Cursing the Beloved and Uglifying the Beautiful: Disguised Praise in Medieval Arabic Philology

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Abstract

This work explores the phenomenon of disguised praise through the prism of medieval Arabic philology, via the philologists' accounts of cases in which a speaker chooses an apparently negative wording to refer to things perceived as positive, by him and/or by others. The main categories of cases that emerge from rhetorical and grammatical literature are the following three: compliments disguised as curses, taqbih al-hasan 'uglifying the beautiful', and ta'kīd al-madah bi-ma yušbihu al-damm 'emphasizing the praise by what resembles derogation'. The reason behind such usages may be pragmatic (viz., the universal tendency to use negative expressions to convey strong emotions), anthropological (viz., a variety of human behaviours developed to avert envy and/or 'evil eye'), or stylistic (viz., the authors' attempt at originality).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-552
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Semitic Studies
Volume66
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

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