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Thread: holy fool

  1. #1
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default holy fool

    Dear friends,

    When one talks about Van Gogh as mad, holy fool, is the phrase "holy fool" positive or negative? In other words, is the word HOLY stronger than FOOL, or the other way round? To me, this is a positive phrase, or, the modifier (adjective) is stronger than the modified (fool).

    Thanks for your reply.

    Ian

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    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: holy fool

    Hello Ian

    Generally speaking, like "sancta simplicitas", "holy fool" can be used both positively and pejoratively (and both literally and ironically): much depends on the attitude of the speaker.

    You might say that even where it's used in a positive sense, there's a little negativity present: the phrase is naturally ambivalent.

    In your case, it seems more likely that the speaker intends a positive application, especially if other positive terms such as "vision" appear in the context. But by using the phrase, the speaker to some extent distances himself from Van G: there is an element of concession.

    All the best,

    MrP

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    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: holy fool

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Hello Ian

    Generally speaking, like "sancta simplicitas", "holy fool" can be used both positively and pejoratively (and both literally and ironically): much depends on the attitude of the speaker.

    You might say that even where it's used in a positive sense, there's a little negativity present: the phrase is naturally ambivalent.

    In your case, it seems more likely that the speaker intends a positive application, especially if other positive terms such as "vision" appear in the context. But by using the phrase, the speaker to some extent distances himself from Van G: there is an element of concession.

    All the best,

    MrP
    MrP,

    Not only thanks, but more respect for your linguistic insight.

    Ian

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