What is a big-browed person?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Leandro, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. Leandro

    Leandro Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil - Portuguese
    Hey, guys

    I am not sure if that "big-browed" refers to a person with big eyebrows. Could there be any other meaning? Maybe a connotative or even pejorative meaning? The text is:

    "Were I to walk up to him and give him a narcissistic hug, the paradox of two Odd Thomases might at once be resolved. One of us might disappear. Or perhaps both of us would explode.
    Big-browed physicists tell us that two objects cannot under any circumstances occupy the same place at the same time."

    Does it actually mean that they are just physicists with big eyebrows?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    The first thing that came to mind when I saw the thread title was a person with a so-called "simian brow" (meaning that that part of their forehead around the eyebrows, the brow ridge, protrudes slightly from the rest of the forehead). However, that is definitely not the case here. It appears to mean something like 'haughty' or 'self-important' in the sentence you provided. I am not completely sure, though, as I have never heard the phrase before. It does seem to be a disparaging remark, given the context.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  3. Leandro

    Leandro Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil - Portuguese
    Yeah, Josh. My first thought was someone "haughty" or "cocky" but I just want to be sure. I will wait for more answers before sticking to those "self-important" meanings.

    Thanks.
     
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    I would take it to mean the same thing that "deep-brow'd" means in Keats's poem as a description of Homer. A person has a wide, or deep, brow because his brain is so large: those who are described as "wide browed" or "deep browed", or even "high browed", think lofty and profound thoughts. The idea is that the physicists are highly intelligent. I am astonished that anyone would take this phrase to mean "simian", as the brows of monkeys are notoriously low.
     
  5. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    Yeah, I also likened it to the notion of someone having a big head also having a big brain and thus being more intelligent somehow.

    In may be used as a compliment as well, however, I do believe that it is meant disparagingly in the dialogue given above.

    As far as "simian brow," it is a term used in anthropology (applied to humans and their ancestors) to describe the facial feature that I described above. It is a term, however, not a commonly used term. Perhaps I should have said pronounced brow instead.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  6. Leandro

    Leandro Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil - Portuguese
    Thanks to both of you. Both suggestions are equally possible. :S
    Guess I will have to read the book a little further to see which meaning is the correct one in this case.
     
  7. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    Both suggestions are not "equally possible".

    The "brow" in this instance is the same thing as the forehead.

    This is a monkey:
    http://www.motherjones.com/files/legacy/mojoblog/41769011.DSC_9847SmilingMonkeyCROP.jpg

    It has no forehead at all, let alone one that is wide, or deep, or high, or big.

    This is a bust of Homer. The forehead, or brow, is as described by Keats "deep", or wide, as an indication of thought:

    http://www.utexas.edu/courses/introtogreece/lect7/aHomerBust0007160700.jpg

    These are Nobel-prize wining physicists. Their brows (that is, their foreheads) are quite wide in some cases, but not even one looks like a monkey:

    http://www.stanford.edu/dept/humsci/external/faculty/images/nobel.jpg

    The only possible meaning is the one I gave above: big-browed physicists are physicists who are learned, intelligent, and accustomed to thinking mighty thoughts.

    The error here comes from not knowing that the word "brow" also can mean "forehead".
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  8. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    I don't want to speak for someone else, but I believe what Leandro was referring to when he said both suggestions are possible was that it could be both a compliment or a term of pejoration. I already ruled out the possibility. I only mentioned as the first thing that came to mind when I saw the thread title. When I saw the thread content I knew that was not what was meant.

    Going back to "simian brow" again, it is not saying that someone has a brow exactly like a monkey or an ape, but that the brow ridge protrudes slightly from the rest of the forehead. Yes, the name comes from the idea that simians have protruding brow ridges, and humans, as descendant from apes (for those who believe that), share this trait, but to a much lesser extent, but again I repeat, it is not saying that man has a brow ridge like a monkey. It is merely a term coined to describe the feature of a protruding brow. Modern man has all but lost this trait, except to a very small extent. Look at a picture of a human skull and you'll see what I mean. The frontal bone curves outward from the rest of the head right above the eye socket.

    But, alas, I guess it is not the best term to use as misunderstanding may arise from it. I am sorry I mentioned it. "Pronounced brow" is a better, more neutral term.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  9. Leandro

    Leandro Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil - Portuguese
    Oh, thanks a lot GreenWhiteBlue. Now I see it. I did know "brow" can also mean "forehead" I just did not associated it to big-browed.

    So be it: "The only possible meaning is the one I gave above: big-browed physicists are physicists who are learned, intelligent, and accustomed to thinking mighty thoughts."

    Thanks
     

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