Pittwater, NSW, AU
As we’ve previously stated, friendships lead to a lexicon whose size is directly proportional to the time invested in the relationship. These lexicons lead to key phrases that communicate much more than the simple words involved when we are lucky enough to have been together long enough to be “in the know.”
It’s not just shared experiences like stumbling up the towering mountains of New Zealand that create this shared vocabulary. Another source of this insiders verbiage is simply and consistently hashing out the meaning of words over time. Because while two people may speak the same language, they probably don’t use the same words to describe the same things. Example: what might be “cool” to one person may be “wicked” to another (“phat” could also be substituted.) Though these words may be synonyms, there are variations of meaning that make each more appropriate at different times.
There is a difference between something that is “gross” and something else that is “disgusting.” The choice of using either of these words describes more than just that fact that something is repulsive; there are nuances (for a 12 year old boy “gross” might be a good thing).
As a married couple (or anyone building a joint vocabulary) it is important to nail down these subtle differences in word use to more effectively communicate with each other.
We ran into this particular nugget of nuptial knowledge when Tiffany started calling Greg “cute.” She meant it as a compliment and Greg took it as a bit of an insult. Then Tiffany got confused:
Tiffany – “But you’re good looking. That means you’re cute!”
Greg – “No. Bunnies, baby horses and Mini Coopers are cute. I am not.”
It was at this point that a working definition of the word “cute” had to be established…
After about a year of back and forth doing comparative analysis of the things Tiffany described using the word in question Greg was finally able to articulate to her exactly why addressing him as “cute” was not acceptable. We will illuminate this to you by elaborating on what has become known to us as “the elements of cute” and using comparative analysis with a control subject that’s level of cuteness is completely incontestable:
Let’s start by introducing our test subject and our control. Any of you who read this blog and watch our videos have a pretty good idea of how Greg acts so we’ll skip that. If you need a refresher, please feel free to reference the links. Here is an introduction to our control element – the wallaby.
Now that we have established a baseline, let’s get down to the comparison –
Element of Cuteness #1 – Fuzzy
This is the mostly hotly contested element of cuteness and may be a mere indicator vice a required element. However it appears often enough in creatures that are universally accepted as cute that we felt it rated a mandatory element. Simply said, be it hair or fur, every cute creature has a degree of fuzziness.
Well wallabies certainly fit the bill here. Their entire body is covered with hair that they spend endless hours grooming. Making sure the fuzz is meticulously groomed is a key element of their day.
As some of you have noted when he gets his (currently bi-yearly) haircut Greg has a solid mane on his head. Heck we’ll even go so far as to say that, while not extreme, Greg has some hair on his arms and legs…certainly more than Tiffany. So, technically and in comparison to the average human female, Greg is willing to capitulate that he has a moderate level of body hair. Though, he points out, by weight there are probably a lot of women that have more hair than him.
Element of Cuteness #2 – Small
This is why babies, kittens and puppies are often described as cute – they fall well below the average size for a typical specimen of their genus. Whales, by contrast, are not cute unless of course they are a baby and viewed in direct comparison to a larger member of their species.
Our cat is also cute. Why? Because when we got her she was small for a cat at the time…
(…and she is massively fuzzy.)
So the key question here is: does the creature in question appear to be a smaller version of something else?
Again, wallabies deliver in this category. With an average size much smaller than their cousin and an appearance remarkably like the much larger kangaroo; wallabies appear to be smaller relatives.
In contrast, Greg is 6 feet 3 inches tall. Now, while at the Coast Guard Academy he was pretty much of average height for a male, but those people were freaking giants. Looking at the whole of the America he’s comfortably above the average height of 5 ft 10 in. Not exactly what one would describe as “small”
Element of Cuteness #3 – Appears Mostly Harmless
Pandas can be cute, munching on their bamboo
Grizzly bears eating salmon can be majestic or inspiring, but not cute.
Clumsy is sometimes associated with cute for this exact reason.
Again, babies of all species fit this category. Tiger cubs are freaking adorable, adult tigers can be called many things, none of them “cute”.
While Greg, and likely the male in your own life ladies, cannot necessarily articulate it at the time, this is the reason most men don’t like and polite men only barely tolerate being addressed as “cute.”
Male humans, even pacifistic ones that wouldn’t hurt a fly, most certainly take offense at the application of the description “mostly harmless.”
It comes from our caveman roots.
Greg put it this way to Tiffany – “look, I’m a nice guy and I’m glad you recognize that but come on, I’m an expert pistol shot and sharpshooter rife qualified in the US military. I’ve been trained in sword fighting and basic martial arts. I’ve climbed volcanoes and sailed to Tahiti. Granted, I’m nerdy, heck sometimes I’m downright goofy. I’m not saying I’m freaking Rambo here but just because I don’t go around picking fights or anything…look I sure as heck ain’t mostly harmless.”
(Rambo, we can all agree, is not cute.)
Wallabies however, delivering on all fronts, continue to excel here. Because though they, like their larger relative the kangaroo, do in fact have a wicket foot claw that could rend flesh faster than most knives, that blade is retractable, rarely seen much less used. Therefore, the retractable talon is not part of the mental image we have of the adorable, baby sized fuzzy critters.
Thus, in summation:
Wallaby – Cute.
Greg – Funny, goofy, handsome, whatever.
Just Not Cute.
For more on the lexicon of relationships take a look at what may happen if you go hiking with us.
Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures. If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at www.CoastGuardCouple.com!