The Philosopher's Eye

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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

3 comments on “The Urban Dictionary guide to Aesthetic Properties

    • danielwilson
      September 5, 2010

      “Vermeer’s depiction of light was straight-up steezy”

  1. danielwilson
    September 4, 2010

    A parody translation for those who are a bit sceptical (Originally: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/dec/07/turner-prize-winner-richard-wright):

    >>Artist Richard Wright gets blingy as winner of this year’s Turner prize<<

    The creator of a classy and stunningly ballsy fresco in gold leaf was the "Oh my God, so blown away and flabbergasted" winner of Britain's most prestigious UK art prize last night. Glasgow-based Richard Wright, 49, was awarded the £25,000 Turner prize during a ceremony at Tate… Britain by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who praised a "dope" Turner prize exhibition created by "four artists who are the sh*t".

    Clad in tartan trews, Wright said he was freaked out and touched by the reaction of those who came to see his work at the Turner prize exhibition "perhaps expecting art to be a bit tradge". He said: "That [positive reaction is] what I wanted to happen. It's not about winning the prize." As for what he had planned for the cheque, he said: "Like anyone else, I need the moolah. lol."

    To make his untitled wall painting for the Turner prize exhibition, Wright employed the gritty techniques of Renaissance fresco-makers – drawing a cartoon on paper and then transferring it to the wall in what he called "an incredibly old-school move" by pouncing – piercing the cartoon with holes and rubbing chalk through it to create "the ghost of a work" on the wall. The image was then painted with size (adhesive) and covered with gold leaf.

    Despite the toil involved, when the show closes at Tate Britain on 3 January, the work will be painted over in white emulsion and lost for ever.

    The temporary nature of the piece is deliberate: none of Wright's wall paintings is intended to survive the immediate circumstances of its commission. "I am interested in the preciousness of the here and now – in making it intense," he said. To see a work knowing that it will not last, he said, "make that moment of its existence epic".

    Asked how he felt to experience the destruction of his work, he said: "Sometimes I feel a bit emo; sometimes chilled.

    "At the beginning of his career, Wright made figurative paintings on canvas, but then transformed his practice to create abstract images on walls. At that point, he destroyed all his works on canvas. "My paintings were bollocks," he said. "I felt the things that were influencing my work were lame. I wanted to make work that was fresh." Giving up making paintings, he said, was "liberating. You're not dragging around all that baggage."

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