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Highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow

Posted by ESC on May 20, 2003

In Reply to: Lowbrow posted by Sax on May 20, 2003

: Hi! Can you please explain the origin and meaning of the word "lowbrow?" Thank you, Sax

HIGHBROW/LOWBROW - "Dr. Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), founder of the 'science' of phrenology, gave support to the old folk notion that people with big foreheads have more brains." The theory, later discredited, "led to the expression 'highbrow' for an intellectual, which is first recorded in 1875.New York Sun reporter Will Irvin popularized 'highbrow,' and its opposite 'lowbrow' in 1902, basing his creation on the wrongful notion that people with high foreheads have bigger brains and are more intelligent and intellectual than those with low foreheads. At first the term was complimentary, but 'highbrow' came to be at best a neutral word .Life magazine coined the term 'middlebrow' in the mid-1940s." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).