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.