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kitsch

Posted: Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:24 am
by Ken Greenwald
<2020 “Today Kiefer [[20/21st German painter/sculptor whose works often incorporate materials such as straw, ash, clay, lead, and shellac.]] has long since been canonized, and his name has become a kind of trademark. If anyone is truly provoked by his work these days, it is by its price tag. And it’s easy to find critical voices: There are plenty who say his art is that of a megalomaniac, that it consists of grand gestures and little else, that it is hollow and empty and perhaps not art at all but kitsch.”—New York Times Magazine, 16 February, page 28>
I’ve come across this word many times over the years and have taken it to mean something showy, but actually of low quality and poor taste. This time around I finally decided to look it up and see what the dictionaries have to say.


kitsch noun: Something held to be of low quality, tawdry design, appearance, or content, created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste and often marked especially by sentimentalism, sensationalism, and slickness; sentimentality or vulgar, often pretentious bad taste, especially in artistic or literary material <When money tries to buy beauty it tends to purchase a kind of courteous kitsch.> <The traditional gap . . . between kitsch and literature>

kitsch adjective: Of, being, or characterized by kitsch. <The kitsch kitchen has aqua-and-white gingham curtains and rubber duck-yellow walls painted in fried-egg motif.>

Etymology: German, from kitschen to slap (a work of art) together, from German dialect, to scrape up mud from the street.

First Known Use: 1926

(Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary, Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, and he Oxford English Dictionary)
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Note: Back in 1999 Jonathon Green had this to say about kitsch.
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The following quotes are from The Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1926 “A healthy week . . . riding, chasing dogs and listening to ‘Kitsch’ on his wireless.”—Brian Howard (1968) by M. J. Lancaster, Letter, ix. page 166>

<1958 “What is so extraordinary about some of these kitsch masterpieces is the way they can be enjoyed on two planes, both as themselves and as their own parodies.”—The Observer (London), 23 February, page 14/1>

<1958 “Few attempts are made in England to mount productions of plays of the commedia dell' arte tradition; and such attempts are in danger of being dismissed as ‘art theatre kitsch’.”—The Times (London), 4 July, page 13/4>

<1972 “A galloping fancy for Victoriana, a sophisticated and uncritical taste for Kitsch and the cute.”—The Listener (British Broadcasting Corporation), 24 August, page 236/1>

<1991 “What is art in one setting may be kitsch in another. The Taj Mahal may be one of the world’s most beautiful structures, but when a movie mogul builds a replica of it in Beverly Hills, that is kitsch.”—The Los Angles Times (Los Angles, California), 3 February, page 728>

<2003 “Generally speaking, kitsch art has long been seen as high art’s poor cousin, something tacky that glows in the dark and is pleasing to the eye.”—The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada), 13 July, page 20>

<2012 “Kitchens have become so serious. All that granite, dark wood and stainless steel. . . . But kitchens don’t have to be as stressful as an episode of ‘Top Chef.’ Designers are increasingly turning to retro, whimsical touches like coffee cup wallpaper . . . and colorful appliances to bring the fun back into this increasingly streamlined room. . . . Here are fun and simple ways to put the ‘kitsch’ back into your kitchen. . . .”—Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, Colorado), 18 February, page 15>

<2016 “There’s no kitch or gimmick or trendy element designed – in the parlance of less-romantic restauranteurs – to ‘put butts in the seats.’ No, just a place with food, honest food made to the best of the kitchen’s ability.”—The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia), 4 November, page D3>

<2020 “If the atmosphere strikes you as a touch tacky, keep in mind that the club started out decades ago as a place that catered to the marina crowd, so the fish netting and colorful floats aren’t here for the kitsch factor.”—Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 5 January, page 6-11>
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Ken Greenwald – February 26, 2020

Re: kitsch

Posted: Thu Feb 27, 2020 4:56 pm
by gdwdwrkr
It has a Yiddish sound but may be ersatz.

Re: kitsch

Posted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:55 am
by Dunkeld
gdwdwrkr wrote:
Thu Feb 27, 2020 4:56 pm
It has a Yiddish sound but may be ersatz.
I also thought it was Yiddish, but it isn't.

Re: kitsch

Posted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 6:25 am
by Erik_Kowal
I couldn't help wondering what sort of situation made it worth coining a special word to describe the activity of scraping mud up off the street.

Picture the scene:
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(LOCATION: A COTTAGE IN A SMALL TOWN IN BAVARIA, CIRCA 1830)

HUSBAND: Did you kitsch today, Liebchen?

WIFE: No, meine Liebe, I think it's your turn to kitsch.

HUSBAND: But I kitsched only yesterday!

WIFE: Maybe so, mein Schatz, but we agreed you would be doing the kitsching every day until the weekend, and today is only Thursday.

HUSBAND: Ach! I wish I hadn't agreed to that, meine Süsse! (PAUSE) I think I'll ask our lazy son to do it. I'm sure he hasn't kitsched at all since last week! At the age of 20 he's both old enough and ugly enough for the job! (CALLS OUT) Hermann!

HERMANN (SHOUTING FROM UPSTAIRS): What is it, Vati? I'm busy!

HUSBAND: Come down, Söhnchen, I have a little job for you!

HERMANN (ENTERING THE ROOM AND LOOKING GRUMPY): What's the matter?

HUSBAND: I need you to kitsch!

HERMANN: What! It can't be my turn to kitsch again already!

HUSBAND: I'm afraid so, Hermann. (POINTS OUT OF THE WINDOW OVERLOOKING THE STREET) Just take a look out there! There's Schmutz and Modder everywhere! You can just see how bad things are getting again! The cobbles are completely buried in it!

WIFE: He's right, Hermann. See how deep the wheels of that carriage are! It's nearly up to its axles in Schmuddel!

HERMANN: But the Schlamm just keeps on coming! There's nowhere to get rid of so much Dreck!

HUSBAND (ANGRILY): Look, Hermann, nobody likes it! But when our family signed the kitsching contract with the folks in the castle, all parties agreed that the job also involved getting rid of all the Schmiere! Remember, it's the ones up there that have the boiling oil, not us! And if that means us having to schlep the wheelbarrow up behind the old cowshed to dump the Matsch, then so be it!

HERMANN (ANGRILY): I'm fed up with this! I never wanted us to sign that damn kitsching contract in the first place! (HE STOMPS BACK UPSTAIRS)

WIFE (SIGHING): What are we going to do with that boy, liebe Gemahl! (PAUSE) Anyway, I have other things to see to now. Those Kartoffeln aren't going to peel themselves, and there's a cauldron to stir! So I'll be in the kitchen! (PAUSE) I'm afraid it looks like you're the one who's got to do the kitsching after all! (HUSBAND ROLLS EYES HEAVENWARDS AND SIGHS)