The Urban Dictionary guide to Aesthetic Properties

The website Urban Dictionary describes itself as “a veritable cornucopia of streetwise lingo, posted and defined by its readers.” In this post I’ve taken a number of aesthetic properties that are regularly listed in journal articles on aesthetics and fed them into Urban Dictionary to see how well they translate into street talk.

There are some regular terms that may be employed for the purposes of approbation or condemnation. Cool, awesome, stonking and dope are generally terms of praise. Something particularly superlative may be referred to as the sh*t. On the other hand crap, shite, bollocks, and pants generally refer to things at the other end of the scale.

Here are some very rough translations of some familiar aesthetic terms…

Amusing: the object of amusement is typically followed in the online world by lol or roflol.
Angry: mad or pissed (sometimes prefixed by insanely- or crazy-).
Beautiful: often used in relation to physical attractiveness (associated terms include: fit, foxy and hottie). Stunning, amazing, and perfection may be applied more generally.
Bold: ballsy, cocky, shameless.
Boring: lame.
Bouncy: banging (when applied to music though this term can also just be used to refer to something as good).
Comely: cute, gorgeous, stunning, hot.
Cool: chilled.
Dainty: sweet or petite. May be prissy.
Daring: gutsy, ballsy.
Delicate: precious.
Distorted: fuzzy, messed up, twisted.
Elegant: often used in relation to fashion (e.g. sophisticated, stylish, classy).
Garish: tacky, showy, overdone, bling.
Graceful: charming, classy.
Handsome: hottie, stud, buff, fit.
Lifeless: boring, dull, sad, braindead.
Lovely: adorable, delicious, a cutie.
Original: fresh, clever.
Powerful: awesome, amazing, a beast, intense, epic.
Pretty: cute, adorable.
Pure: clean.
Realistic: gritty (“X is a film depicting the gritty realism of life in the New York suburbs”).
Sad: emo.
Sentimental: mushy or sappy may be used to give a negative connotation.
Serene: chilled.
Sluggish: stupid, retarded.
Sombre: dark, depressing, emo.
Sublime: awesome, stunning.
Tragic: awful, terrible, tradge. May be used to refer to a fashion victim.
Trite: common.
Ugly: gross, disgusting (and many other terms that probably shouldn’t be repeated here.)

If you have any further suggestions to be added to the list feel free to write them in the comments section below.

Related articles:
The Structure of Aesthetic Properties
By Rafael De Clercq , Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
(Vol. 3, July 2008)
Philosophy Compass

Shaun Greenhalgh: Master Forger

In January and February of this year the Victoria and Albert Museum ran the Metropolitan Police Service’s Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries exhibition that showcased around 100 forged paintings and sculptures. The most infamous works on the display were those of Shaun Greenhalgh who is currently serving a four year eight month prison sentence for forging works over a 17 year period from 1989 to 2006. Among the many works that Greenhalgh created and sold was a small alabaster statue named the Armana Princess which was sold for £440,000 to the Bolton Museum. The museum believed the statue to be an authentic Egyptian art piece from the reign of Akhenaten (ca. 1352-1336 BC). Another prominent fake is The Faun (pictured above) which was attributed to Gauguin and purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago from a private dealer who also believed the piece to be authentic. Continue reading “Shaun Greenhalgh: Master Forger”

“Beautiful” artwork wins the Turner Prize

The 2009 Turner Prize has been awarded to the painter Richard Wright. Wright’s winning work is a site-specific wall painting with gold leaf applied using a medieval technique. Dr Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain, summing up why Wright was selected as this year’s winner said “in the end we just all felt that it was because it was a really beautiful work of art.” Poet Carol Ann Duffy reaffirmed the status of Wright’s untitled work as beautiful, as did Alan Yentob (Creative director, BBC) and Anouchka Grose (psychoanalyst and writer.)

The repeated description of Wright’s work as beautiful stands out because beauty is not usually a term that is applied to Turner prize winning pieces. In 2002 Culture Minister Kim Howells described that year’s nominees as “cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit.” The connection of the Turner prize to conceptual art seems to have left many prize commentators unable to describe Wright’s work using any perceptual aesthetic terms other than “beautiful” (however I should mention that 2001 Turner prize winner Martin Creed did not use the term beautiful and instead repeatedly described both the 2009 show and the works as “nice.”)

Fortunately philosophical aesthetics treats beauty as one of its prime subjects and also engages with many other aesthetic properties like integrated, delicate, graceful, and splendid, all of which may also be used to describe Wright’s work. Given Wright’s win an examination of the nature of these aesthetic properties and of aesthetic taste looks set to be a worthwhile pursuit even for Turner prize enthusiasts.

You can view reaction to the 2009 Turner prize winner here.

Related articles:

£1.99 - small The Structure of Aesthetic Properties

By Rafael De Clercq , Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

(Vol. 3, July 2008)

Philosophy Compass

£1.99 - small Taste and Objectivity: The Emergence of the Concept of the Aesthetic

By Elisabeth Schellekens , University of Durham

(Vol. 4, August 2009)

Philosophy Compass