[lit-ideas] Re: How Kitsch You Can Get

  • From: "Steven G. Cameron" <stevecam@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 17 May 2004 19:25:02 -0400

**Derived from the German verkitschen etwas, kitsch means to 'knock 
something off'. Today it is synonymous with objects of bad taste that 
are so bad they're good in an ironic way. In the fifties and sixties 
kitsch was -and still is - highly collectable. Kitsch can be anything 
from flying ducks to Tretchikoff paintings and Elvis toilet roll holders.



/Steve Cameron, NJ

Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx wrote:

> I too would like to know more about the _German_ etymology of 'kitch'. Has 
> the word any cognate in English, or Latin?
> Cheers,
> JL
> ----
>>From the OED
> 'kitch'
> [G.]  
> Art or objets d'art characterized by worthless pretentiousness; the qualities 
> associated with such art or artifacts. Also attrib., Comb., and transf. 
> 1926 B. HOWARD Let. in M. J. Lancaster Brian Howard (1968) ix. 166 A healthy 
> week..riding, chasing dogs and listening to ‘Kitsch’ on his wireless. 
> 1939 
> Partisan Rev. VI. 40 Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is 
> vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, 
> but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in 
> the life of our times. 1941 AUDEN New Year Let. III. 59 Reason's depravity 
> that 
> takes The useful concepts that she makes As universals, as the kitsch. 1949 
> KOESTLER Insight & Outlook 410 The more romantic a work of art, or a 
> landscape, 
> the quicker its repetitions are perceived as kitsch or ‘slush’. 1955 20th 
> Cent. June 541 In a time of crassness and stridency perhaps unique in 
> history, a 
> time when an alternative civilization of kitsch is not only available to all 
> but clamantly thrust upon them, it is imperative to strive for agreement, 
> order, and coherence in the ranks of the cultivated. 1958 Observer 23 Feb. 
> 14/1 
> 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. 
> 1958 Times 4 July 13/4 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’. 1961 Times 11 May 10/4 There are 
> the same highbrows as in England, who consider that the quality of the pure 
> entertainment as such is generally kitsch or trash. 1962 Times 6 Apr. 17/3 
> Their 
> attitude to this kitsch-culture is highly equivocal. 1965 Spectator 22 Jan. 
> 108/1 If leaders of the state choose their job..they must choose to be the 
> victims of the kitsch and whitewash and balderdash. 1967 Ibid. 29 Dec. 812/2, 
> I have 
> never seen such kitsch, not even in French provincial towns or Irish church 
> bazaars. 1972 Listener 24 Aug. 236/1 A galloping fancy for Victoriana, a 
> sophisticated and uncritical taste for Kitsch and the cute. 1972 New Yorker 
> 30 Sept. 
> 24/3 This is one of the liveliest and most popular of their kitschfests.
> So kitsch v. trans. (rare), to render worthless, to affect with 
> sentimentality and vulgarity; kitschy a., possessing the characteristics of 
> kitsch. 
> 1951 W. SANSOM Face of Innocence ii. 16 Situations that have for many become 
> unendurably hackneyed, spoiled by bad artists or kitsched by politics. 1967 
> Time 17 Feb. 104 The kitschy existential slogan: ‘Things just happen. No 
> reason, 
> no reason, just a happening.’ 1969 R. PETRIE Despatch of Dove i. 19 Her 
> family owned a furniture factory. ‘We make..mostly kitschy bits fit to 
> furnish 
> Grimm's fairy tales.’ 1973 Times 27 Aug. 5/6 Costumed in a distressingly 
> ‘kitschy’
>  manner.
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