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Thread: Homeliness

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    #11

    Re: Homeliness

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    So "For all her pleasant homeliness" suggests she was "pleasantly ugly". Is that right? It sounds very odd to me.
    More or less. Homely doesn't mean repulsive; it's more on the level of plainness.
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    #12

    Re: Homeliness

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I wonder how homely came to have that sense for Americans.

    Does anyone think it comes from the idea that a typical American housewife of a bygone age was considered, um, not especially beautiful? It's just for women, right?
    Homely works equally well for men or women. I don't know how it came to mean what it does, but I doubt it has any association with the perceived attractiveness of housewives. Where did you find the idea that typical American housewives were once considered unattractive?
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    #13

    Re: Homeliness

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    It's certainly kinder to call a woman or her face homely rather than ugly/unattractive.
    I wouldn't try it.
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    #14

    Re: Homeliness

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Homely works equally well for men or women. I don't know how it came to mean what it does, but I doubt it has any association with the perceived attractiveness of housewives. Where did you find the idea that typical American housewives were once considered unattractive?
    I guess by 'unattractive' I meant 'plain', i.e., 'not beautiful'. Housewives are found at home. I'm surprised that a 'homely' appearance can be used to describe men.

    I'll stop commenting now before I inadvertently offend anyone.

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    #15

    Re: Homeliness

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    So "For all her pleasant homeliness" suggests she was "pleasantly ugly". Is that right? It sounds very odd to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    More or less. Homely doesn't mean repulsive; it's more on the level of plainness.
    Right, that's how I've always understood and used the term. Not ugly or repulsive, just not particularly attractive or remarkable.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I wonder how homely came to have that sense for Americans.

    Does anyone think it comes from the idea that a typical American housewife of a bygone age was considered, um, not especially beautiful? It's just for women, right?
    I doubt that, because I've seen the term used to refer to men as well, although not as commonly as women. It's kind of antiquated anyway, at least in AmE, as is its opposite term 'comely'. I also don't think I've ever heard of 'comely' being used to refer to men outside of the Bible, however.

    I wondered if there wasn't a connection to the word 'home' and having plain things at home, which is supported by this online etymology site. That source claims that at least in the Northeastern US, 'ugly' was reserved for temperament.

    I don't know about it being limited to the NE US though, because I've occasionally used and heard the phrase 'ugly temper' myself.
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    #16

    Re: Homeliness

    Re: jutfrank's post #10 It's not the author "being kind", it's the narrator...


    Physical beauty is perhaps the most subjective thing there is. When I thought of the word "homely", I immediately thought of American Gothic, the painting by Grant Wood. I don't think anyone would describe the woman as beautiful (even with a smile on her face), but neither is she particularly ugly. I think that the couple rather illustrate the two opposite boundaries of what I would call homely.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americ...rt_Project.jpg
    Last edited by J&K Tutoring; 17-Jan-2020 at 02:01.

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    #17

    Re: Homeliness

    Off-topic, but thank GOD for the summary at the bottom of that page. I never would have understood what was happening in that picture with that description (replete with typo).

    Man and woman with stern expession stand side-by-side. The man holds a pitch fork and wears glasses.
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    #18

    Re: Homeliness

    Quote Originally Posted by Skrej View Post
    Off-topic, but thank GOD for the summary at the bottom of that page. I never would have understood what was happening in that picture with that description (replete with typo).
    That could be a description for the visually impaired.

    But yes, "homely" in US English means anywhere from "plain" to "unattractive". Apparently the term evolved from the idea of domestic scenes being plain, simple, and unadorned:

    https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=homely
    Last edited by bubbha; 17-Jan-2020 at 07:01.
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    #19

    Re: Homeliness

    Okay, I'm sensing that it doesn't mean 'ugly', it means 'plain'. It's more 'not attractive' than 'unattractive', if you know what I mean.

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