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Beauty in the Fine Arts

Watch the news, read headlines, see ugliness.

That’s pretty easy to do. Sometimes it is more difficult to recognize all the beauty of art, music and literature that surrounds us. Maybe it would be simpler after a look at some words used in fine arts.

"Arabesque" has a pretty sound, and its definition is rather delicate, too. It is an elaborate ornamentation, often with intertwined floral and foliate figures. The term also describes a ballet pose.

Though somewhat outmoded by texts, "calligraphy" is the art of beautiful penmanship.

Some of our most precious and memorable bits of art are housed in museums; the person who administers the home of those interests is called a "curator."

Although some would define it as ugly or misshapen, the word "grotesque" also refers to a 16th-century style of art in Italy, characterized by monstrous or unnatural forms.

The terms "tempo" and "mood" grace the field of music. If an orchestra’s conductor says his musicians should take the pace "andante," he is suggesting a moderate tempo. The next few passages may be marked as "arpeggio," in which the notes of a chord are played in rapid succession, rather than simultaneously.

And if we want the piece to be sweet sounding, gentle to the ear, "dulcet" might apply, or an attractive synonym, "mellifluous."

Another look at music might include a note’s "timbre," that peculiarity of a sound that distinguishes it from other notes of the same pitch and volume.

Special people provide us with gifts of art and music. Others furnish a distinctive elegance through literature.

We often use euphemisms in literary works, such as “inner city” for slums. Just the opposite is a "dysphemism," such as calling your morning oatmeal “sludge.” Each can add color to one’s writing.

Sometimes literary words are imbued with a "conundrum," a riddle most often answered with a pun.

Just as intricate is an "enigma," usually an intellectual puzzle. The word can also refer to a person or nation that baffles onlookers. Sir Winston Churchill once said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” — just one example from this British connoisseur of words.

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net