“Cute” as a button!” “Cute” as a bug’s ear!” “Cute” as a bug in a rug!” After writing these idioms down on paper and actually seeing the sentences, I can now understand why some women, especially petite women, have attached a negative connotation to the word “cute,” over the years. By any means, how is a bug’s ear “cute?”
THE ETYMOLOGY OF “CUTE”
So let’s delve into this word a little deeper. Where did the word “cute”come from? When was it first used? And, why does it now carry an undertone or indirect meaning when used as a compliment? Well, first a little history – the word “cute” is interestingly enough derived from, and is the aphetic form of “ACUTE.”You may be asking yourself, “How in the heck can these two words be related?“ Cute, meaning “keenly perceptive or discerning and shrewd,” was first recorded and published in a dictionary back in 1731.
The word cute, etymologist’s believe, became a term of approval for things indicative of acuteness. If anything, the word “cute” is a perfect example of how one word can form and mean something totally different, and at the same time become dissociated from the word from which it was derived. It wasn’t until 1834 that the casual sense of attractive or pleasing was recorded as an American English student’s slang word – hmm, go figure!
By 1930, the usage of the word cute almost always had an implied connotation of being “small,” as the aforementioned idioms above portray. As a test, ask yourself this – How many times have you used the word “cute” to describe something little, like a child or a puppy…or even an apartment? Or, perhaps you’ve used the word “cute” as a safe-word when you’re faced with an awkward situation or something (or someone) that does not appeal to your liking? Come on girls…let’s be honest, you know what I’m talking about!
CUTE, ODD, WEIRD AND NEGATIVE
It’s a Saturday night and you and a girlfriend have been invited to a big-time Hollywood premiere. You both are aware that there will be producers, agents, and actors running rampant and that this could be your big chance! Both of you are frantically running around, trying this on…that on, adding more makeup, fixing your hair, all the while yelling out random adjectives to one another so fast…it sounds like you’re both speaking in tongues! Then, finally, the moment! The moment when your friend asks the dreaded question: “How do I look?” You notice the finished product is anything, but subtle or “attractive,” given she is 5’2″ and is wearing a mini-skirt along with thigh-high boots – you secretly cringe but remember you’ve already slurred out pleasantries while she was incoherently fussing about, (or so you thought).
Now you are stuck with the dilemma of whether, or not you’re going to tell her like it is, or, have the angst-ridden duty of saying something positive and nice, even though she looks unsightly (come on now, we’ve all been there, LOL!) – SO…you start to utter, with the most ingenuous intonation, “Oh, you look so CUTE!” (enunciating each letter of the word “cute” as well as pronouncing it as if it were spelled with 5-U’s)! Need I say more?
Cute has also been associated with being “quaint,” which we all know can mean peculiar, odd or weird. I, on the other hand, being an ex-valley-girl from California, would say, “Trippy,” if something was odd or peculiar. I, personally, cannot wrap my brain around using the word “cute” to describe anything weird.
Unfortunately, industry supermodels like Tyra Banks refer to petite models as both “cute and childlike.” Then during their “shorty cycle” with petite models (5’7″ and shorter) Tyra produces a children stylized photo shoot with “wagons and diapers”, no joke! Then she makes the petite models live in a literal rendition of a “playhouse” with adult-sized toys! At least she filled the penthouse with candy!
No wonder Bella Petite Editor Ann Lauren dropped out from being a judge…
The word “cute,” still considered a positive word in the dictionary, thrown out in the context of a compliment towards a petite girl, an older woman, or even a man for that matter, not only borders on insulting (so I’ve discovered in my research), but invokes feelings of wonderment as to what was really meant? It’s really quite contrived when you stop and think about it.
Unfortunately, petite woman are often labeled as “cute, cuddly, sweet, fragile, unintelligent, unattractive and even sometimes weak.” On the contrary – petite women are “beautiful, intelligent, focused and strong!” Just look at our own Editor-in-Chief, Ann Lauren! She is all of these adjectives and more! Albeit she often hears from the fashion and beauty crowd, how petite fashion and models will never be accepted and respected by the industry. Aren’t we lucky that Ann is smart and strong enough to believe otherwise?
I feel, because of the ignorant presumption that “small or petite” women are weaker, have low self-esteem and feel inferior to tall women, we’ve had to be our own self-motivators, boost our own egos, use all our senses and engage our minds fully from an early age, just to prove wrong this preconceived idea that we are just cute. We have to be smarter, be stronger and demonstrate that “small is beautiful (not just simply cute),” that we can do anything we set our minds to, and that indeed, “Dynamite comes in small packages!” We’ve learned to represent and present our positive attributes of being petite, and therefore, have become very tenacious women!
“Charming…pretty…attractive!” These are some of the synonyms I want to hear when describing my persona, as well as my outward appearance. When I looked this word up in the Encarta Dictionary, the first adjective meaning of “cute,” listed: “attractive in a childlike way – endearingly attractive in the way that some children and young animals are.”
Let’s face it, “CUTE” is just not an appropriate word to define “adult” beauty of any kind. Nor is it a proper word to define a “petite woman,” and that is the opinion we are sharing with this article. Petite women are beautiful! Yes, Bella Petite Magazine wants petite women to feel better about themselves than Vogue Magazine would express.
Written by: Tana Corporon
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