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aesthete

An aesthete is someone who possesses one or both of two qualities: A deep sensitivity to the beauty in art, nature, and life in general; and/or a professed interest in the arts, but not in political affairs.

Here’s what’s interesting about the word aesthete: If a rightwing nut job uses it to describe someone then it’s intended as a grave insult. If a leftwing nut job uses it to describe someone then it’s intended as a great compliment.

It’s the same word, but it’s said with opposite intents depending on who utters it. So you have to know the speaker to know whether you should respond with, “Why, thank you,” or with, “Drop dead, Philistine bastard.”

In the United States aesthete can be spelled esthete. Canada sides with the British on the spelling of the word. I have no idea about the other English-speaking countries. If you live in one of them, please chime in and let us know in a comment on this entry.

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