I first encountered the word "physiognomy" in "Wuthering Heights". It is surprising that Emily Bronte was aware of the term and was able to examine it through her fiction. Lord knows how she herself met the word for she lived a sheltered life in the Yorkshire vicarage at Haworth, next to St Michael and All Angels' Church where her father was the incumbent vicar.
What does "physigonomy" mean? It is simply the idea that we can make out someone's inner character or state of mind by observing their facial appearance. It's as if the two are inseparable - what is on the outside and what is on the inside. The belief runs counter to King Duncan's observation in "Macbeth": "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face."
I think that we are all liable to put too much store in physiognomy and I am no different from anyone else. Perhaps it is human nature to start assessing other human beings as soon as we see them. Typically, we will initially think warmly of smiley fair-haired people with wide blue eyes. Conversely, we will be apprehensive about scowling dark-haired people with the corners of their mouths turned down.
In my life there have been many times when initial assessments have had to be thoroughly revised. That woman you thought was a miserable, depressive soul may turn out to be a happy-go-lucky joker with a heart of gold. Similarly that very together guy, apparently living happily on an even keel may turn out to be dark and suicidal. Things are not always as they seem.
Judgements based on physical appearance are invariably superficial and misleading. We should be wary. "Physiognomy" is a clever-sounding concept but in reality we should not put too much store in it. There is usually much more to other people than first meets the eye and in the end I subscribe to King Duncan's view.
You bring this post together in your last sentence. There's much more to people than looks.ReplyDelete
Honest/Dishonest? Wise/Foolish? Friendly/Conniving? You cannot tell by looks alone.Delete
Be judged by your deeds xDelete
There is something called resting bitch face. It's what happens to women's faces as we age, we start to look angry when in reality it's just time happening to our faces. I have it. My husband says, "What's wrong? Why are you mad?" I'm not, it's just my face.ReplyDelete
We have a dog with resting beagle face as well. She looks chronically sad because of her beagle face:)
Ah, that one I am all to familiar with. Well, not the beagle face but the other for sure. Unfortunately, at times, the inside matches the outside a bit too closely.Delete
People often look at me for answers or judgement. I guess I have that kind of face - kind of serious - but often I am just daydreaming or I don't have an opinion on the question at hand.Delete
I believe physiognomy is an interesting but dangerous practice. However, there are times when you can sense the spirit of a person when spending time around them or talking with them. You know how sometimes you just get a certain feeling about someone. I believe in trusting your senses or intuition about people.ReplyDelete
But what if that intuition is based upon how someone looks?Delete
There certainly are some people whose general attitude (optimistic and cheerful or gloomy and pessimistic to the point of bitterness) reflects in their faces, simply because their default facial expression has shaped the muscles and lines around their mouth and eyes. On the other hand, as you say, it can be misleading or simply (as some others here have commented) a sign of the person's age. Take Mrs. Merkel, for example - with her permanently downturned corners of the mouth, one would think she's a miserable old bag. In fact, I have read in more than one interview with herself and/or those who know her very well that she loves a good joke and can be a lot of fun to be with. (Also, I guess if I had to deal with what she has to handle on a daily base, my mouth would be downturned, too!)ReplyDelete
Recently, I saw some film footage from the time that Mrs Merkel became your Chancellor. She seemed bright and sparkly and the corners of her mouth were turned up. To find out if she is a fun person you should write to her - inviting her to join your pub quiz team. I bet she knows lots of stuff.Delete
My face seems to have collapsed over recent years so I think I must always look sad, even when I am quite happy inside. I do try to smile more but God knows what my "resting" face looks like when I am caught unawares!ReplyDelete
When we look in mirrors we tend to put on a different face from the "resting one". I like to think that I look little different from when I was eighteen but of course I am wrong.Delete
I have always thought that I could tell quite a lot from people's eyes. I'm probably crediting myself with far more ability than I really have though. In general I agree with the very simple adage that appearances can be deceptive.ReplyDelete
In some things blind people have an advantage. They are not swayed by appearances.Delete
There is also phrenology - assessing personality from the shape of rhe skull. From your photographs you appear to have a wide square skull which indicates a solid, reliable person who is deeply thoughtful and purposeful with an energetic, outgoing character. Shame about the face.ReplyDelete
My skull is mostly bone with just a small cavity for a pea brain. My ugliness is down to the loose Alsatian dog attack when I was in my pram in 1954.Delete
My Dad had a really miserable face but was always laughing and joking at home. I love the word physiognomy, my Tom has a lovely physiognomy.ReplyDelete
Your dad proved that appearances can be misleading and that physiognomy can easily deceive us.Delete
I go by how people look me in the eye. That's all I need to know. Be their head an egg shape, square of jaw or the Hunchback of Notre Dame.ReplyDelete
Next post, YP: What's in a handshake? A lot, YP, a lot.
Yes a lot - but don't squeeze too hard as that is not evidence of sincerity.Delete
Some people don't make respectful eye contact because they are shy or troubled or come from a different culture.
Your point on culture a worthy one. One I wish more people would take into account. One of my joys? To look those women who wear whatever their head gear is called, only leaving their eyes to sight, into the eye. In passing. They hold my gaze. What amazing, beautiful eyes. The way they smile back at you. Just with their eyes. Good job I am not a man.Delete
Handshakes? The hard squeeze is just as suspicious, and to be weary of, as the limp. Though, personally, if given the choice, I'd rather have my hand squashed than deal with a dead fish. The English, particularly British women, are good at dead slippery fish. Sorry. I don't mean it. Still, facts are facts. By mitigating circumstance, I proffer that, maybe, the English didn't do handshakes for a long time (other than a gentleman's, of course).
As an aside: Not long ago I fell hook, line and sinker, for five minutes, on account of a firm handshake, freely offered and a frank look in the eye. That I didn't act on it is only due to the fact that I am not a cradle snatcher. Dear dog in heaven.
I fancy myself as a good judge of people based simply on a brief meeting. This may or may not be true but I know there's a lot more leading to my conclusions than simply the way a person looks. I doubt I could even verbalize what these things are.ReplyDelete
Perhaps you are subconsciously referring to your experience gathered over so many years - and all the people you have met.Delete
I'm a scowling blue-eyed person. I'm not sure where that leaves me. :)ReplyDelete
It leaves you in the lurch sir.Delete
Steve, leaving "scowling" aside there are so many different shades of blue eyes. I know this because my own are dark brown. There is the barely there blue (insipid), the steely blue (think Once Upon a Time in the West), and the blue of the deep deep sea (to be sunk into).Delete
Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite books. There's a theory that John Lennon was a reincarnation of Heathcliff. They both had Liverpool connections and were surrounded by women.ReplyDelete
Trouble is that Heathcliff was fictional but John Lennon was most definnitely a real human being. On December 8th later this year it will be forty years since his untimely death.Delete
I couldn't agree more with your last paragraph, YP. In a way it's another version of the adage "beauty is only skin deep". One thing I appreciate about internet connections is that we are not judged based on our appearances. (The downside is that we cannot convey non-verbal cues as well.)ReplyDelete
That is true Jenny and without the non-verbal cues, occasional misunderstandings can surface. Also from time to time and from behind their masks, respondents can unconsciously veer into the kind of unpleasant commentary that would almost befit trolls.Delete
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The concept of “ Physiognomy “ sounds clever a dangerous concept, judging character from facial expression. Sometimes one can not go judging the character only by seeing some facial expression you don’t know if they are wearing a fake mask of expression. Sometimes our guesses and intuition might go wrong and need revision to our judgment about the person. Please visit us at https://www.bloghasting.com/ReplyDelete
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