Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Favorite Words, Revisited

I recently learned that one of my favorite words, dingbat, has even more meanings than previously discussed. In addition to being found on the page, a dingbat can also be found on the street. In the world of architecture, a dingbat refers to the wood and stucco apartment buildings most often found in Southern California. They are boxy two or three story buildings built on narrow stilts with sheltered parking underneath and were popular in the 1950s and 60s.

But why the word "dingbat"? Some say it is because of their quick and shoddy construction and dingbat is used as "a general term of disparagement" (as in a dingbat is a silly or stupid person). However, others site that dingbat is actually used in its traditional typographic sense, and refers to the stylistic flourishes (metal stars, asterisks, diamonds etc) that grace those stucco facades.

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Now when I come to a break in the text, instead of moving straight on through to the next scene, I'll be thinking of my far away hometown, Los Angeles, home to many a dingbat. And perhaps I'll get even more distracted and start thinking of other favorite words, like the dingbat's cousin: the googie, a.k.a the doo-wop.


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