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The translator favored this term for the French "rapports," since "associations" or "links" failed to capture the extensive meaning implied by Diderot.Diderot will provide an extensive definition of the term below.
We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so…
welcome to (as in the flip side of beauty, of course!
Interestingly, though, “pretty” totally disappears from written recordings for a few hundred years—it skips the whole Middle English period; Chaucer, for example, never uses it—but it surfaces again in the 15th century, now with the more positive meaning of “clever” or “skillful.” It’s not infrequent for a word to disappear from a language then come back again: With “pretty,” Russian linguist Anatoly Liberman theorizes that it may have re-emerged when it did thanks to the thousands of people who were traveling back and forth between England and Germany at the time—the Germans may have reminded English speakers of that old word “praettig” and inspired them to bring it back.
From the 1400s onward, “pretty” acquired more and more definitions, soon coming to mean “elegantly made or done” (like a pretty speech).
), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society’s definition of “beauty.” Here, you’ll find cool interviews with LGBTQ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more.
The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we’d love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation too.A quick background check on "pretty" will indicate that this word is very, very old (like medieval old) and has taken some drastic pivots and dips since its inception.According to The Word Detective, “pretty” first appears in Old English (so, around 1000 years ago) as “praettig,” meaning “cunning or crafty,” a modification of the word “praett,” meaning “trick.” Linguists postulate that the word was derived from cognates found in Dutch, Low Northern German, and Old Icelandic.To a lot of us, it feels reductive or belittling, yet because we’ve been taught that it’s a The good news is that language never stops evolving, never will, and scholars agree that young women—the very women society wants to be “pretty”—often lead the charge of linguistic change.Whether it’s because young women are more willing to use language creatively or because they’re more likely to see language (as opposed to brute force) as a tool to gain societal power, they are usually at the forefront of new verbal trends.Later in life, I’d learn that we both desperately wanted to be known as the other.But such is the reality for so many women who’ve been tacitly taught that one can be pretty or one can be smart, but it is almost impossible to be both at the same time."Diminutive is a key word here," Quealy explains, "because it seems often to refer to something small." As a compliment specifically, “pretty” weakened over its centuries of use, and by the 1700s, it would only apply to men who were seen as dandies or fops (aka, men were overly concerned with their appearance). In fact, as early as the 1500s, there was, as The Word Detective says, “an implicit distinction in usage between ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful,’ and ‘pretty’ was often used in a patronizing or even depreciative sense, especially in the form “pretty little,” still very much in use today.With such a dramatic history, it’s really no wonder why so many women feel ambivalent about being called pretty.When debating the true meaning of a word, one’s first move is usually to look it up in the dictionary.Contrary to popular belief, however, those who write the dictionary don’t define words from a place of all-knowing authority; instead, any lexicographer will tell you their job is to reflect “general usage”—to represent the contexts in which the majority of everyday speakers use a word at the time of its entry, even if that usage is controversial or problematic. If someone asked me to define the word “pretty” at this time and place in history, I would probably say something like “a conventionally feminine, palatable sort of attractiveness.” It’s a concept with which I personally have a fraught relationship—in middle school, I had a best friend with long legs, shiny hair, and perfect skin, and we were generally known as the “pretty one” (her) and the “smart one” (me).