glad I came back here - no, Moptop, you are indescribable (although 'Moptop' isn't a bad effort!)

    How about Buggly? It needs two G's (don't we all).