Does the word "gaudy" come from the artist Gaudi?
July 8, 2009 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Does the root of the the word "gaudy" come from the artist Gaudi?
posted by paddingtonb to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by darksasami at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2009

Considering in your links it's mentioned that "gaudy" dates to 1582 and Gaudí was born in 1852, I would vote no.
posted by mikeh at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had previously been told yes, but this site disagrees, as does this site, which says:

"There are two schools of thought on this word, in addition to one erroneous explanation. First, it is thought that gaudy comes from a color term from Middle English, gaudy-green, which itself originated because the plant which produced the dye was once known as weld, and weld, when borrowed into Old French, became gaude - hence English gaudy-green. It is said that gaudy soon lost its specific color connotations and came to refer to anything 'bright.'

The second explanation is that the term comes from English gaud 'joke, plaything.' That word was adapted from Old French gaudir 'rejoice,' a descendant of Latin gaudere 'delight in' (from which English gets joy). The word gaudy still serves as a noun in English which means "rejoicing, joy, merrymaking; a festival", though it has probably gained obsolete status these days.

The erroneous explanation is that the term comes from the name of the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926), whose architecture some believe today is gaudy. This suggestion can be discounted by virtue of the fact that gaudy dates back to the 16th century."

Hope that helps!
posted by Magnakai at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Uh, did you google "origin gaudy"? Plethora of answers there. Including, from here:

I was recently told that the word "gaudy" comes from the name of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. I find this hard to believe as he died in the late 1920s and it seems to me that this word is of older origin. The dictionary said that it came from "gaudiere," which I assume is French. Can you give me more information? -- Janis Breckenridge, via the Internet.

Well, there you go. As I've said before, I have the most perceptive readers around. Presented with an explanation of "gaudy" reeking of hogwash, Ms. Breckenridge says, politely but firmly, that she finds it "hard to believe." What she really means, of course, is "Get that ridiculous story away from me before I call the cops."

As well she should. Nobody minds a little creative conjecture every so often, but trying to trace a word such as "gaudy," which has been in common usage since the 16th century, to a 20th century architect whose name just happens to sound like "gaudy" is a bit much.

That's not to say that there hasn't been a bit of a debate about the origin of "gaudy," meaning "tastelessly ornate or showy." One theory traces "gaudy" to an old Middle English term, "gaudy-green," which was evidently a sort of bright yellowish-green. Gaudy-green dye was made from the weld plant (Reseda luteola, for you botanists out there), whose name in Old French was "gaude," so that's where "gaudy-green" got its name, anyway. But most etymologists doubt that "gaudy-green" was the root of our more generally tasteless, Elvis sort of "gaudy."

A more likely source is the obsolete English word "gaud," meaning "joke, toy, or showy ornament." This "gaud" came from the French "gaudir," meaning "to rejoice or jest," which came in turn from the Latin "gaudere," meaning "to rejoice or delight in." (That Latin "gaudere," by the way, is also the source of the English word "joy.")
posted by meerkatty at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: thanks y'all! Metafilter rocks.
posted by paddingtonb at 2:44 PM on July 8, 2009

And for those of you who weren't already familiar with this wonderful resource, The Online Etymology Dictionary. (Entry there for gaudy, which gives the same possible explanations given above.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:11 PM on July 8, 2009 [6 favorites]

I am glad to know this, even though it makes me feel dumb. The Gaudy etymology seemed plausible enough however long ago I heard it, and now I'm wracking my brain trying to remember if I've ever propagated it.
posted by usonian at 3:17 PM on July 8, 2009

The wiki page on Gaudy mentions celebrations from my alma mater that I've been involved in (not saying which of those three I'm associated with!). Having sung the 'Gaudeamus', and having this firmly associated in my mind with student hi-jinks of ancient origin I'm personally persuaded of the Latin origin via student-dom. Linguists may disagree!
posted by Coobeastie at 3:35 PM on July 8, 2009

Shakespeare's "Antonius and Cleopatra" XI,11, 225:

"Let's have one other gaudy night:
call to me All my sad captains;
fill our bowls once more;
Let's mock the midnight bell."
posted by aquafortis at 3:50 PM on July 8, 2009

Rats. My highschool Spanish teacher always said that Gaudi was the root of gaudy, and it never even crossed my mind to doubt her. I liked it better that way.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:02 PM on July 8, 2009

Coobeastie - I'm associated with one of those, as well, and went to a Gaude (it was spelt that way on the invitation) last week. I assumed it was Latin and related to celebration (Gaudeamus igitur etc etc).
posted by altolinguistic at 12:26 AM on July 9, 2009

We're not the first ones to notice the similarity between Gaudí and gaudere. (The pun's extra-tasty in Catalan, where gaudir means "get your rocks off" as well as "rejoice.")
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:56 AM on July 9, 2009

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