What are the proper words for these definitions?
March 20, 2011 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Is there a proper English word for this situation / definition?

I am curious if there are proper words for these two ideas:

First, what would describe a situation that is both brilliant and horrible? For example, the way the Chinese government suppresses freedom of expression is horrible... and is such a genius form of censorship. The words I can think of that indicate intelligence have only positive connotations, but I am looking for a synonym of 'genius' but with a connotation of intense disapproval.

Second, is there a word for a completely messed-up situation, where everything goes completely wrong, but with an unexpected, wonderful, and unintentional outcome? The closest I can think of is "clusterfuck serendipity", but this is a mouthful and is not elegant.
posted by Peter Petridish to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. Devious?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:03 PM on March 20, 2011


Number one sounds like "diabolical."
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:04 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. seconding drjimmy11's "diabolical"
2. "perfect storm[cloud] with a silver lining"?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:12 PM on March 20, 2011


2: I've always liked "catastrophic success" though I don't think it completely matches your definition.
posted by xueexueg at 5:14 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. brilliantly cynical; evil genius; voldemortian
2. One life down, eight to go; cataclyppy ending
posted by Namlit at 5:30 PM on March 20, 2011


Diabolical relies a lot more on cultural context (e.g. half-remembered villains from genre fiction and serial dramas) than actual definition. Straightforwardly, it means "devilish," and it really depends on the reader's personal conception of the Devil and his level of intelligence. It's possible that "dastardly" might fit better, but it also relies on similar cultural antecedents. Maybe try "Karl Rove"

Silver lining is a pretty good one for 2, but I'm gonna start using "catastrophic success" in my everyday language.
posted by Jon_Evil at 5:32 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


1. Machiavellian
posted by glibhamdreck at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


2. Reversal of fortune.
posted by axiom at 6:18 PM on March 20, 2011


2. Happy accident.
posted by qwip at 6:43 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. Sneaky.
2. Something about a phoenix (can't think of what right now).
posted by carter at 8:01 PM on March 20, 2011


...is there a word for a completely messed-up situation, where everything goes completely wrong, but with an unexpected, wonderful, and unintentional outcome?

I know you asked for a word, but the phrase "fell into a bucket of shit and came out smelling like a rose" works for the above situation.
posted by amyms at 8:10 PM on March 20, 2011


1. I also like 'diabolical' or 'devilish' for this. Cunning? Subtle?

2. Inelegant success, maybe. But that's still a phrase and not a precisely apt one.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:40 PM on March 20, 2011


1. awefulsome
posted by 23skidoo at 9:15 PM on March 20, 2011


1. Nefarious?
posted by juv3nal at 11:36 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mephistophelean
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:01 AM on March 21, 2011


No! It's INSIDIOUS! That's what we've been homing in on!
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:39 PM on March 24, 2011


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