Archive for February 5th, 2024

Service of a Word

Monday, February 5th, 2024

I’ve written 27 other posts in the “word” category in 16 years. Forgive me if I already ranted about this one way back when.

It came up again the other day when a friend who owns a jewel box like antique shop in New England almost moaned as she told me that a recent visitor entered and said about her boutique, “How cute.” Why not say “charming,” or “delightful,” or “attractive?”

I think cute is almost insulting when used for anything other than a little child or pet, their clothing, photos, hairstyle and toys. I have a vintage Teddy bear. Some might call him “cute.” I think he’s handsome. But he wouldn’t mind the cute word given his origins as a toy.

I once owned a landscape in oil painted by the daughter of my mother’s friend. Its vibrant colors and composition drew me in and every time I passed it, I enjoyed the scene. When a guest—the boss of my then husband—pronounced it “cute,” I smiled, thanked and cringed quietly. He had good intentions and wanted to be nice. It may have been many things but cute wasn’t one. This happened decades ago but when I hear “cute,” I think of that exchange and my sinking heart.

No doubt 98 percent of the English-speaking world has no negative feelings about the word cute, or why it would rile anyone. I suspect that words matter little to most who are oblivious to their potential impact when uttered without malice or anger during benign conversation. Am I too sensitive about words spoken by well-meaning people?

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