Word of the Day: frieze
frieze (noun) FREEZ
2 : a sculptured or richly ornamented band (as on a building or piece of furniture)
3 : a band, line, or series suggesting a frieze
“The house commands a hilltop and is forbidding, imposing, but softened with a frieze of beautiful American elms.” — Lady Bird Johnson, A White House Diary, 1970
“But many of the iconic features of the old ballpark, such as the curved frieze atop the three-tiered grandstand, have been preserved.” — Kevin Baxter, The Los Angeles Times, 17 Aug. 2016
Did You Know?
Today’s word is not the only frieze in English. The other frieze refers to a kind of heavy wool fabric. Both of the frieze homographs derive from French, but each entered that language through a different channel. The woolen homograph is from the Middle Dutch word vriese, which also refers to coarse wool. The frieze that we are featuring as our word today is from the Latin word frisium, meaning “embroidered cloth.” That word evolved from phrygium and Phrygia, the name of an ancient country of Asia Minor whose people excelled in metalwork, wood carving, and (unsurprisingly) embroidery. That embroidery lineage influenced the use of frieze for the middle division of an entablature, which commonly has a decorated surface resembling embroidered cloth.
I must admit, the moment I saw the word, the geek in me went to the character Dr. Frieze from DC Comics and Batman. However, I knew that M-W wouldn’t take me in that direction. I was pleased to find out just what they meant.
I always wondered what you call those bands of sculpted or painted artwork banding a building. Now I know. Be it interior or exterior, friezes fascinate me. I was in Las Vegas two years ago, touring the Venetian and Caesars Palace to gape in wonder at the reproductions and representations of the originals. I love this stuff. I must admit. As I wandered the hallways and foyers of these hotels, I lagged behind my friends and family as I stood and stared at the works of art. Yes, in my opinion, though reproductions, they are works of art.
Yet, I can’t help wonder whether today’s comic strips could be considered friezes. Do they meet the definition of a frieze? Long painted panel scenes organized side by side. I wonder. What about you?
Please share your comments. I’m sure we would all enjoy reading them.
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