07 April 2009

Silly? What is it.

This is a third Myerly request. This painting was made for their dear friend, Maria Smith, as a birthday gift. I was given only one word to guide me, "silly".
What do you do with that?
I decided to research the origin of the word. I was happy to find this awesome etymology site: http://www.etymonline.com/.
It seems that the word "silly" has gone through some significant and odd changes over the past thousand years or so. Previous to the 13th century, the word held the meaning "blessed" or "pious". It later evolved into "harmless" (c. 1280), "feeble-minded" (16th century), and "stunned, as by a blow" (late 1800's). Now it just means "silly".
"Silly Putty" was copyrighted in 1949.
I decided to go down the "feeble-minded" path (as usual). The term "feeble-minded" made me think of those crazy old Phrenology charts. Phrenology, for those who don't know their 19th century pseudo-sciences, was a study in which a person's entire head was measured to determine many different traits, such as their intellegence and the strenghth of their character. The thought (as far as I understand it) was to show which parts of the brain were the most developed by how big the corresponding part of the head is. (Did they realize that we have skulls?) The charts labeled parts of the brain with words like, "benevolence", "hope", "self-esteem", and "immorality". This all seems funny in retrospect until you find out that this was taken quite seriously and used to study the differences between races and ethnic groups. Nazi stuff.
In searching for information, I was surprised to come across a website for an organization that still believes in the benefits of the study of phrenology. Strangely, it seems to take a self-help angle. Now, this is "silly". I would link it here but it creeps me out a little. And you never know what people will believe...
Anyway, in my painting, all of the attributes boil down to just being "squirrely". Nothing wrong with that.

Here is a link to Maria Smith's very personal blog: http://www.mariamou68.com/

1 comment:

Mariamou said...

Thank you again John! I truly love the painting and learning about the research that went into it!!