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Commentary Detail

Commentary by: Wm. Stage
Aired September 12, 2007

The one word in the language which bothers me the most is "cute". It is grossly overused and misused. Granted, bald-headed babies are cute, as are puppies, piglets and certain items of women's clothing. But many other things called "cute" are not cute. They are something else. I contend that cute has become a catch-all, supplanting perfectly good adjectives. Just as pudgy American youth may view the Presidential Fitness Challenge as, well, "challenging", a large portion of the public cannot or will not exercize their vocabularies.

Case in point: Remember Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev? Remember that birthmark at the crest of his pate? Is it "cute", as some have said, or is it "distinguished", "congenital", "portentous"? See? The idea is to ferret out those arcane yet germane adjectives.

And even if you say "cute" I hope you will agree there are certain things which should never be called "cute". Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring" is not a cute piece of music. Wertmuller's "Seven Beauties" is not cute cinema. In fact, the noblest endeavor can be reduced to tripe by well-meaning cute-sayers. A serious artist once remarked that someone had referred to his abstract painting as "cute". He was devastated. "Ugly, prosaic, even dreck", he bemoaned, "anything but cute".

What, then, shall be done with "cute"? Some say it should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. Others propose tying it to the bumper of a city refuse truck and dragging it through the streets until it aquires a measure of character. I say purge it from the language. Outlaw it by professional decree. And when cute is outlawed, only outlaws will say cute.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Wm. Stage

Wm. Stage


A journalist and photographer since 1982, Wm. Stage has plumbed the life stories of thousands of people. He has taught photojournalism at Saint Louis University's School for Professional Studies [1990-96] and he is an alumnus of the Photojournalism Workshop, offered by University of Missouri - Columbia's School of Journalism and held in a different Missouri town every year since 1946. He is the author of six non-fiction books including Have A Weird Day: Reflections and Ruminations on the St. Louis Experience. He lives with his dog, Jack, in The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis.

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