My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus expands on a subject I touched on a couple of years ago here on the blog: the curious metamorphosis of the nouns pout and smile. In makeup branding and beauty journalism, pout has become a ubiquitous substitute for mouth; in dental marketing, smile now signifies the lips and everything behind them.
Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers (just $19.95 a year for lots of great content!). Here’s an excerpt:
Pout was an English verb meaning “to puff out of the lips in displeasure” since at least the 1300s; the noun form (which is what I’m talking about here) emerged in the 1590s. The word’s origins are uncertain, although it may be imitative of the shape your lips make while saying the word. (French has a related verb, bouder, which gave us boudoir — literally, a room for sulking.) For most of its history pout had generally negative connotations: petulant toddlers pout, as do sulky teens. Then, in 2002, a London weekly, News of the World, turned its attention to a British TV actress, Leslie Ash, who’d had silicone injections in her lips. The newspaper coined the term “trout pout” to describe the unfortunate results, and the catchy if catty rhyme caught on. (The label isn’t quite scientifically accurate: trout don’t have especially prominent mouths. Some other fish do, however. There’s even a species, Trisopterus luscus, whose common name is “pouting.”) In 2008, Ms. Ash appeared in a TV documentary about botched cosmetic surgery and talked to newspapers about “my trout pout hell.”
Read the rest of “Read Our Lips: Mouthy Metonyms.”