Prepossessing
Posted: 23 April 2016 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2999
Joined  2007-01-30

An odd term on the face of it for attractive (although one hears it far more often now in its negative form, unprepossessing.) Off to the OED where I find that prepossessing initially meant ‘that causes bias or prejudice’ (and what a wonderful book title, the source of the first cite)

a1635 R. Sibbes Bowels Opened (1639) 495 Empty the soule of all sinne and prepossessing thoughts.

From thence the meaning narrowed to mean causing a favorable bias, ie attractive. (Much the same process as with success, which originally meant simply outcome, whether good or bad.)

2. That predisposes favourably; giving a favourable first impression; attractive, pleasing.

1737 J. Hewitt Tutor for Beaus 3 That free, open, affecting, prepossessing , graceful, and excellent Air.

And thinking about ugly it’s instructive that the root is the Old Norse word ugglig, to be feared or dreaded.

BTW do Americans use the simile like the back-end of a bus to mean ugly? (Although I’ve never been sure as to what is so fugly about the back of a bus. Of course it depends on the year in which the phrase was coined and which model of bus they had in mind. I can’t find it in OED so I have no idea of date although it was certainly around in the 60s.)

And I’d always thought fugly an American term but no, it’s of Australian military origin and first used as a noun, in other words a fugly was a ‘fucking ugly’ woman. First cite is as a noun c. 1970 and as an adjective in 1980.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 April 2016 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6267
Joined  2007-01-03

BTW do Americans use the simile like the back-end of a bus to mean ugly?

No, but I think most would understand it in context. We have countless similar phrases, so it seems familiar even if it really isn’t. (I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if you can find isolated examples from Leftpondia.)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 April 2016 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3449
Joined  2007-01-31

It’s familiar to me and I did not think of it as a Briticism, although I wouldn’t say it’s extremely common over here.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 April 2016 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  855
Joined  2007-06-20

Time perhaps to recall an amusing back-end-of-a-bus incident … http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-493457/Suits-sir-Red-faces-police-publicity-stunt-backfires.html

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2016 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4457
Joined  2007-01-29

BTW do Americans use the simile like the back-end of a bus to mean ugly?

Not in my experience.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2016 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4457
Joined  2007-01-29

and what a wonderful book title, the source of the first cite

Annoyingly, Google Books does not appear to have digitized Bowels Opened, but Erica Longfellow in Women and Religious Writing in Early Modern England says, “The 495 pages of Bowels opened cover less than two chapters of the Song of Songs, verses 5:1–6:2.” Yikes!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2016 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6267
Joined  2007-01-03

Note also that back of the bus (rather than back-end of the bus) has an entirely different, and racially inflected, meaning in US speech.

Profile