Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I got a man and you don't got one.
I have a confession to make. I can't smile. Well, I can't pretend to smile anyway. When I try, I look deranged. I mean straight-up don't-leave-your-kids-alone-with-this-lady deranged. I can't do it while I'm looking in the mirror, I can't do it when I'm trying to be polite, I certainly can't do it in photos. The best I can manage is a kind of smug smirk. I'm doing the smirk thing in all of my wedding pictures - to look at my wedding album, you'd think I spent the whole day thinking "I got a man and you don't got one," or possibly, "you wish you were as awesome as me."
Moral of the story: If I'm smiling at you, I'm not faking. Unless my smile gives you the unsettling feeling that I plan to make a meal of you, in which case, I am faking. Or planning to make a meal out of you.
Bill Casselmen, author of the supremely snooty Where a Dobdob meets a Dikdik tells me that most people, when they attempt to fake a smile, use only their mouth muscles. That would probably explain why some people look like they want to eat you when they're faking a smile - they're showing their teeth, but not expressing any warmth. Or is that just me? Or maybe they look like they want to eat you because they're thinking of cheese and they're hungry. According to Casselmen, "a genuine smile requires the eyes to crinkle with oogly-woogly warmth." For the record, I've tried making my eyes crinkle with oogly-woogly warmth. When I do, it just looks like I want to eat you, but I have to squint to see you.
Tyra Banks, host of America's Next Top Model has coined an exceptionally annoying word for smiling with one's eyes - smize, and since then, according to, it has become part of the "daily lexicon of Tyra and her minions." Smizing is important in modeling, Tyra often says, because sometimes your whole face isn't visible. Or sometimes, you need your mouth not to smile, but you still need to look happy.
I once read that Marilyn Monroe's famous smile wasn't really a smile at all. She knew that smiling made your face wrinkle, and so to affect a smile, she'd lower her eyelids, open her mouth, and put her head back so that her mouth appeared to be turned up. If you do a Google image search, you'll see it's true. Most of her smiles are variations on this one, and none of her smiles involve wrinkling or crinkling around the eyes or mouth. Ever since I read that, her smiles stopped looking like smiles to me; they look like a woman so terrified of being imperfect that she refused to let herself be happy. And it makes me so sad that she didn't live long enough for it to matter. She could have smiled a hundred times a day and died without so much as a crow's toe.

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