Anatomy Of A Word

The very word “good-looking” repays some thought. We are so used to the whole hyphenated word and its unambiguous meaning of physically attractive that we do not notice that it could in theory mean something else, especially with the stress on the first component instead of the second. That is, someone with a shaky grasp of English idiom could easily be forgiven for thinking that “good-looking” referred to a person who looked as if he were good, that is, had the appearance of being ethically virtuous. Such a linguistic structure would be no more improbable than “dishonest-sounding”, which is in fact a possible idiom.

Of course, the moment we reflect that beauty is shorthand for genetic health and general high function, which any biological creature is obliged to regard as “good”, that is, as something he wants to be and to find in others, the difference between the two meanings collapses.

Posted on May 14, 2009 at 12:30 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, The Myth Of "Inner Beauty"

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